Speaker emphasizes Ohio’s international role

Bryan Wroten

Ohio isn’t stuck in the Midwest.

In fact, it’s international.

Roman Fedkiw, director of multicultural affairs and international relations for the office of Gov. Bob Taft, spoke yesterday to a government-business relations class about Ohio’s role in the world.

He said the two main jobs of his office are to “provide outreach to ethnic communities and promote Ohio internationally.”

Though Ohio does not have as high a population as other states, such as New York or California, he said this state has diversity. There are 130 nationality groups in Ohio, Fedkiw said, out of 192 sovereign nations in the world.

Vernon Sykes, assistant professor of political science, said Fedkiw came to his class because of his connections with politicians through Kent State’s Columbus Program in Intergovernmental Issues. Sykes is the director of the program, which sends interns to work at government offices in Columbus.

Melanie Butler, junior international relations major, was an intern at Fedkiw’s office last fall. She said it was at the graduation reception that Fedkiw and Sykes met.

“We’re trying to show how Ohio can play a part,” Sykes said about inviting Fedkiw to speak. “We wanted to show how much actually we have already done with the international community.”

The multicultural affairs office tries to help ethnic communities in several ways, Fedkiw said. It aids them in getting funding for their own multicultural centers and museums. One of its most important jobs is celebrating the different independence days of each of the communities, he said. He said during the celebrations, the ethnic group’s national flag is raised on Statehouse grounds.

The office also helps deal with sensitive situations. After the Sept. 11 attacks, Fedkiw said his office tried to ease tensions with the Arab and Muslim communities.

Another function of his office is to work with foreign nations and build relationships with them, he said. Creating exchanges with them can lead to academic, cultural and economic advancement for Ohio. Fedkiw said his office provides the governor with information about countries he visits as well as for the nations and cultures of visiting delegates.

Growing up in a Ukrainian community in Cleveland, Fedkiw said he entered grade school not speaking any English. He said coming from this strong ethnic community and seeing its connections with other ethnic groups, he saw the importance of support for these different communities.

“I feel it is a treasure we have here in Ohio,” he said. “So we should work with the communities in Ohio.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].