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Wearing many hats
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Eddie Etsey wears many different hats on campus, figuratively and literally.
The Ghanaian University of Iowa alumnus serves as an employee, mentor, performer, diversity advocate, and co-emcee for this year’s Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival along with Nils Thorson.
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Etsey’s leadership stems from his passion for education, his dedication to promoting cultural awareness, and his energy and friendly personality. His affinity for promoting cultural awareness dates back to his arrival in the United States. Originally from Ghana, Etsey moved to America in 1993 with his parents and two younger sisters and began school at Iowa City West High School. Culture shock taught Etsey a lot about embracing other cultures; his experiences inspired him to become a mentor for international students and work on the issue of domestic and global diversity.
2012 marks Etsey’s second year as the emcee for the Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival, which brings the tastes, sights, and sounds of many global cultures and traditions into one place. “It’s one of the only days that you can have so much culture under one roof. It is a great opportunity for families to connect with other families from other cultural backgrounds,” Etsey says.
Etsey’s Hawkeye roots predated his time as a student here. Both of his parents received a Ph.D. from Iowa. Etsey holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematics from the university; he works as the service delivery, communications, and data center operations manager for UI Hospitals and Clinics.
Iowa Now caught up with Etsey before the diversity festival to talk more about his passions and what message he wants people to take away from the celebration of cultural diversity.
What was it like coming to the United States?
Coming from a different country is a big culture change. The culture that I come from is not even remotely the same as the culture in the United States—many other students are in a similar situation. Conversation, food, and school are all things that you need; without those things, you don’t feel connected and can get lost. Going through that experience, I’ve made it my goal to make sure everyone feels at home. I always invite friends over to hang out. I think of myself as “the Godfather” looking out for all of my fellow international students.
How did you first get involved with different cultural events on campus?
My parents were very involved with different organizations around campus. My dad was one of the presenters for the cultural diversity show when he went to the University of Iowa. The first time I went to the festival to see him, I was in high school. I saw all the flags and all the food surrounding me. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen and it really had an impact on me. I went every year after that. When I came to the UI that passion stayed with me. From the moment I stepped on campus, I became very involved with cultural and diversity events.
What are you most looking forward to during the Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival?
I love interacting with the audience. I’ll be up on stage emceeing and dancing but I’m aware of the audience and I want them to have a great time. The children at the show are my favorite to interact with. I’ll take a child by the hand and bring them onstage with me. It’s a great family event and I want them to have a memorable experience while they are there.
What is one message that everyone can take away from this day?
Everybody is different—we all have different philosophies and we all have different backgrounds. If we learn to appreciate other backgrounds it will be easier to treat people the way they need to be treated instead of imposing our own beliefs and views on them. My motto is that at the end of the day, a circle does not fit in a square so don’t force it. Events like Celebrating Cultural Diversity Festival help teach us about other cultures so we can become more understanding and accepting. I encourage everyone to attend so they can learn something new.
What are some of your favorite hobbies?
I love designing. The three things that are always my stress relieves are cooking, cleaning, and designing. In Ghana, we have many people who specialize in tailoring so it provided the opportunity to create my own clothes. My favorite accessories right now are hats; I think it’s going to be the year of the hat. I currently have more than 100 hats and I’m definitely bringing a wide variety to the festival so I can change up my outfit throughout the show.