Cultural Awareness Presenters
Author / Educator / Communication Skills Speaker / Author
With over 15 years experience in cultural training and second language programs, Linda Allen has designed and presented cultural awareness programs for government agencies, universities, businesses, and teacher training programs. Her seminars, “Head to Toes, Who Knows?” and “Body Language: Your Second Language,” provide practical information in an entertaining format that addresses cultural etiquette and international and cross-cultural relationships and business negotiations. Her workshop, “When No One Looks or Speaks Like You,” is designed for educators in multi-cultural and second language classrooms. Linda holds BA and MS degrees in Spanish and Foreign Language Education from Oklahoma State University. Linda’s programs help translate subtle and often confusing body language from culture to culture, while focusing on respect for all cultures. Linda’s Christmas books, Menagerie at the Manger and Decking the Halls: The Folklore and Traditions of Christmas Plants (Willow Creek Press, 2000) tell the stories and legends of the animals and plants of the Christmas season. (Decking the Halls was a finalist for the 22001 Benjamin Franklin Award for History.) Linda’s recent publications include “Blessed with Less” in A Cup of Comfort for Christians (Adams Media, 2006) and “The Art of Patience” in the anthology, Our Fathers Who Art in Heaven (WAIH Press, 2005). She has published more than 50 articles and essays, and her writing has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists, Writers’ Digest, and regional and national competitions. Linda is available for seminars and holiday programs throughout the United States.
Educator / Middle East & Arab-Israeli Focus Speaker
Christians, Jews and Muslims all look to the Middle East as the birthplace of their religions. From a political point of view, the Middle East has been, and continues to be, the focus of the major world powers. Concurrently, the Middle East is a collection of peoples striving for a daily life free of political friction and violence, and one of peace and harmony. When political and social strife occur in the Middle East, Arab/Israeli conflicts are usually central to the dispute(s). Michael Barlow takes a unique approach to discussing the Middle East and the Arab/Israeli conflict. Using a 30 by 13 foot floor Map of Israel, Michael and seminar participants take a “feet-on” approach to learning about the geography, history and politics of that rich and storied milieu. As they travel on the Land of Israel and the surrounding Arab countries, seminar participants garner a realistic perspective of the scope of the issues facing all of those attempting to achieve peace in the region. As president of the Oklahoma Israel Exchange (OKIE), Michael accompanied Governor Brad Henry and First Lady Kim Henry on the 2003 economic development mission to Israel. Michael is an active member and past president of the Jewish Federation of Oklahoma City and a national speaker.
Tze-Yue Gigi Hu, PhD
Animation, Film and Asian Studies Scholar / Writer
Tze-Yue Gigi Hu holds a Ph. D in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong, specializing in visual narratives. She has lived, worked and studied in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and the United Kingdom and served as a visiting scholar and lecturer at the University of Oklahoma, School of International and Area Studies from 2005 to 2010. She was also an active committee member of the International Club of Ponca City from 2006-2009. (The club promotes “friendship without barriers.”) Dr. Hu speaks Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese and offers introductory talks on East Asian and Southeast Asian cultures, through animation and film, selected art presentations, performance, “hands-on” arts activities (such as origami, calligraphy, tea ceremonies), and other activities. Dr. Hu is the recipient of numerous writing, performance and social/civic awards.
Clydia Forehand. PhD
Educator / Cross-Cultural Trainer & Administrator / Innovator
Dr. Clydia Forehand, director of OU’s Confucius Institute, is an educator with 20+ years experience teaching andworking across cultures. She coordinates Asian study exchanges, study tours, and professional development for Oklahoma schools and guides pedagogy of Chinese language and interdisciplinary projects for teachers. Partnered with the San Francisco Symphony’s “Keeping Score” education project, Yale University’s Symposium on Music in Schools, and the Oklahoma A+ Schools Arts Integration Network – and supported in part by the US Department of Education – Dr. Forehand researches capacity building through cultural understanding and language acquisition experiences with music and other arts. The tonal qualities of the Mandarin language and its close connection with the Chinese culture offer significant promise for this notion.
Speaker / Consultant / Trainer
Greg Pringle is a human resources and non-profit management trainer/consultant and a co-developer of the Valuing Diversity course used to train Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission’s 1500 employees. He helps organizations, educators and students value diversity by examining and understanding their own cultural values – while exploring ways in which we can all improve our cross-cultural communication skills to build better organizations and relationships. His interactive workshop, Valuing Diversity, engages participants in activities and discussions that empower them to increase their cultural competence – and help others do the same.
Japanese Language & Culture Educator / Asian Artisan
Minho Takahashi was born in Osaka, Japan, where she obtained a four-year degree in North American Studies and certification in Japanese and English Language Education. She came to the United States in 1997 to teach Japanese language at the University of Oklahoma, eventually expanding her educational outreach to K-8 students and (some of) their teachers – exploring Japanese culture with them, as well. After teaching, she decided to continue her education at OU and earned a Masters of Human Relations, with a focus on intercultural human relations. As a cultural-awareness speaker, Minho furthers understanding between Japanese and American cultures. Ms. Takahashi assists annually with the University of Oklahoma’s exchange program with Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto and continues to teach Japanese language and culture privately to students of all levels and ages. She also enjoys teaching English to Japanese children who are living in the United States because of their parent’s careers. She is also available to conduct seminars and trainings for varieties of groups and audiences, including: educators; business people; exchange programs, etc. Ms. Takahashi also teaches Japanese Calligraphy and Origami, and can include creative, “hands-on” arts experiences in her presentations to children and adults of all ages.
Mary J. Stanaszek
Religion & Ethics Speaker / Children’s Author
Mary J. Stanaszek, author of the illustrated children’s books, Sara Wants to Know and Jennifer Lynnifer’s Alphabet Soup, is a newcomer to the area of children’s literature, as her first professional career was in the field of health care information. Interest in comparative religious studies and interfaith dialogue led to obtaining a degree in Ethics and Religion from the University of Oklahoma, and she subsequently returned to the University, where she currently participates in outreach activities in the Religious Studies Program. When not on campus, Ms. Stanaszek divides her time between Colorado and Florida. Mary is available to share her children’s stories with pre-school and elementary age students in any setting, and considers professional workshop and seminar opportunities on a case-by-case basis. She has also developed a guide for teachers and counselors which shows them how to use Sara Wants to Know to help children deal with emotional issues, develop healthy coping skills, and strengthen their values. Ms. Stanaszek is available in the greater Oklahoma City metro area, western Colorado, and eastern Florida
Michelle Stewart, M.S., M.Ed.
Ageism Activist / Trainer / Consultant
Michelle Stewart is an aging and ageism educator who uses entertainment and empathy to expose ageism and help people overcome unconscious ageist attitudes. Her seminar “Big Old Lies: The Top 10 Myths of Aging” opens the eyes of attendees to false beliefs about age and aging which influence and impact many (or most!) of us. There was a time in the United States when racism and sexism thrived among the majority simply because it went largely unrecognized. This is still true of ageism in our culture today, where we experience and sometimes practice ageism daily, unaware of what we’re really doing. Through games, experiential learning exercises, discussion groups, and other engaging activities, participants experience numerous “aha!” moments and become anti-ageism activists in their own families, organizations and communities. Michelle also speaks on body image and eating disorder issues, as well as contemporary issues facing Native American families and those who work with them. She is available for talks and seminars in the Oklahoma City area and considers opportunities in other parts of the state and nation as they arise.
Amanda Joy Wells
Creativity Coach / Workshop Facilitator
Amanda Joy Wells is a creativity coach and workshop facilitator, a muralist, and a children’s art instructor. In her seminars and workshops, she guides participants through a creative process which develops their collaboration and reflection skills, equipping them with tools to apply these skills to all areas of life. Amanda spent one year studying under Dr. Lucia Capacchione – renowned author and art therapist – in the intensive Creative Journal Expressive Arts training program, graduating in April, 2008. Using the tools she received from Dr. Capacchione and her fellow muralists in the program, and applying the Creative Journal Expressive Arts method, Amanda Joy creates a unique arts learning experience for each program in which she participates (even aligning the experience with curricula goals and processes). For example, in her “Make A Mural!” arts experience, participants develop a cohesive mural theme and design, then create the mural using any available and agreed-upon. This intensive, yet highly enjoyable process, strengthens participants’ creative problem solving and conflict resolution skills, even as it works as a powerful team-building exercise. At the same time, ideas of individuality, diversity, adaptability, and patience are explored. (This project is appropriate for any age group and all levels of artistic ability.) Amanda Joy is available to conduct workshops for community and business organizations. She is also available for classroom residencies (5-36 days), with each session lasting 45-60 minutes. These residencies can be scheduled daily, or in weekly or bi-weekly increments. Note: Amanda Joy’s offerings include numerous exciting arts explorations which encompass diverse artistic media and modalities.
Vikki Bravo, MS, MPA
Medical Social Worker/ Educator
Vikki Bravo is passionate about removing the stigma of mental illness in order to encourage her audience to treat problems of the mind as they do physical illnesses. Through informative talks and seminars and extremely creative children’s workshops, Vikki makes the connection between illnesses of the mind and the body in a way that helps participants recognize and break through mental barriers of prejudice and simple misunderstanding, so that they can better relate to those who struggle with mental illness. Vikki holds an MS in Social Services from Boston University and an MPA from George Washington University. She speaks to audiences and conducts workshops in the greater Washington, DC area.