She Opened Our Window to the World

by Patrick W. Ryan

WOW is right! The 12th Window on the World, Tennessee Tech’s annual global awareness festival that celebrates, at once, international unity and diversity, was center stage on campus this weekend. The Roaden University Center, festooned with scores of country flags that symbolize the origins of many Tech students and faculty, was filled with hundreds of people working and thousands of people visiting the music and dance performances, art displays, shopping kiosks, food courts, children’s activities, and country table displays. The atmosphere, as always, was electric as people moved about to take it all in – to enjoy it all and to learn something about every corner of the world.

It’s a slice of the world that is brought together once a year in Cookeville and it’s a tribute to the many people at Tech who work hard to bring it all together – the scores of students, community partners, performers and everyone who plays a role in making WOW so wonderful to take in. As with most spectacular events that capture a place on our calendars and in our sense of Cookeville as being someplace special, there is one person – who is usually hidden behind the scenes – to whom we can pay tribute for its success.

Katie Kumar. The founder and coordinator of WOW for its first 11 years credits the idea for a festival to a cultural diversity class at Tech. But it was Katie who nurtured the concept, building it into a landmark celebration. In a 2006 video interview about WOW, which found its way to YouTube, Katie said she loved being coordinator of WOW, “It represents a commitment to things that are international, but also things that are important to every human being – to appreciate where we came from, where we’re going, enjoying the similarities and the differences of each other.”

Anyone who has been involved in Window on the World knows Katie is the spark plug that makes it all come together – every detail is attended to, every group or individual request taken care of. And every WOW is better than the last WOW. She admits it’s quite involved to pull it off every year, “I start usually as soon as one is over thinking about the next one, thinking about all of the things I have not done that would be fun to do.” She adds, “I love it.” It’s that passion and commitment that makes the festival a great experience for everyone who participates.

One feature of the Window on the World festival is the presentation of the Mandala Award which honors a member of the community for their work in promoting international understanding and cultural diversity. One could assume there would have been no better recipient of the award in the past than Katie Kumar, but that was not the case. Until this year. Katie is the 2011 Mandala Award winner and there is no one more deserving of that honor for what she has accomplished in giving us the Window on the World festival, and her many other efforts on campus and in the community.

We are in a time when world events are becoming more complicated and more dangerous than ever and what happens among our fellow crewmembers on spaceship Earth is increasingly relevant to our own well-being. So it is heartening to see such a successful effort as Tech’s Window on the World. The many challenges we jointly face can only be tackled through mutual understanding and cooperation. We can be thankful for efforts like WOW to help us learn more – especially in a fun way – about the things that are different and those that are the same among us. And we can be thankful for people like Katie Kumar who opened those windows.