Many of the classrooms in Alfred Hall serve as the learning place for the Alex G. McKenna School of Business courses. However, one of those third-floor rooms also serves as the home to Saint Vincent’s very own piece of Turkish culture on campus.
Alfred 37 is equipped with various Turkish artifacts including hand-painted tiles, an antique rug, furniture and photos of scenic Turkey.
The Turkish Cultural Center (TCC) in Pittsburgh donated an estimated $30,000 dollars towards the room contributions, according to Dr. Gary Quinlivan, dean of the McKenna School and a member of the Board of Directors for the Turkish Cultural Center.
Quinlivan commented on the McKenna School’s relationship with the Turkish Cultural Center.
“[They] are still good friends of ours,” Dr. Quinlivan said. “We’ll take students to the Cultural Center’s dinner every fall. 35 of us were at the last one. It’s a strong relationship.”
Metin Erdem and Alperen Aksehir are two Turkish international students who study at Saint Vincent College.
Aksehir, a junior management major, commented on what the room means to him as a Turkish student.
“Of course, it brings some kind of cultural experience here [on campus],” Aksehir said.
However, Aksehir also believes more should still be done.
“[…] The important thing is that it’s not [Erdem and I] who feel the cultural experience,” he said. “It’s […] more [about] [how] the students here should feel that.”
Eventually, the room is to be officially renamed the “Turkish Room.” However, it will remain Alfred 38 until the Turkish Cultural Center funds an additional $25,000 for a new ceiling, flooring and paint, according to Quinlivan.
Erdem, a junior economics and mathematics major, expressed a similar sentiment to Aksehir’s.
“It’s a good representation of Turkish culture, but we don’t have the name over there [yet],” Erdeem said. “We don’t have any information in the room. The students just get in and out and they don’t even know what the room is about.”.
Both Erdem and Aksehir initially came to Saint Vincent College for the one-year ESL program that the school offers. Both are now full-time students, not exchange students.
Through the McKenna School, Saint Vincent had once planned on developing an exchange program with three Turkish universities: Fatih University, Melikşah University and Gediz University. However, due to the political climate in Turkey, all three schools have been closed by the Turkish government as of 2016.
The political climate has also affected the funding from donors to the Turkish Cultural Center in Pittsburgh, which once provided students like Erdem and Aksehir funding for their education. The Turkish donors had established a relationship with the Saint Vincent through the Cultural Center.
Quinlivan said that there have been discussions with the Turkish Cultural Center concerning a fundraiser to help with completing the room.
However, “the [current] fundraisers […] [are concerned with aiding] those in Turkey who are being suppressed and to help those families to come to America,” said Dr. Quinlivan. “Their priorities are correct.”
As for Erdem and Aksehir, both plan on staying in the United States after graduation.
Aksehir said that he first wants to find a job so he could provide for his younger brother to receive his education in the United States.
“I would want him to get his education here. I would have to support that,” Aksehir said.
Erdem faces a similar situation.
“My family is over there. My brother is almost the same age [as Aksehir’s],” Erdeem said. “If I happen to find a job, I would want him to come over here.”
For now, the “Turkish Room” remains Alfred 38, but to students like Erdem and Aksehir, it exists as a small piece of Turkish culture on Saint Vincent’s campus.