About 40 students, alumni, faculty and staff interested in learning about local small-scale businesses and their economic and cultural contributions participated in the fourth Penn State Lehigh Valley International Food and Entrepreneur Series held Oct. 5 at Mariam's in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Owned by husband and wife, Ebisa and Beleteschachew Multata, Mariam's is the first Ethiopian restaurant in the Lehigh Valley. It opened four years ago on Seventh Street in downtown Allentown.
The event was held in two parts. First, a traditional Ethiopian dinner was served concluding with Ethiopian coffee and then a seminar discussion with the Multatas followed.
Growing up in Ethiopia as a young girl, it was Beleteschachew's dream to open a restaurant. She achieved this dream when she and her husband, Ebisa, opened Mariam's together. Sharing her dream with the Penn State community earlier this month was a special moment for Beleteschachew, particularly since her son graduated from Penn State a couple of years ago.
“I attend the dinners for the opportunity to explore new cultures in my own community with my work friends, colleagues, and students. It is fascinating to learn the personal stories of people originally from other countries and cultures,” said Karen Kackley Dutt, instructor in biology at Penn State Lehigh. “I enjoy hearing about how they came to settle in the Lehigh Valley and about the values and traditions they bring with them. Our dinners offer a relaxed and open atmosphere to explore new foods and cultures. I leave these events feeling very proud to be a member of a campus community that is so rich in diversity and one that values the traditions of the global community with respect and friendship.”
Penn State Lehigh Valley's International Food and Entrepreneur Series is intended to bring together the Lehigh Valley campus and community partners in order to promote an intellectual, community-oriented project around issues of immigration, entrepreneurship, small business development, global and local economic transformations, and cultural diversity. The series is also designed to contribute to and foster international understandings and relationships with small-scale businesses and entrepreneurs in the Lehigh Valley. The series was created to recognize and promote the valuable economic, creative, and cultural contributions made by Lehigh Valley’s small-scale businesses and entrepreneurs through business patronage, campus promotion and coverage, and fostering long-term relationships.
The series stems from a coordinating committee of students, staff and faculty.
"This event was very exciting because we were able to have 15 students attend due to the generous donations of faculty and staff," said Jennifer Parker, associate professor of sociology and one of the coordinators of the series. "I continue to be thrilled that this series shines such a bright light on our local international entrepreneurial food community."
This series is sponsored by the International Club, Teaching International, Club International, the Corporate Communications program, State of the Valley Penn State Lehigh Valley TV, Student Business Society, and the Civic and Community Engagement minor.
The first International Food and Entrepreneur Series was held in September 2015 at Aci Halal Meat and Turkish restaurant in downtown Allentown. The second event was held in November 2015 at Las Palmas restaurant in downtown Allentown. The third event was held earlier this year in February at Aladdin's restaurant in downtown Allentown.