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Zeynep Ozsoy, PhD, presents the first Cultural Café of the 2022-23 academic year

CMU’s International Student Programs and Tomlinson Library kicked off their 2022-23 Cultural Café series on September 19 with a presentation on Turkey by CMU Associate Professor of Biology Zeynep Ozsoy, PhD. The Cultural Café program was created in 2017 to introduce cultures and customs from around the world to the campus community and each presentation is paired with authentic cuisine.  

Ozsoy was born and raised in Istanbul and earned her undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the Bogazici University in Turkey. She visited Oregon as a high school exchange student and returned to the United States to earn her doctoral degree in Genetics and Molecular Biology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 

Her presentation included an overview of her home country’s geography, history, culture and fashion — complete with photographs and personal anecdotes. Her explanation of Turkey's free public university system drew exclamations from the crowd. Along with possible entry into university, 18-year-olds take on the responsibility of compulsory voting and the Turkish culture takes this very seriously. Ozsoy shared the memory of participating in her first election when she went to the precinct on a Sunday with her whole family.  

Ozsoy described Turkey as “the gateway between the east and west, Europe and Asia, and not just geographically, but politically and culturally too.”

Though most of the country is located on the Asian continent, most Turks consider themselves Europeans. Like most of her public-school peers, Ozsoy’s first language is Turkish and she began learning German and then English in middle school. 

To put the geography in perspective, she explained that the country is about the size of Nevada, Utah and Colorado combined, and is surrounded by seas on three sides. When sharing photos of the Cappadocia Fairy Chimneys located in Central Turkey, she said “the first time I visited Goblin Valley (located in Utah) I said hey, that looks like home!

Sodexo prepared kofte (spicy Turkish meatballs), white rice with orzo and a Turkish-inspired dark roast coffee with cardamom. Ozsoy enjoys cooking and shared photos of some of her family’s favorite dishes, like Turkish tortellini with savory garlic yoghurt and melted butter.  

Ozsoy has visited her childhood home regularly since finishing school and starting her career in the United States. Ozsoy vacationed in Istanbul with her family earlier this year and shared photos of the city from their trip, noting that since she graduated from university the population of Istanbul has grown from eight million to 15 million people and new skyscrapers have drastically changed the skyline. 

The event was well attended and enjoyed by her colleagues in the biology department, students, faculty and staff.  

The October Cultural Café will honor Hispanic Heritage Month. Yulisa "Yuli" Velazquez-Saenz, director of the cultural inclusion council, will present on behalf of the Latino Student Alliance.  

Cultural Café: Hispanic Heritage Month 
October 10, 2022
Tomlinson Library Event Space L-139 
Guests who can’t attend in person are welcome to join via Zoom.

So far, 23 Cultural Cafes have been held — covering 20 countries, Hawaii, International Death Investigations and Sustainability in Europe. Students, staff, faculty and community members are welcome to attend and to inquire about presenting on their cultures or area of international expertise. For more information, visit 


Written by Hannah Odneal