Pioneer Spotlight - Charla Tripoli

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Pioneer Spotlight
May 23, 2014
Charla Tripoli

Charla Tripoli, a senior industrial engineering major at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville from Plymouth, Wis., has been the coordinator of Café International since fall 2013. Café International is an on-campus organization that welcomes all UW-Platteville students, faculty and staff members as well as Platteville community members to learn about a new culture or ethnic group each week through a presentation followed by a discussion period.

How has your leadership as coordinator changed your involvement and how you view Café International?

My involvement as coordinator has kept alive my curiosity for being elsewhere—outside of the comfortable Wisconsin culture. I traveled to Zwolle, Netherlands, for a semester and when I came back, I wanted to continue immersing myself in a diverse community. Attending Café International introduced me to that community and it has become my central place of belonging.

While I was abroad, I learned some words that are not easily definable in English. In Dutch, I would describe Café International as “gezellig,” a word that, in this context, can be best defined as “a cozy place that evokes a feeling of togetherness.”

Ultimately, I view Café International as a place of excitement from new faces and new cultures while it is also, simultaneously and at its core, a place of consistency and warmth from familiar faces and their adjoining backgrounds.  

What do you enjoy most about Café International?

I enjoy the seemingly contradictory sense of understanding and commonality that results from talking with others about our differences and our different experiences. We learn about those differences, but we all laugh at the same things, and we tend to have a similar fondness for the places we are from and the places we have visited. For example, when visitors are asked what they miss most about their home country, the response is most likely the food!

What are some benefits of attending Café International?

Café International can benefit you however much you wish to engage with it. If you want to learn about a certain culture or about any culture, come and listen whenever you want. If you want to know some good places to travel in a country, come and ask. If you are looking for an evening caffeine kick and something sweet, come and join us. If you want to form some friendships, come and be our friend. We meet most Mondays from 6-7 p.m. on the third floor of Brigham Hall in the Oasis. If you would like to be invited to the events, our Facebook group is at

What will you take away from your involvement as an active member and as coordinator?

I think the experience as an active member has a similar effect to that of a coordinator. Due to my involvement as both, I believe ultimately I will continue gravitating toward people with cultural backgrounds, because I know we all have viewpoints to share. That gravitation will ensure I remain indefinitely curious about issues outside my own cultural bubble.

On a business-related note, I find that seeking and understanding others’ viewpoints speaks to one’s general communication skills, ability to cooperate with others and likeliness to have an open mind, all of which I like to think I will always keep.

Interview conducted by: Laurie Hamer, College of Liberal Arts and Education.
To nominate someone for a Pioneer Spotlight, email


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