UA’s diversity symbolized in ‘flag’ of many nations


International Flag Quilt

Here is a portion of the 17 feet wide by 6 feet tall International Flag Quilt created by student Natalie Mallinak.

During any academic year, The University of Akron could be its own United Nations — with students from 40 countries or more joining students from Ohio and states around the country to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees.

On Thursday, Feb. 13, UA will honor its diversity with a very tangible and lasting symbol — a one-of-a-kind International Flag Quilt that will hang in the Student Union. The artwork will be dedicated at its permanent location in the second floor lounge, across from Starbucks, during a 3:30 p.m. ceremony. The reception is co-sponsored by Student Life and Graduate Student Government (GSG).

Natalie Mallinak

On hand for the event, which is open to all, will be President Luis M. Proenza and representatives of Student Life, International Programs and GSG, among others. Also in attendance will be the flag quilt's creator, Natalie Mallinak, a sophomore majoring in fashion merchandising. It is only the third quilt she has made.

The impetus to create this symbol started with members of GSG, who wanted to see international students represented in some way in the Student Union.

From there, Anne Bruno, director of Student Life, and Beth Waltrip, associate director of Student Union operations, discussed ideas and researched options before deciding that a quilt design could best represent UA's diversity. Student Life funded the project.

To find a quilter who could design and make the wall hanging, they turned to Peg Bingham, an assistant lecturer in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences. She recommended Mallinak, who had been a star in her quilting class.

Mallinak's directions for creating a design were simple — include a flag for every foreign country with at least two students enrolled at UA in 2012 — 47 in all.

The young quilter honed her design over several layouts, with help from Waltrip, and included UA's blue and gold colors in the lettering and background of the quilt. In all, Mallinak spent more than 200 hours producing the machine-sewn work of art — which measures 17 feet wide by 6 feet tall.

"I am excited to see how the experience I gained during this project has prepared me for the next challenge I face," says Mallinak, an Akron native who hopes to one day have her own garment design and alterations business.

"I am also proud because the quilt will welcome people from all over the globe, and quilting has it origins in American traditions," adds Mallinak. "How fitting for The University of Akron's international students to experience a warm welcome as they recognize the flag from their homeland in an art form that is distinctively American. It's a good feeling to have been able to use my skills and talents to accomplish that goal."