For Lydia Pulsipher, a retired UT geography professor, sharing her Slovenian culture is a way of life.
Since 2010, Pulsipher has served as honorary consul of the Republic of Slovenia for Tennessee—and she’s opened her home to serve as the consulate.
“This is Geography Awareness Week, and Lydia’s story is a great way to highlight the various ways that UT geographers share their knowledge of the world and promote cultural awareness,” said Derek Alderman, head of UT’s Department of Geography.
As a second-generation Slovene, Pulsipher was academically active in Slovenia for many years, giving lectures on her Caribbean research in Slovenia and inviting scholars to give seminars in the Caribbean and in Tennessee. In 2005, she invited the Slovene ambassador to the United States to visit UT. Some months later, she was asked by the Slovene Embassy in Washington, DC, if she was interested in being a consul for Slovenia. Once she retired, she agreed.
“My job as consul is to introduce Tennessee to Slovenia and to introduce Slovenes to Tennessee,” Pulsipher said, “and to foster interesting cultural and economic exchanges between the two countries. Slovenia is a prosperous small country in Central Europe, just south of Austria, with just two million people. It has many landscape and living-standard similarities to East Tennessee.”
Pulsipher connects with Slovene scientists who work at UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to make them feel welcome in Tennessee. She says there are many others in the area who have traveled in Slovenia or who would like to know more about the country.
“My husband, Mac Goodwin, and I invite them to the consulate on Slovene holidays and at Christmas, when we bake traditional Slovene pastries.”
The consulate holds a variety of cultural events, including an annual Slovene wine tasting where many fine wines made in Slovenia are served. This year, Pulsipher teamed up with several Slovene cooks to prepare ethnic Slovene food to go along with the wine. Every few years the couple takes a small group on a wine tour of Slovenia, by Maja Djorcev Roy, a native of Slovenia with a master’s degree in geography from UT.
Throughout the winter, the consulate holds monthly gatherings. Twenty to thirty people get together to bake pizza in the outdoor stone oven built by Goodwin. During the festivities the couple answer questions about travel to Slovenia.
The consulate also sponsors music and art exchanges. Currently, an exhibition of traditional woodenware from Slovenia is on display at the Emporium Center, 100 S. Gay Street. The exhibition, which runs through November 25, features the story of woodworking artisans in the village of Ribnica, who have been making and peddling wooden household items for more than a thousand years.
“We hope not only to encourage Tennesseans to visit Slovenia and perhaps to invest in the country, but we also want to encourage Slovenes and Tennesseans to establish trading and manufacturing relationships in the US.”
Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, firstname.lastname@example.org)