Macalester International Roundtable 2012
Thursday, Oct. 11, 11:15 a.m.–5:15 p.m.: John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Ruth Stricker Dayton Campus Center
Friday, Oct. 12, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.: Harmon Room, Davis Court, Weyerhaeuser Board Room, 4th floor Old Main, and John B. Davis Lecture Hall
Saturday, Oct. 13, 11 a.m.–3:30 p.m., Mill City Farmers Market and Museum Tour
Scholars and agribusiness leaders will come together at the International Roundtable to discuss the globalization of food and agriculture. Students will end the sessions by drafting a call to action.
The global food and agriculture system will be discussed during Macalester’s annual International Roundtable, a two-day event to be held Thursday, Oct. 11 and Friday, Oct. 12. Scholars who study sustainable development and agrarian change will share the stage with executives from General Mills and Syngenta, while student-led workshops explore related issues.
“Feeding the World: Globalization, Food and Agriculture in the 21st Century” is a subject everyone can relate to, says event co-chair and geography professor Bill Moseley, and very topical given the recent famines in Africa and drought in the U.S., along with rising food prices worldwide. “This theme is clearly connected to both the global and the local,” Moseley says.
The roundtable will conclude with a student-driven call to action—“concrete steps we can take as individuals, a college, a neighbor, and a community,” as Moseley puts it. The roundtable will flow into this year’s family fest, with students and family members spending Saturday, Oct. 13 at the Mill City Farmers Market and Mill City Museum on the Minneapolis riverfront.
“It’s exciting to get involved in the roundtable as a student,” says Brianna Besch ’13 (Bethesda, Md.), a geography and environmental studies major who’ll lead a panel on connections between the college’s food service and the local food movement. “In the past roundtables have felt inaccessible and hard to engage with. This new structure is a step in the right direction.”
That’s exactly what the coordinating committee of staff, faculty and students had in mind when they decided to change the roundtable’s structure, says Moseley, an expert in global food systems. “We wanted broader direct student participation,” he says. And they have definitely gotten that, with nine Friday workshops, seven of which will be led by students.
John Sankara ’15 (Nairobi, Kenya) is one of those students. He’ll be leading a workshop on land ownership and how it affects agriculture in Africa. Among other countries, he wants the group to look at Zimbabwe, which has been going through a land reclamation process for the past two decades. “The lessons and challenges they’ve faced are vital for other African countries to learn going forward,” Sankara says.
Zhe Yu Lee ’15 (Singapore) will lead a panel looking at agriculture and last summer’s Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development—what came out of it and what it didn’t achieve. “I’m interested in getting more discussion going on campus about sustainable development,” he says. “What it means to be a global citizen in this time of crisis, what’s happening on the international level, and what are the implications for institutions of higher education.” Coming from an urban nation like Singapore has made him extra aware, he says, of the “ecological disconnect” between food consumption and production.
Before and during the roundtable, Moseley, as well as biology professor and event co-chair Paul Overvoorde, and economics professor Amy Damon will serve as resource people for some 20 student leaders who will draft a call to action for presentation to the community at the end of Friday. The roundtable committee hopes that document will “better connect learning and reflection to thoughtful action,” says Moseley. Those actions could include a variety of things at different scales, he says, from local action items to international ones. Examples might include anything from pledging as an individual to write a congressperson about the U.S. farm bill to the college’s Civic Engagement Center pledging to work with the City of St. Paul and other partners to produce more food locally and make it available in the city’s K-12 schools.
Says Sankara, “We hope the energy from the roundtable can be translated into some important initiatives on campus, but also that we can train Mac students about what it means to go out into the world and deal with these issues while having a broad international perspective.”