Category Archives: Spring 2014

Christopher Merrill, May 7, 2014

Merrill pic

“Reading Walt Whitman in Tehran”

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Christopher Merrill will discuss the University of Iowa’s first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), which he co-developed with Whitman scholar and Roy J. Carver Professor of English Ed Folsom. The course covered Walt Whitman’s famous poem, Song of Myself, and ran for six weeks. In addition, Christopher is an ambitious world traveler, and has conducted cultural diplomacy missions in over 40 countries. He enjoys spreading and sharing the wisdom of Walt Whitman. Christopher Merrill is the Director of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. He is the author of multiple works of nonfiction, several edited volumes, and six collections of poetry. He led the initiative which resulted in Iowa City becoming a UNESCO City of Literature. He serves on the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. In 2012, President Barack Obama appointed Merrill to the National Council on the Humanities.

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Filed under Arts & Culture, Past Events, Spring 2014, The Middle East

Harilaos Stecopoulos, May 1, 2014

“Origins of US Cultural Diplomacy in the 1940s”

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Some foundations of current day US diplomacy lie in the cultural internationalism of the 1940’s.  By way of diplomats, authors and thinkers, some obscure, but equally influential figures became its respected architects including William Fulbright, Archibald MacLeish,  and Sumner Welles.  Harilaos Stecopoulos examines these figures and lays a foundation for understanding diplomacy of the period.

Harilaos Stecopoulos is Associate Professor of English at the University of Iowa, and the Editor of the prestigious The Iowa Review. Stecopoulos earned a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in English Literature.  He has authored several books, articles and book chapters, and is currently completing “Telling America’s Story to the World: The Literature of U.S. Diplomacy.”


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Filed under Arts & Culture, Past Events, Spring 2014, U.S. Foreign Policy

Chris Anderson, Elena Osinskaya & Jill Anderson, April 23, 2014

“Regional Views of Ukraine’s Current Crisis” 

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The most urgent issue in international diplomacy continues to be the developing crisis in Ukraine.  policy makers and analysts around the world anxiously await developments to what some fear could become the largest forced annexation of European countries since the fall of the Soviet Union.  But, what started this crisis? Who are the Ukrainian people?  What is their relationship to Russia, and what are their perspectives on the crisis?  Three Iowans with substantial ties to the country will share insights on Ukrainian society and history and how regional differences have shaped recent events.

Chris Anderson is a Ph.D. candidate in the UI Department of Political Science studying comparative politics.  He has a BS in Economics from Iowa State, and a MA in Russian Studies from Jagiellonian University in Poland.  He is interested in democratization and nationalism in Ukraine and Georgia.   He has made more than a dozen trips back to Ukraine since 2004.

Elena Osinskaya was born in Ukraine, eventually earning her undergraduate in Moscow.  She is the Language Initiatives Manager in the UI Division of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures.  She is working towards  a Ph.D. in International and Comparative Education.


Jill Anderson is a Ph.D. candidate in the UI Department of Political Science, focusing on International Relations and Comparative Politics.  She holds a BA in Political Science from Central College.  As spent a 2 years teaching English in Yarmolyntsi, Ukraine as a Peace Corp Volunteer.

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Filed under Europe, Governance Issues, Past Events, Spring 2014, U.S. Foreign Policy, War & Conflict

Adrien Wing, April 17, 2014

wing photo“Women’s Rights in Egypt After the Arab Spring” 

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In 2010, the small North African country of Tunisia received global attention when its citizens managed to overthrow their authoritarian government. The turmoil quickly spread to neighboring countries, resulting in massive protests and demonstrations across North Africa and the Middle East. In Egypt, long-time president Hosni Mubarak was overthrown. Many Egyptians hoped Mubarak’s deposition marked the beginning of a new time for Egypt, but that has seemingly not been the case. Professor Adrien Wing will discuss how the Arab Spring in Egypt has the lives of women. Have their lives improved? Worsened? Are the human rights of women more or less secure in post-revolution Egypt? Using thirty years of experience in the fields of law, history, and gender politics, Professor Wing will assess these questions.

 Adrien Wing is the Bessie Dutton Murray Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, where she has taught since 1987. Additionally, she is the Director of the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights. She served as the Associate Dean for Faculty Development 2006-2009 and the on-site Director for the London Law Consortium semester abroad program 2010-12. She earned her B.A. at Princeton University, her M.A. at University of California Los Angeles, and her J.D. at Stanford Law School. Author of more than 100 publications, Wing is the editor of Critical Race Feminism: A Reader and Global Critical Race Feminism: An International Reader.


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Filed under Governance Issues, Humanitarian Issues, Past Events, Spring 2014, The Middle East, War & Conflict

Emily Wentzell, April 9, 2014

Wentzell photo“Viagra, Aging, and Changing Masculinities in Mexico” 

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Since the advent of Viagra in 1998, decreasing erectile function has become known and treated as “erectile dysfunction” (ED). However, individual men’s understandings of ED, and its subsequent treatment, are diverse and reflect their individual social contexts.   This talk presents findings from research with 250 older, working class men in Cuernavaca, Mexico.  Despite local stereotypes of men as sex-obsessed “machos,” most study participants rejected ED drugs and did not understand erectile function change as a medical problem.  Instead, they collaborated with wives and physicians to frame this change as a physical prompt to stop acting out youthful forms of manhood centered around penetrative, often extramarital sex, and to shift to what they saw as a more mature form of masculinity focused on the home and emotional bonds with family.

Emily Wentzell is an Assistant Professor in the University of Iowa Department of Anthropology. Her research combines approaches from medical anthropology, gender studies and science and technology studies to examine sexual health interventions’ gendered social consequences in Mexico and the US.  She is the author of Maturing Masculinities: Aging, Chronic Illness and Viagra in Mexico (Duke University Press), and is currently researching the Mexican couples’ experiences of participation in longitudinal, observational HPV research.

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Filed under Health & Medicine, Past Events, Spring 2014

Nick Grossman, April 2, 2014

Grossman pic“The Future of Drones and Unmanned Systems”

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In the last few decades, semi-autonomous killer machines have migrated from science fiction to a central role in real-world international relations.  The United States utilizes unmanned aerial systems, commonly known as “drones,” to strike targets both in and outside of military contexts.  Though the US is at the forefront of unmanned technology, all advanced militaries use robots to perform a variety of tasks. From surveillance to ordinance disposal, drones are used in the air, water, and on land.  With the US and other militaries’ increasing reliance on unmanned systems, the FAA endorsing commercial drones in 2015, and Google developing a self-driving car, the prevalence of robots is increasing exponentially.  As Grossman points out, technology often develops faster than humans’ understanding of it.

Nicholas Grossman is a lecturer in the political science department of the University of Iowa, where he teaches classes on terrorism and insurgency, national security policy, and 21st century technology and warfare.  He received a PhD in International Relations from the University of Maryland with a dissertation titled “Robotics and the Future of Asymmetric Warfare.”  Before coming to Iowa, he presented on preemptive warfare at the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, and on terrorism to the Applied Physics Laboratory.  As a technology enthusiast, Grossman finds developments in robotics to be both exciting and highly concerning.

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Filed under Humanitarian Issues, Past Events, Spring 2014, Technology, U.S. Foreign Policy, War & Conflict

Gregory Carmichael, March 27, 2014

carmichael pic“The Globalization of Air Pollution: Implications for Our Air, Water, and Food Quality”

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Gregory R. Carmichael, is the Karl Kammermeyer Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at the University of Iowa.  He is internationally known for work on international air pollution concerns. Carmichael’s studies have led to greater understanding of problems related to the long range transport of pollutants within Asia and across the Pacific. Most recently his work has focused on the role of black carbon in the atmosphere and its dual role as an air pollutant and climate warming agent.

Gregory Carmichael is a member of the scientific steering committee for the UNEP Atmospheric Brown Clouds Asia project, where he has published recent papers on the important role of black carbon in the climate system. He also serves as chair for the Scientific Advisory Group for the World Meteorological Organization Global Atmospheric Watch Urban Meteorology and Environment project (GURME-WMO), which is focused on building global capacity to improve air quality forecasts and related services.

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Filed under Environmental Issues, Governance Issues, Health & Medicine, Humanitarian Issues, Past Events, Spring 2014, Technology

Isabel Barbuzza, March 13, 2014

barbuzza pic“Lithium and the Green Car: Social and Environmental Changes in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia” 

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As energy hungry nations search for fossil-fuel alternatives, some look to lithium as a source for electricity. Bolivia’s salt desert, Salar de Uyuni, is 100 times the size of the famed Bonnevile Salt Flats of Utah and is estimated to hold as much as half of the world’s supply of lithium.  This has led some to refer to lithium as the “New Oil,” and subsequently Bolivia, the “New Saudi Arabia.”  However, many environmental groups believe lithium extraction is an unsustainable process that will produce irreparable damage to the environment and the Bolivian landscape.  As Barbuzza’s years of research will show, this story of landscape and salt is layered in both history and power.

Isabel Barbuzza is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at the School of Art and Art History at the University of Iowa.  In addition, she directs the sculpture program in the Dimensional Practice Area. Barbuzza’s work has been exhibited internationally.  Her works can be seen in private and public collections around the world.  Barbuzza holds a BA and MFA from the University of California at Santa Barbara and her research involves narratives integrating social, geographical and ecological history across Latin America.

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Filed under Arts & Culture, Humanitarian Issues, Past Events, Spring 2014, Technology

Philip Lutgendorf, March 13, 2014

Lutgendorf pic“Making Chai with a Fulbright”

Lutgendorf was in India during 2010-11 as a Fulbright-Hays Senior Overseas Research Fellow. His research topic was the popularization of tea drinking in India and its evolution into the country’s (invented) “national drink”-chai, a distinctive spiced tea. This topic necessarily touches on colonial era and post-Independence history, the rise of advertising, marketing, visual culture, changes in manufacturing, commerce, lifestyle, and eating habits.

Philip Lutgendorf is Professor of Hindi and Modern Indian Studies and has taught in the University of Iowa’s Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literature since 1985. His research on the Indian epic, Ramayana, has appeared as two books The Life of a Text (University of California Press, 1991), and Hanuman’s Tale, The Messages of a Divine Monkey (Oxford University Press, 2007).  He is presently translating the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas for the Murty Classical Library of India and Harvard University Press, and writing on the popularization of chai in 20th century India. He serves as President of the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS).

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Filed under Arts & Culture, Past Events, Spring 2014

Robert Libra, February 27, 2014

5x7LibraStGeoserious“Fracking for Energy: Promises, Perils, Perceptions”

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The technology called Hydraulic Fracturing – often termed “Fracking” – refers to the high-pressure injection of water and other materials deep underground to break rock and release hydrocarbons. Fracking has led to a boom in the production of natural gas and oil, but has also raised a variety of concerns with respect to the environment, impacts on local communities, and contributions to climate change. In this talk Bob Libra will outline the dynamics of fracking, and the implications of increased practice both domestically and internationally.

Robert Libra is the State Geologist of Iowa, and has worked with the Iowa Geological Survey for over 30 years, including 10 years in his current position. His work has involved a wide range of geologic and water-related research, with a focus on groundwater resources. He is a Minnesota native with degrees in Geology from the University of Wisconsin-Superior and Indiana University.


Filed under Environmental Issues, Past Events, Spring 2014, Technology

Jose Morcuende, February 20, 2014

6642039297_79bf1ac6c9_o“The Worldwide Impacts of the Ponseti International Association”

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Each year, 200,000 children worldwide are born with clubfoot, and about 80% of these children live in impoverished countries.  Without corrective treatment, these children face not only severe lifelong physical issues but may be cast aside and regarded as useless by their societies.

The legendary and revered Ignacio Ponseti, MD, was at the University of Iowa from 1941 to 2009. He transformed the treatment of clubfoot through his invention of a non-invasive, cost-effective procedure utilizing a series of casts and manipulation.

Jose Morcuende, MD, PhD, received his degrees from Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. He arrived in Iowa City in 1991 to study with Dr. Ponseti. As President and Medical Director of the Ponseti International Association (PIA) Dr. Morcuende continues to advance the Ponseti Method worldwide.  He has visited more than 55 countries, helping to establish clinics, train personnel, and permanently improve the lives of thousands of children.

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Filed under Health & Medicine, Past Events, Spring 2014

Rene Genadry, MD, February 11, 2014

Genadry pic“Reflections on the Development of a Collaborative Program in Niger”

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Dr. Rene Genadry will share the process behind his proposal to develop a collaborative relationship with the Abdo Moumouni University School of Health Sciences through the International Programs at the UI. He will review a format of cooperation in the areas of pelvic floor disorders and urinary incontinence including obstetric fistula.  The challenges and the mutual benefits in the development of such a long-term relationship will be addressed, including the status of the program and a long-term vision for the future.

Genadry is a Professor of OB/Gyn and Urology at the UI Carver School of Medicine. He is a member of the International Obstetric Fistula Working Group of the UNFPA aiming at eradicating Obstetric Fistula and has co-directed a seminar on research priorities in Obstetric Fistula at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He has collaborated with the Johns Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynecology and Obstetrics, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and the International Organization for Women and Development.  He is the co-author of a “Women’s Guide to Urinary Incontinence” published at the Johns Hopkins University Press.

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Filed under Governance Issues, Health & Medicine, Humanitarian Issues, Past Events, Spring 2014

Drew Kitchen, February 6, 2014

Kitchen Pic“The Co-Evolution of Humans and Pathogens”

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Pathogens and parasites have evolved in intimate relationships with their human hosts, and have often played central roles in human population history.  Notably, human pathogens evolve with surprising rapidity, quickly exploiting novel niches introduced by shifts in human behavior or ecology.  In this talk, Drew Kitchen will present recent work that investigates the connection between pathogen/parasite evolution and the history of their human host populations. He will close with a discussion of how human parasites, such as lice, may colonize new niches introduced by shifts in human behavior, and in so doing, become unique markers of evolutionary history.

Kitchen graduated from the Johns Hopkins University in 2001 with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering, after which he then obtained an M.Sc. (Biology) from the University of Oxford (Hertford College) in 2003, before receiving both an M.A. (2004) and a Ph.D. (2008) in Anthropology from the University of Florida. Before joining the University of Iowa in 2012 as an Assistant Professor in the Anthropology department, he was a postdoc in the Center of Infectious Disease Dynamics at the Penn State University. Drew’s research interests are in human evolution and pathogen evolution. His current research is focused on the molecular evolution of pathogens including the macro evolutionary patterns of pathogen emergence and divergence, and genetic studies of ancient human migrations in general and the peopling of the Americas in particular.

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Filed under Environmental Issues, Health & Medicine, Humanitarian Issues, Past Events, Spring 2014

Mark Osiel, January 28, 2014

osiel pic“The Uncertain Future of International Criminal Law ”

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Since the Nuremberg trial following World War II, international criminal law aims to punish and deter genocide, crimes against humanity, and grave war crimes. It has made great strides in the last twenty years, but faces increasingly uncertain prospects. Professor Osiel, a leading thinker and practitioner in the field, offers a succinct, cogent history of recent progress and a sobering assessment of its likely future.

Mark Osiel is the Aliber Family Chair at the UI College of Law.  He is the author of several books outlining strategies to improve the law’s responses to mass atrocity around the world.  Osiel has spoken at the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia and the US War Colleges.  He consulted in the cases of Gen Augusto Pinochet, the genocidaires in Rwanda, and advised the Department of Defense in recent anti-terrorism prosecutions.  In addition to occasional media appearances, Professor Osiel served as Director of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law at the TMC Asser Institute, a think tank in The Hague.

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Filed under Governance Issues, Humanitarian Issues, Past Events, Spring 2014

Jeff Murray, January 21, 2014

jim murray“Differing Approaches to Pediatric Disease in International Settings”

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Dr. Jeff Murray will describe his efforts to build programs which address the problems of newborn infants in low income settings, including birth defects and preterm birth.  He will address the challenges of building a basic and translational research program, and the contrasts in approaches used by federally-funded work and that of private foundations.  He will also examine the unique opportunities and challenges of both approaches.

Dr. Murray has been at the University of Iowa for 28 years. He holds a primary appointment in Pediatrics and joint appointments in Epidemiology, Nursing, Dentistry and Biology. His lab researches the genetic and environmental causes of birth defects and preterm birth. His work has involved international studies in the Philippines, India, Denmark, Argentina, Brazil, Lebanon and Japan. He has contributed to over 400 peer-reviewed publications, is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, and was President of the American Society of Human Genetics.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a strong supporter of his work on preterm birth in low and middle income countries.

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Filed under Health & Medicine, Humanitarian Issues, Past Events, Spring 2014