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University events and lectures preview/review

A preview and review of U events and lectures, Feb. 10-28

Compiled by Adam Overland

Craig Packer

February 9, 2010

The Whole Village Project, Feb. 3, noon-1 p.m., St. Paul campus via UMConnect. Craig Packer is probably most widely known for his work with lions in Tanzania, where the beasts have recently been prone to prey on people, breaking into their huts and pulling victims from their beds. He spent the early part of his career studying baboons with Jane Goodall. The January Smithsonian magazine featured him in "The Truth About Lions," which draws on his research and work with the Serengeti Lion Project, an effort to boost lion conservation.

From his work has grown a unique and potentially world-changing effort to determine the effectiveness of foreign aid projects, using Tanzania as a pilot. Packer seeks an answer to the question, "Why can't a healthy environment be a consequence of economic development?"
While Craig Packer has traveled the world, I simply armchaired myself at my desk with a sandwich and listened to his lecture on the St. Paul campus from Morrill Hall. Thank you, UMConnect.
With millions of dollars flooding Haiti in response to the devastating earthquake there, Packer's work seems particularly important now. A recent story in USA Today said that after receiving $8.3 billion in foreign aid since 1969, Haiti is 25 percent poorer than it was in 1945.

Packer says the problems of foreign aid delivery can be blamed on a lack of accountability, communication, and standardization of measurements by the various aid organizations at play. Though a definitive model for foreign aid delivery may not emerge for years, Packer's effort, titled the Whole Village Project, aims to evaluate the effectiveness of aid projects in Tanzania, where poverty is the principal cause of habitat loss.

Though much of his direct work is with wildlife and the environment, Packer does not discount a key principle: people first. "People hate people who love wildlife more than people," says Packer.

Tanzania is a fantastically beautiful country—home of the Serengeti and Mt. Kilimanjaro, twice the size of California in area, and with national parks and biodiversity galore. But 90 percent of its people live on less that a dollar a day. Eighty percent are subsistence farmers, yet agriculture is below 20 percent of the country's capacity, says Packer. It's sixth in the world in its rate of deforestation (from 2000 to 2005), partly due to the fact that firewood is still a primary fuel source.

Billions in aid have flowed into the country. One unintended consequence of money from a prominent donor--the World Bank (from 1988 to 1998)--to fund "smallholder irrigated rice improvement projects" permanently changed the flow of the Great Ruaha River and nearly dried it up. Now, Packer says, the river is "not so great," with enormous consequences for hydroelectric facilities, two national parks, and the largest game reserve in Africa.
The Whole Village Project is big and it covers a huge area, so Packer has recruited more than 20 researchers from disciplines around the U to work on it. "Joe Ritter of Applied Economics and Deb Levison of the Humphrey Institute have voted with their feet and are on sabbatical in Tanzania now," says Packer. Together, these researchers will establish a grid of 250 rural villages, returning every two years for 20 to gather data while also developing relationships with local leaders and residents so they understand why something worked and why it didn't.
"Aid projects may come and go but the grid stays there," says Packer. Indeed, the work could change the world.
"The foreign aid industry is ripe for reform," says Packer. But now, he says, organizations’ only measure progress by the money spent.

"We will subject projects to proper measurement and accountability, and if we figure it out here, we can apply it to any country," Packer says.

Packer's lecture was part of the Frontiers on the Environment lecture series from the U's the Institute on the Environment, held at noon on Wednesdays. If you can't make it to St. Paul, never fear—all past lectures are subsequently posted online, and every lecture airs live. Grab a sandwich and listen to The Whole Village Project.

The next lecture in the Frontiers series from IonE is Feb. 10, featuring John Sheehan speaking on "Biofuels as a Contact Sport: Shifting the Debate from Food vs. Fuel to Sustainable Land Management." And on Feb. 17, Peter Reich, who won this year’s BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in ecology and conservation biology, will present "High-Tech Global Change Experiments in Terrestrial Ecosystems: A Lot of Hot Air?" Will Steger will offer a vivid account of the changes caused by global warming pollutants that he's witnessed firsthand in Arctic regions over four decades of polar exploration on Feb. 24, with "Eyewitness to Global Warming."
CEHD Policy Breakfast: Benchmarking teacher quality for policymakers in Minnesota, Feb. 5.
More than 200 of Minnesota’s top education leaders and policymakers discussed how to develop, measure, and support teacher effectiveness. The question is a timely one. Federal and state policy measures--Race to the Top and Q Comp, for example--tie education funding to teacher quality, and teacher effectiveness has been found to be the most important school-based variable affecting student achievement.

Hosted by the U's College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) and moderated by Karen Seashore, a panel of experts shared perspectives from across the education field. Panel members included Misty Sato, who holds the new Carmen Starkson Campbell Endowed Chair in Education; Bush Foundation President Peter Hutchinson; St. Paul Public Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva, Teach for America President Matthew Kramer; and Garnet Franklin, education issues specialist for Education Minnesota.

Sato laid out the research on teacher quality and charged the audience to think of investing in teacher quality as an investment in children. She focused on the teaching profession as a cycle that moves from recruiting future teachers, to preparation, support, and ongoing development. The ultimate goal, she said, is to have the most effective, experienced teachers become masters who can help those new to the profession. She highlighted a number of teacher effectiveness initiatives nationwide, including two at CEHD: The Teacher Support Partnership and the Teacher Education Redesign Initiative (TERI).

Each of the panel members followed with their perspectives on teacher quality, and while some disagreed on controversial topics such as tenure and alternative teacher preparation, they all expressed their commitment and urgency towards solving the complex challenges of an educational system that does not work for all students. For more information on the event, see policy breakfast. --Review by Diane Cormany

Lecture: Embodying Gilgamesh: Institute for Advanced Study Research Collaborative, Feb. 10, 4 p.m., in 140 Nolte Center. Faculty members Lisa Channer (Theatre Arts and Dance) and Eva von Dassow (Classical and Near Eastern Studies) are collaborating on a project to experiment with new methods for expressing the representations of the human body found in the ancient Sumerian epic poem Gilgamesh. Professors Channer and von Dassow are working with actors from Theatre Novi Most and the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance on physical theater forms and scholarly research into the text, history, and region from which the story emerged.

The group will present a lecture/demonstration of Kallaripayattu led by Gülgün Kayim, Feb. 10, 4 p.m., in 140 Nolte Center. Lisa Channer, Eva von Dassow, and actor and playwright Kira Obolensky will give a talk about the project on March 10, 4 p.m., 125 Nolte. One more lecture/demonstration, on the Viewpoints method, will be scheduled for later in the semester.

New Media Research @ UMN: Feb. 11, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., 100 Murphy Hall. If you have an interest in the qualitative and quantitative research methods being used to examine social media, a networking event for UMN new media researchers might be just for you. This half-day event features two presentations focused on research into social networks and collaborative spaces, followed by the opportunity for researchers to discuss their own interests and issues with each other. The event is free. For more information and to register online, see New Media.

"Why parks and natural areas are 'need to haves' as the Twin Cities grows," lecture by Jenna Fletcher, Feb. 15, 6-7:30 p.m., 100 Rapson Hall. Intuitively we know--and study after study confirms it--that parks, natural areas, and trails are among citizens’ most valued community amenities. In this challenging economic climate, however, funding is often cut because they are perceived as "nice to haves." Fletcher will look at why parks, natural areas, and trails should be considered "need to haves" due to their economic and community development impact.

Reading and book signing with author and executive editor of Wired magazine, Thomas Goetz. Feb. 18, 4 p.m., U of M Bookstore. Author and executive editor of Wired magazine, Thomas Goetz will discuss his book, The Decision Tree: Taking Control of Your Health in the New Era of Personalized Medicine.

Goetz delivers a thoughtful, groundbreaking look at the impact personalized medicine will have on the average patient as he proposes a new strategy for thinking about health, based on cutting-edge technology and sound science. The Decision Tree examines the effects of genomics, self-monitoring, new screening techniques, and collaborative health tools such as iPhone applications that will be used to help individuals to successfully change their behaviors.

Portuguese Encounters: Feb. 18, 5 p.m., West Wing Dining Room, Campus Club. How does this menu look? Salada de Beterraba (Mozambique), Cozido Goesa (Goa), Guisado de São Nicolau (Cape Verde), Arroz de Tomate (Guinea-Bissau), and Quindim (Brazil). In the 16th century, Portuguese navigators circumnavigated the globe, conquering new lands to build one of history's largest empires, and at the same time carryied and introduced crops, food products, and a variety of culinary cultures to all corners of the earth.

Social hour begins at 5 p.m., seating at 5:30 p.m., and the program at 6:15 p.m., with featured Speaker Cherie Hamilton. Hamilton is author of three major cookbooks: Cuisines of Portuguese Encounters, Brazil; A Culinary Journey; and O Sabor da Lusofonia: Encontro de Culturas. Non-members are welcome. RSVP to 612-625-1442.

Minding the Gap: Changing the Clockworks of Work, Feb. 18, 4 p.m., 125 Nolte Center. Sociology faculty Phyllis Moen and Erin Kelly will present results of their research in the Institute for Advanced Study’s Thursdays at Four series.  Their presentation will examine the need for employers and policy makers to break open the time clocks around work--the tacit, taken-for-granted beliefs, rules, and regulations about the time and timing of work days, work weeks, work years, and work lives--that contribute to individual and family stress, limit options, and perpetuate gender inequality. They summarize a recent study of employees at Best Buy corporate headquarters examining the consequences of actual changes in work-time practices

Full of the Hope that the Present has Brought Us: A Program Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Celebrating Black History Month. Feb. 21, 4-5:30 p.m., Ted Mann Concert Hall. For nearly 30 years, the U has celebrated Dr. King's life and legacy and Black History Month in an annual concert program. This year, Charmin Michelle, jazz vocalist, and T. Mychael Rambo, actor, vocalist, and educator, will headline the celebration. The afternoon also features LaTannia Ellerbe, violin performance doctoral student in the School of Music, the premier Minneapolis South High Jazz Ensemble, and three poets from Voices Merging, a campus spoken word poetry collective.

Moos Family Speaker Series kickoff: Robert Glennon, critical water issues. Feb. 22, 7-9 p.m., St. Paul Student Center Theater. University of Arizona professor of law and public policy Robert Glennon leads off the Moos Family Speaker lecture series sponsored by Freshwater Society and the U. Glennon, the author of two recent books arguing that Americans overuse and abuse water resources, will talk about the "urgent water crisis" in our country. A panel of Minnesota water experts will respond to Glennon's comments. Robert Elde, dean of the College of Biological Sciences, and Gene Merriam, president of the Freshwater Society, will moderate.

Tech Fest 2010, Feb. 27: 9 a.m.–5 p.m., The Works Museum, 5701 Normandale Road, Edina. Bring your entire family for a day of science and engineering fun at Tech Fest 2010. This free event includes hands-on projects, planetarium and chemistry shows, and visits by Goldy Gopher. Free.

University events and lectures preview/review is a periodic column (about every two weeks) highlighting events and lectures recently past and soon to come on the UMTC campus. Faculty and staff are invited to contribute. Submissions should be no longer than 250 words and are subject to review by the Brief editor. Find more Twin Cities events using the U's events calendar.