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Preview/Review (Feb. 22 to Mar. 7)

A review and previews of some fun and informative U events and lectures through Mar. 7

Compiled by Adam Overland

Gutmann 165
Myron Gutmann, head of the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences.

February 21, 2012


Questions Without Borders: Why Future Research and Teaching Will Be Interdisciplinary

Myron Gutmann, head of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE), sparked a lively conversation Feb. 13 on the challenges of developing more interdisciplinary education in large research universities where established disciplines have traditionally been dominant. With his own scholarly interests in interdisciplinary historical population studies, especially relating population to agriculture, the environment, and health, Gutmann understands firsthand the need to strengthen and reward interdisciplinary research and teaching opportunities.

Held at Coffman Theater on the University's east bank, Gutmann's talk preceded a panel discussion featuring faculty from several disciplines. Moderated by U provost Karen Hanson and hosted by the Institute for Advanced Study, the program is available for viewing online.

Gutmann stressed that future academic research that will matter most will be collaborative, multidisciplinary, data intensive, and will address societal problems and fundamental scientific questions. To undertake such future research, research universities and supporting institutions like the NSF must broaden thinking about science and take more seriously how work at the intersections of traditional disciplines might respond to problems at a global scale. The SBE's fall 2011 report frames innovative research for the year 2020 and beyond that enhances fundamental knowledge and benefits society.

Gutmann and the SBE foresee future interdisciplinary academic work in areas including population, social disparities, communications, new technology, and, perhaps, civic participation. In discussing how NSF funding priorities shape research questions, Gutmann expressed his own view that a participation and governance science project deserves to move forward. He acknowledged that NSF proposals involving complex, interdisciplinary analysis of behavior are the most difficult to adequately review.

The discussion following Gutmann's remarks covered undergraduate education, graduate level research and teaching, and overall priorities for the research university. J. B. Shank of the department of history chose a bold response, saying the U's "overall approach to undergraduate education is exceedingly Victorian." David Fox of the department of earth sciences and Dominique Tobbell of the program in the history of medicine at the Medical School offered more subtle, but no less probing, assessments of the U of M context in interdisciplinary initiatives. Gutmann ended with a challenge to U faculty and staff assembled, asking, "Can you enable students to see potential for their ideas? Can you make it safe for faculty doing interdisciplinary work to grow in their careers?"

--By Beth Mercer-Taylor, sustainability education coordinator, Institute on the Environment


Previews are the editor's choice, selected for variety, uniqueness, oddness, impact, and whimsy. Submit your events to Events that feature U faculty and staff are preferred. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free. Follow us on Twitter @UFacultyStaff, where each morning we post a featured event of the day at the U.

Brenda Child discusses Holding Our World Together. Feb. 23, 4–5 p.m., U Bookstore, Coffman Union. The Help coverHolding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community explores the remarkable role of women in sustaining Native American communities through the hardest years of the last two centuries. Child, a leading scholar, brings readers to a fascinating interpretation of Native American women and their significant roles in commerce, agriculture, and spirituality. She features countless stories of strong-willed and inspiring Ojibwe women and her work delivers a powerful corrective to the commonly held notion of Indian male dominance.

The Help: a movie screening and critical dialogue. Feb. 28, 6–10 p.m., Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey School. For its main Black History Month event, the U's Department of African American and African Studies will be screening The Help, followed by a panel discussion with U professor of African American and African Studies, Rose Brewer; Duchess Harris, professor of American Studies, Macalester College; and storyteller and poet Rose McGee. Word is that these women do not all agree with one another.

The Help is a 2011 film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's novel of the same name. It is about a young white woman, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, and her relationship with two black maids during Civil Rights era America in the early 1960s. Skeeter is a fledgling journalist who decides to write a controversial book from the point of view of the maids.

IonE Frontiers in the Environment Wednesday lectures: "Putting the 'Fun' Back in 'Infrastructure': The Electric System and the Future of Energy." Feb. 29, noon–1 p.m., R380 IonE seminar room, VoTech Bldg., St. Paul campus or via UMConnect. February 29 comes around just once every four years, but this fantastic lecture series from IonE happens every Wednesday at noon through April 25, giving you the option to attend in person or through the magic of your desktop computer.

The next Frontiers presenter is Maggie Koerth-Baker, science editor,, and author of Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before it Conquers Us. Koerth-Baker will explain how our flawed and surprisingly precarious electric system evolved, how it controls what we can and can't do to solve our energy crisis today, and what we can learn about the future of energy by studying its past.

Coming Mar. 7: Conserving Tropical Forests from the Ground Up, with U professor Jennifer Powers.

Chased by the Light Walkabout. Mar. 1, 6 p.m., Bell Museum. Cost: Free for U students/faculty/staff, and kids under three. small chased by the lightAt this special event, U art history professor Robert Silberman will lead a tour of Jim Brandenburg's famed 90-day photo project, Chased by the Light, now exhibited at the Bell through May 13. Silberman will discuss Brandenburg's work in relation to other nature and to environmentally oriented art. This open-ended discussion is a great opportunity for participants to ask questions and share ideas with a leading expert.

Brandenburg began his photo journey with a simple plan: "In autumn I set out to make one photograph—one single exposure—each day for 90 days. I hoped with patience and endurance to renew my vision of the natural world."

Come see what he saw and renew your vision of the natural world at the Bell Museum of Natural History.

Shin, Soe, Hikae: Ikebana for Beginners: A three-session short course offered by the U's LearningLife program. Mar. 5, 7–9 p.m., Continuing Education and Conference Center, St. Paul. Cost: $125. With origins dating back more than 600 years, Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, is complex and takes great skill and years to master. Learn what distinguishes Ikebana from other decorative approaches to floral arrangement, as well as the basic rules and techniques for composing simple arrangements that embody the guiding principles of the form.

Instructor Yoshie Suzuki Babcock was born in Tokyo and has practiced Sogetsu Ikebana for more than 50 years. Her ranking as an instructor is one of the highest offered by the Sogetsu school and she has spent much of her life emphasizing the fulfillment and joy of Ikebana to beginning and advanced students. Babcock is director of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Sogetsu Study Group.

Coming Soon

Learn from the Experts at the Landscape Arboretum Spring Expo. March 9-11, U of M Landscape m_fall2004_arboretum.jpgArboretum. Cost: 3-day learning pass: $35 members/$45 nonmembers, or $20/$25 per day. Includes admission and parking.

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's Spring Expo, planned for March 9-11, offers the latest and best gardening info from the experts. The expo is themed "Learning to Grow, Growing to Learn."

Here's a glimpse at the schedule:

Friday, March 9—"Seeding the Future: Preserving Biodiversity One Garden at a Time" (1:30 p.m.) and "Seed Saving Primer" (2:30 p.m.), both led by Shannon Carmody of the Seed Savers Exchange. A maple syrup hike and "chat and chew" conversation follows.

Saturday, March 10—Author talks and book signings of new gardening editions from the Timber Press. Authors include Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard (Decoding Gardening Advice); David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth (What's Wrong with My Vegetable Garden?); Chuck Chapman (Irises for the Cold Climate); and Meleah Maynard (Annuals and Perennials for Shade).

Sunday, March 11—Talks are planned with Lynn Steiner (native plants); U horticulture professor Mary Meyer (landscaping with grasses and sedges); U Arboretum pest expert Dan Miller; and horticulture grad student Luke Haggerty (choosing fruit-bearing shrubs and trees).

In addition to the above speakers, local plant societies, landscapers, and garden stores will have displays showcasing the newest gardening trends, methods, and products.

Find more Twin Cities events using the U's events calendar.

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 or near the UMTC campus. Faculty and staff are invited to contribute. Reviews should be no more than 500 words, previews 200 or fewer. Both are subject to review by the Brief editor.