Global Grand Challenges event to spark faculty dialogue

What are the biggest threats facing inhabitants of Earth in the 21st century? A two-day symposium will bring together people from across the university for a dialogue on the “grand challenges” of a world that’s both more connected than ever and increasingly fractured.

The Cornell Global Grand Challenges Symposium is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 8, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Goldwin Smith Hall, and Friday, Nov. 9, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Warren Hall. Register for the symposium here; non-registered attendees also may walk in on the day of the event.

“These feel like dark days – we’re surrounded by so much tragedy and real crisis, from climate change to inequality and a seemingly global rise of hate acts – and yet there is also so much promise in the world. We have the capacity to build something better, but only if we’re thoughtful and deliberate about it,” said Wendy Wolford, Cornell vice provost for international affairs and the Robert A. and Ruth E. Polson Professor of Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

“Universities ought to be at the center of positive change – Cornell, in particular, has a powerful mandate to engage with the world,” she said, “so the symposium will feature short talks from faculty and leadership across campus on the nature of the current moment and how Cornell might harness its interdisciplinary expertise to address some of the greatest global challenges.”

A main goal of the symposium will be to identify, through discussions in groups large and small, potential themes to be considered for Cornell’s Global Grand Challenge 2019-20. It’s the first of what’s expected to be an annual initiative driven by cross-campus projects, communication campaigns and more.

“From the challenges that these discussions highlight, we will select one cross-disciplinary theme for 2019-20,” Wolford said, “and we will support new curricular, scholarly and engaged work across campus that focuses on that theme.”

President Martha E. Pollack will convene the event with brief remarks, followed by the first of three plenary keynote addresses. Mariët Westermann, executive vice president for programs and research at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, will deliver a talk on “Bridging Divides.”

Westermann’s talk will lead to a panel discussion featuring: Rachel Dunifon, interim dean of the College of Human Ecology and professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management; Daniel W. Fitzgerald, director of the Center for Global Health and professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine; Rohit Verma, dean of external relations of the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business; and Lorin Warnick, Ph.D. ’94, the Austin O. Hooey Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Friday’s Plenary 2 will begin with remarks from Provost Michael Kotlikoff and a keynote address by Ray Offenheiser, director and professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Initiative for Global Development. The panel discussion will feature Kathryn Boor ’80, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of CALS; David Erickson, associate dean for research and graduate studies, and Sibley College Professor of Mechanical Engineering; and Eduardo Peñalver, ’94, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and professor at the Cornell Law School.

Plenary 3 will begin with a keynote from Cornell’s Kaushik Basu, the C. Marks Professor of International Studies and professor of economics. The panelists will include directors of Cornell’s regional programs, including the Institute for European Studies, the East Asia Program, the Institute for African Development, the Latin American Studies Program, the South Asia Program and the Southeast Asia Program.

Following lunch, attendees will form into working groups and discuss ideas to be presented at the end of the symposium.

The closing session will include short talks by Ronnie Coffman, the Andrew H. and James S. Tisch Distinguished University Professor and director of International Programs in CALS; Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue, professor and chair of the Department of Development Sociology; Sarah Kreps, associate professor of government and adjunct professor of law; David Lodge, the Francis J. DiSalvo Director of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology; and Mor Naaman, associate professor of information science at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech.

Winners of two competitions tied to the symposium will also be announced. For the Lingua Mater contest, current students and alumni were invited to translate Cornell’s alma mater into their native tongue (or a language they learned or are learning at Cornell) and sing it on video. For the Global Grand Challenge competition, current students and alumni submitted their ideas – in prose, poetry or visual art – for what is the greatest challenge facing humanity. 

The symposium is sponsored by the Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs (OVPIA). In conjunction with the symposium, the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, part of OVPIA, will hold its annual reception from 6-8 p.m. Nov. 8 in Klarman Hall Atrium.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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		 Sarah Kreps