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Announcing our 2021/2022 Public Global Speaker Series Talks

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Alex Biddle

We’re celebrating our 10th year of the Global Speaker Series! Each year our best teachers—with years of international education experience—speak in classrooms  across the United States to share their perspectives and insights with students ready to engage with critical and compelling global questions. While we used to do this for schools only, this year we’re really excited to offer these talks to anyone who would like to join. Our 2021/2022 virtual global speaker series includes a range of talks focusing on topics such as climate change, advocacy through story, and learning service.

Select one (or many!) of our free 60-min global talks (free talks are listed below) that are funded by Dragons and offer the opportunity to engage with critical global conversations. If you’re an educator interested in booking a talk for your classroom, you can do that here. Again, these are talks are open to anyone (general public) who is interested in learning more about one of these topics.

Please note that most of these talks are on Tuesdays at 5pm MST, but some deviate from that schedule to accommodate speakers’ time zones and availability.

2021/2022 Global Speaker Series Schedule

November 2nd, 5pm MSTTruth and Existence: Buddhism in Practice 

November 9th, 5pm MSTDrinking Water: Stories from Mining Community of the Bolivian Andes

November 10th, 10am MST — Advocating Through Story

November 16th, 5pm MSTThe Marriage Between Two Communist Countries: China and Cuba

November 23rd, 6pm MSTModern Perspectives from an Ancient City 

November 30th, 5pm MST The Roots of Migration from Central America

December 7th, 5pm MSTClimate Change’s Cultural Side

December 14th, 5pm MSTThe White Saviour Complex: Does Voluntourism Do More Harm than Good?

January 4th, 5pm MSTThe Forbidden Fire: Community-Based Fire Management in the Peruvian Andes

January 11th, 5pm MSTEmpathy and Travel

January 11, 5pm MSTThe Roots of Migration from Central America

January 18th, 5pm MSTSaving Seed & Saving Self

January 18th, 6pm MSTModern Perspectives from an Ancient City

January 20th, 10am MST — Advocating Through Story 

January 25th, 5pm MSTHistoric Memory: Antidotes for a Struggling Planet

February 1st, 5pm MSTThe Marriage Between Two Communist Countries: China and Cuba

February 8th, 5pm MSTClimate Change’s Cultural Side

February 15th, 5pm MSTTraditional to Contemporary: Guqin to China-Style Pop Music Phenomenon

February 22nd, 5pm MSTHistoric Memory: Antidotes for a Struggling Planet

March 1st, 6pm MSTThe White Saviour Complex: Does Voluntourism Do More Harm than Good?

March 8th, 5pm MSTRich Brown, The Roots of Migration from Central America

March 15th, 5pm MSTTruth and Existence: Buddhism in Practice 

March 22nd, 5pm MSTHistoric Memory: Antidotes for a Struggling Planet

March 29th, 6pm MST — Modern Perspectives from an Ancient City

April 5th, 5pm MSTSaving Seed & Saving Self

April 12th, 5pm MST — The Forbidden Fire: Community-Based Fire Management in the Peruvian Andes

April 19th, 5pm MST — The Roots of Migration from Central America

April 26th, 6pm MST — Modern Perspectives from an Ancient City

May 31st, 5pm MSTTraditional to Contemporary: From Guqin to China-Style Pop Music Phenomenon


Global Speaker Series — Talk Descriptions  

The White Saviour Complex: Does Voluntourism Do More Harm than Good?

Synopsis: Voluntourism is a booming and growing industry. Pre-pandemic, it was estimated at $2.6 billion globally and with at least 10 million travelers, and marketed as an accessible way to learn about and contribute to the world. It is such a popular activity for young people that it is almost becoming a rite of passage. However the practice has come under increased criticism for perpetuating neo-colonial ideas and “white saviorism,” as well as being rife with corrupt practices that cause harm to both the community and the students themselves. This workshop offers a new concept “learning service” as a way to think through and resolve some of these ethical tensions, by putting learning at the heart of the service we offer.

Speaker: Claire Bennet, M.A. History, University of Cambridge. Current field instructor in Senegal, Nepal, and Cambodia.


Advocating Through Story

Synopsis: Stories can change the course of history. We all have them and are often touched and influenced by the tales of others. From advocacy to entertainment, stories have the power to influence, amuse and evoke an emotional response within the listener. This workshop looks at the social and economic impact of selection of stories, explores ways to structure a story for engagement and impact, and gives participants the opportunity for practice. Drawing on the concepts of global citizenship and leadership, we will reflect on the impact individuals wish to have on the planet and the role story can play in advocating for this.

Speaker: Steve Roberts, BSocSci (Economics & Film), MA (Education and International Development), MA (Digital Technologies, Communication and Education)


Drinking Water: Stories from Mining Community of the Bolivian Andes

Synopsis: Water is a sacred commodity that many people take for granted since it’s easy to turn on the tap instead of walking many miles to get potable water. In Bolivia, where the National Constitution says, “La Tierra es del quien la trabaja” (The land is for the one that works in it), this mantra does not apply to many of it’s mining communities. For centuries, Bolivian miners, who are most often Andean indigenous people, have suffered greatly from their work in the mining industry. This workshop offers a critical look at mining and its effects on people and the environment. Alan will examine issues that miners face just to survive and illustrate many of the challenges of the industry through access to clean, potable water.  

Speaker: Alan Condori Flores, B.A. Tourism, Culture, and Languages; San Francisco Xavier of Chuquisaca

***Available in Spanish 


Modern Perspectives from an Ancient City: Heritage of the Past, Ambitions of the Future

Synopsis: How do cities live and organize themselves over time? This talk will highlight the challenges and opportunities of urban sustainability while encouraging students to draw parallel conversations in their own home town/cities. The concepts will draw on public spaces, belonging, local economy, beliefs and rituals, and evaluate grassroots engagement through city councils and governments. In this talk, Jason will draw experiences from his hometown Patan – an ancient Newar city in Nepal – to evaluate similar concerns of students’ home-cities.The focus topics can shift to include: urban transportation, green spaces, citizen activism, waste management, and youth participation.

Speaker: Jason Shah, BA, International Studies – Diplomacy and International Organizations. 


Traditional Toward Contemporary: From Guqin to China-Style Pop Music Phenomenon 

Guqin, is the oldest authentic Chinese musical instrument. Pei’s talk will introduce students to the unique and subtle sounds of the Guqin that have influenced all aspects of China culture. We will trace the use of the Guqin from the story of Confucious learning the instrument to 1977 when Nasa used its sounds as a gift to the galaxy in the Voyager spacecraft mission. Pei will explore how music is an amazing medium for understanding China – from traditional to contemporary life and values. 

Speaker: Pei Yuen, B.Des. in Communications Design from Shih Chien University, Taiwan

***Available in Mandarin 


The Marriage Between Two Communist Countries: China and Cuba

Synopsis: Tindy, a Chinese woman married to a Cuban man, will share her personal stories and accounts of China and Cuba. China is known for its 5,000 year history, traditional medicine, and Confucious culture — where the people are considered hard-working and serious. Cuba is famous for its paradise-like beaches, their own traditional medicine, salsa dancing, and mojitos. The people are passionate, and they call everyone on the streets mi amor. China has been a Communist Party for 72 years and Cuba for 56 — it’s easy to make conclusions about those two in comparison to politics and economy, but Tindy is more excited to talk about the cultural influence, lifestyle, beliefs, as well as differences and similarities in day-to-day life between the two. 

Speaker: Tindy Chen, Bachelor of Art study in Guangdong Ocean university 


The Forbidden Fire and the Role of Community-Based Fire Management in the Peruvian Andes

Synopsis: The need for agricultural expansion has increased fire use throughout the tropics, aggravating local people’s vulnerability to the changing climate. Fire management has been historically addressed from a top-down conservationist approach, when use of agricultural fires should also be integrated into discussions of rural development. This shift would emphasize strengthening local and traditional institutions for adequate fire prevention and control and provide a better fit to the local context of the actors implementing them. In this talk, Vanessa will share her doctoral research in the Tropical Andes, where almost nothing is known regarding the local institutions for fire management and how these rules are adapted to fit changing socio environmental contexts. 

Speaker: Vanessa Luna, PhD student in Interdisciplinary Ecology, University of Florida (in progress) B.A. in Biology, Agraria La Molina University, Peru 


Climate Change’s Cultural Side

Synopsis: Even with 100% renewable electricity and a complete shift to electric cars, the United States would still produce more greenhouse gases per capita than China or any Western European country. The average U.S. resident emits double the average German. Throughout human history, sustainable practices have been primarily cultural, not technological. Out of necessity, communities all over the world develop lifeways that match the landscapes and ecosystems they are a part of. This talk is a tour of cultures in the Himalayas, the Andes, the Amazon, and the Mekong River Basin asking what the modern Western world might learn about solving environmental problems from communities that live more in touch with the natural world.

Speaker: Jeff Wagner, B.A. Environmental Studies, Western American Studies, and Geography – University of Colorado


The Fairy Creek Blockades: Frontline Activism and Ecologies of Change

Synopsis: The Fairy Creek Blockades were Canada’s largest act of civil disobedience in history, with over 1000 people arrested for blocking the logging of endangered ancient forests on South Vancouver Island, deliberately violating a Supreme Court injunction in the process. The grassroots intersectional movement brought together the people, causes and spirits of Indigenous Sovereignty as well as radical non-violent settler environmentalism, encountering numerous political challenges and tensions in the context of truth and reconciliation following the genocide and resurgence of Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island (North America). ‘Come for the trees, stay for the decolonization’ emerged as more than a catch-phrase. In this presentation and discussion, join Arvin as he recounts experiences and perspectives from the frontlines.

Speaker: Arvin Singh, MA University of Oxford


Saving Seed & Saving Self

When considering the causes, as well as the potential solutions to many of the universal crises we find ourselves now facing, it is hard to underestimate the importance of seeds. Seeds not only provide us with food, medicine, clothing, materials for shelter, and more, but throughout history they have helped civilizations all over the world define what it ultimately means to be human. In this talk we will look at how one community (eco-village) in Northern Thailand is regenerating this timeless relationship between human and seed and consider its implications on a wider, more global level.

Speaker: Greg Pettys, B.A. Sociology and Environmental Studies, Western Colorado University. Oceania & Asia Global Ecovillage Network. Ecoversities. WTBD Field instructor in Nepal, China, India, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia

Speaker:  Ramphai Noikaew, B.A. in Business English from Uttaradit Rajabhat University

***Available in Thai


The Roots of Migration from Central America

​​Every month, thousands of people from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador embark on a perilous journey to reach the United States. Rich draws on five years of work as a reporter based in Central America to explore why people come to the US, the dangers they face along the way, and the social, economic, and historical factors that have led to recent waves of migration. He shares original interviews with community leaders, academics, and participants in the October 2018 migrant caravan. 

Speaker: Rich Brown, B.A., Anthropology – Columbia University, 2010

***Available in Spanish 


Truth & Existence: Buddhism in Practice 

We can use the benefit of leisure time that we have during the pandemic to understand the truth of our existence in Theravada Buddhist doctrines, Somsanid will guide you thoroughly what he learnt as a lay Buddhist monk and his practice in South East Asia.  The talk will consist of the Dharma (the Teaching of Nature) that the Buddha frequently taught and we will learn some meditation theory/techniques purposefully to be aware and detach our mind from clinging on Dhukha (Suffering). 

Speaker: Somsanid Inthongdsai, ​​M.A. Graduate Degree. Saimouane Economy College, Khammouane, Laos: English language study. BBA. Khamsavad college, Khammouane, Laos: Bachelor of Business AdministrationDates: October – May 2022 


Empathy and Travel

Synopsis: Travel is lauded as a noble pursuit, but what specifically is it about travel that broadens one’s horizons? Arguably, empathy may be one of the greatest tangible benefits of travel.  This talk will examine the connections between empathy and travel, highlighting the latest research into empathy and what it actually is, as well as discussion of “ethical travel,” globalization, and Colleen’s own personal experiences throughout her last seven years of global travel.

Speaker: Colleen Dougherty, MSW, The George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, BA Spanish Language and Literature, BS Wildlife and Conservation Biology, Ohio University 


Historic Memory: Antidotes for a Struggling Planet

From severe climate crises, to global pandemics and widespread unrest. We are living in unprecedented and troubled times. Yet not all is doomed. The planet’s evolutionary past has gifted us a cultural heritage full of valuable lessons and viable alternatives to address some of the most pressing issues affecting the health of the planet and everything in it. This talk is an invitation to take a deep dive into personal and collective histories to uncover useful antidotes to help a struggling planet.

Speaker: Este Migoya, B.A. in Anthropology & Latin American Studies, Honours – University of Toronto, International Studies Diploma – Sciences Po Paris

***Available in Spanish 

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