UNK’s Conference on World Affairs addresses global issues, call to activism

UNK Communications

KEARNEY – Climate change, immigration, human rights, public health, national security and foreign relations.

These topics make headlines almost daily.

The organizers of the James E. Smith Midwest Conference on World Affairs don’t want people to simply read about these issues. They want you to take action.

Kerry Emanuel
Kerry Emanuel
Samuel Miranda
Samuel Miranda
Jose Ballesteros
Jose Ballesteros

This year’s conference, scheduled for Oct. 22-23 at the Ponderosa Room inside the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Nebraskan Student Union, is titled “The World in Crisis: A Call to Activism.” It will cover a variety of ongoing challenges from multiple perspectives – local, global, environmental, political, economic, social and cultural – while highlighting the work being done to address these crises and encouraging attendees to join the effort.

“There are a lot of issues at this point in time that people need to have their voices heard on, more so than in past years,” said Matthew Mims, an associate professor of counseling and school psychology at UNK and member of the conference’s organizing committee.

Mims said the conference, which is free to attend and open to the public, aims to inspire students, faculty and community members to get involved with international affairs and strive to make the world a better place.

About 30 speakers, including 10 diplomats, will present during the conference, which Mims called an “extremely high-caliber event.”

“Very rarely do you get a chance to attend a conference where 10 ambassadors are speaking,” he said.

Among the featured speakers are Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science and co-director of the Lorenz Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Jose Ballesteros and Samuel Miranda, collaborators on “Knocking on the Door of the White House: Latina and Latino Poets in Washington, D.C.,” which showcases activist voices protesting the treatment of Latinos under the current presidential administration.

Emanuel, a faculty member at MIT since 1981, will present “What We Know about Climate Change,” which is also the name of a book he published through MIT Press.

Ballesteros, a professor of arts at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, is co-author of the Spanish literary anthology “Voces de España, an editor for the Library of Congress’ “Handbook of Latin American Studies” and chief editor of Zozobra Publishing, a bilingual poetry press in Maryland. His poetry has been published in several U.S. journals and anthologized in “Al Pie de La Casa Blanca: Poetas Hispanos de Washington, D.C.”

Miranda, a visual artist, poet and educator from Washington, D.C., uses his craft to highlight the value of everyday people and places. He authored “Departure,” a chapbook published by Central Square Press, his poetry has been published in anthologies and journals and he has performed at venues such as the National Museum of African Art and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Their presentation is titled “We Is: Poetry Voicing the Will of Individuals and Societies to Survive.”

The Midwest Conference on World Affairs, which is coordinated by UNK’s Office of International Education and a committee of community members and faculty, staff and students from UNK’s three academic colleges, was first held in 1964 as a way to connect central Nebraska to global issues and expose participants to a variety of viewpoints.

“That’s still our goal,” Mims said. “We want people to expand their worldview so it enriches our students’ lives as well as the community’s.”

Other speakers include:

  • Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, Yemen’s ambassador to the U.S., who was kidnapped by the Houthi militia in 2015 while delivering a draft of the country’s new constitution to the national body.
  • Courtney Gehle, a 23-year-old activist from South Africa who works for Global Changemakers, serves on the summit committee for Brightest Young Minds and is acting editor of the Young Leaders for Development platform. She is also founder of The Better Tomorrow Movement (TBTM) and co-founder of The Greenline, a youth-led environmental organization. Gehle was named one of “Africa’s Brightest Young Minds” in 2015.
  • Benjamin LaBrot, who founded Floating Doctors, a nonprofit that provides medical and health care services to remote areas of countries such as Panama, Haiti and Honduras.
  • Jessica Hotz, a UNK graduate and co-founder and CEO of Elevate, a Kearney-based nonprofit and social business hybrid that creates sustainable job opportunities in developing countries.
  • Jane Kleeb, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party and founder of Bold Alliance, which focuses on protecting property rights, water and the clean energy transition.
  • Ken Pitkin, chair of the Callaway Nigeria Partnership Committee, a collaborative project that has drilled water wells, started a school that serves about 250 children and opened a medical clinic in Nigeria. The partnership is also introducing a micro-ag loan program in the African country.

James E. Smith Midwest Conference on World Affairs

Nebraskan Student Union Ponderosa Room

Monday, Oct. 22
9 a.m. – Welcome, UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen (Ponderosa E)
9:05 – 9 :55 a.m. – “What We Know about Climate Change,” Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at MIT (Ponderosa E)
10:10 – 11 a.m. – “Anti-Trafficking Activism: Lessons Learned in 20 Years of Fighting Human Trafficking Around the World,” Kearney native and independent consultant Kristin Wiebe (Ponderosa E)
11:15 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. – “Migration and ASEAN: Movement, Prosperity and Welfare in Southeast Asia,” Fajar Yusuf, consul general of the Republic of Indonesia, and Gina Jamoralin, consul general of the Philippines (Ponderosa A/B)
11:15 a.m. to 12:05 p.m. – “Reviving the Peace Process in Yemen,” Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, Yemen’s ambassador to the U.S. (Ponderosa E)
12:20 – 1:10 p.m. – “Take a Delegate to Lunch”
1:25 – 2:15 p.m. – “Central Europe and the European Union,” Piotr Janicki, consul general of the Republic of Poland (Ponderosa A/B)
1:25 – 2:15 p.m. – “How Activism Changed My Life,” Courtney Gehle, Global Changemakers (Ponderosa E)
2:30 – 3:20 p.m. – “Leveraging Knowledge to Educate the Most Marginalized,” Fatima Al-Zahrani, Education Above All Foundation (Ponderosa A/B)
2:30 – 3:20 p.m. – “Saving Lives and Dreams: Creating Opportunities in Nigeria and Zimbabwe,” Roy Machamire, International Shine Bright Foundation, and Ken Pitkin, Callaway Nigeria Partnership Committee (Ponderosa E)
3:35 – 4:25 p.m. – “Advocating Through Peace Corps: Alumni Roundtable Discussion,” Kyle Schinkel, Beth Schinkel, Shawn Kaskie and Dan Lillis (Ponderosa A/B)
3:35 – 4:25 p.m. – “Transatlantic Security and Cooperation: The Case of Lithuania,” Rolandas Kriš?i?nas, Lithuania’s ambassador to the U.S. (Ponderosa E)
7:30 p.m. – “We Is: Poetry Voicing the Will of Individuals and Societies to Survive,” Jose Ballesteros, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and Samuel Miranda, educator, poet and visual artist from Washington, D.C. (Ponderosa E)

Tuesday, Oct. 23
9:30 – 10:45 a.m. – “Immigration, Security, and the Future of Europe,” Herbert Quelle, consul general of the Federal Republic of Germany, and Rasmus Hindrén, defense counselor, embassy of Finland (Ponderosa A/B)
9:30 – 10:45 a.m. – “Education and Community in the Arctic,” Jessica Graybill, associate professor of geography and Russian and Eurasian studies at Colgate University, and Diane Hirshberg, professor of education policy at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (Ponderosa E)
11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. – “The Unlikely Alliance that Changed Climate Activism,” Jane Kleeb, founder and president of Bold Alliance (Ponderosa E)
12:30 – 1:45 p.m. – “The Linguists,” documentary featuring David Harrison, associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, and Gregory Anderson, founding director of the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, who document languages on the verge of extinction (Ponderosa E)
2 – 3:15 p.m. – “Advocating at Home and Abroad: Kearney’s Elevate, Crossroads Center and Jubilee Center,” Jerry Bumgardner, executive director of Crossroads Center; Daniel Buller, program and operations manager of Crossroads Center; Jessica Hotz, co-founder and CEO of Elevate; and Monica Musil, executive director of Jubilee Center (Ponderosa A/B)
2 – 3:15 p.m. – “Where is the Need? Careers in Mission Medicine,” Dr. Marjorie Heier, medical director at Missions Clinic in Zambia, and Dr. Benjamin LaBrot, founder and CEO of Floating Doctors in Los Angeles (Ponderosa E)
3:30 – 4:45 p.m. – “Of African Republics,” Michaël Moussa-Adamo, Gabon’s ambassador to the U.S.; Barfuor Adjei-Barwuah, Ghana’s ambassador to the U.S.; and Edward Sawerengera, Malawi’s ambassador to the U.S. (Ponderosa A/B)
3:30 – 4:45 p.m. – “Mission, Trade, and Foreign Policy: Three Cases from Latin America,” Julio Fiol, deputy chief of mission, embassy of Chile; Claudia Canjura de Centeno, El Salvador’s ambassador to the U.S.; and Guadalupe Sánchez-Salazar, consul for Mexico (Ponderosa E)

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