Campus gets first taste of Food for Thought theme to come in spring semester

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Across the university students, faculty, and staff are discussing, researching, and learning about thousands of topics every day. But what if the tables were turned, focusing a thousand different perspectives on a single topic?

Food for Thought, the first University of Iowa theme semester, offers just that opportunity. Throughout the spring 2015 semester, the university community will focus on food as a vital field of study across disciplines ranging from arts and humanities to environmental and health sciences to business and law. Guest lectures, special events, and community partnerships will offer opportunities to expand the discussion locally and statewide.

To build excitement for the coming semester, a number of “appetizer” events are planned this fall, including an art exhibition, a singer/songwriter performance, and a visiting food writer.

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  • Through Dec. 7, the UI Museum of Art exhibition, “Tea Time: Going Dutch,” at the IMU Black Box Theater, focuses on close study of Pieter Gerritsz van Roestraten’s painting Blue and White Teacups and a Bowl with a Yixing Stoneware Teapot, a Teaspoon, and Lumps of Sugar on a Ledge. Tea was one of the first commodities brought to Europe by the Dutch East India Company, and Roestraten's picture registers the spread of the new practice and the material culture of tea time within the genre of still life. To see a related story, visit Dutch Tea Time and Beyond.
portrait of Susan Werner
  • On Oct. 9, Hancher presents Susan Werner: The Hayseed Project, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at The Mill. This collection of songs celebrates the language, livelihood, characters and concerns of American Farmers. An Iowa farmer’s daughter well acquainted with the trials and tribulations of American farm life, Werner drew on that keen perspective to create the varied cast of characters that populate these songs.
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  • Also Oct. 9, the UI Vietnamese Student Association will host “A Culinary Odyssey,” featuring award-winning memoirist, food writer, rice farmer, engineer, and publishing entrepreneur Andrew Pham. This interactive talk, taste, and learn event will be held at Public Space One, 120 N. Dubuque St., from 7-9 p.m. and is open to the public. Pham, whose first book Catfish and Mandala mesmerized readers with the story of his family’s perilous journey from Vietnam to the U.S., and his own return trip 20 years later, will also be at Prairie Lights Books from 11 a.m. to noon on Friday, Oct. 10, reading from and discussing his latest work.

In November, two on-campus conferences offer opportunities for faculty, staff, students, and the public to consider a number of questions related to food.

  • The Food for Thought Graduate Student Conference, Nov. 1, offers an opportunity for UI graduate students from diverse disciplines to share their scholarly work in food studies with UI faculty and interested community members in a forum accessible to nonspecialists. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in 2520D University Capitol Center.
  • A statewide Iowa Organic Conference Nov. 16-17 will draw hundreds of participants from around the state. The event will feature an organic tradeshow and organic luncheon as well as keynote speaker Mary Berry, executive director of the Wendell Berry Center.

“The door is wide open for our campus and community members to get involved in this ongoing discussion,” says Linda Snetselaar, associate provost for engagement and a Food for Thought steering committee member. “Our hope is that these fall events really whet people’s appetites, spurring their interest and participation throughout the spring semester.”

For more information on how to get involved, visit the Food for Thought website,

Students are encouraged to consider adding a food-related course to their spring class schedule and attending or initiating events throughout the semester. The Provost Office of Outreach and Engagement will offer limited, supplemental funding for students, faculty, and staff planning events in connection with the Food for Thought semester. Additionally, faculty may submit student work related to the Food for Thought theme for inclusion on the web and in other promotional materials.

Some events already planned for the spring semester include original performances, scholarly symposia, and high-profile speakers.

Looking ahead to 2016 and beyond, the UI Theme Semester will continue to support collaboration that brings diverse perspectives to bear on a topic of importance to Iowa and the world. Grounded in the educational mission of the university, the Theme Semester provides opportunities for teaching, engagement, and learning both on campus and throughout the state of Iowa. The events and activities linked to each theme will help the university to forge new partnerships, promote publicly engaged scholarship, and contribute to communities statewide.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to attend any of these "appetizer" events, contact the individual listed with each event in advance.