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Food for Thought, Transformative Energies and the UN SDGs

Learn about UC Davis’ Campus Global Theme Program and its Impact Across Campus

Over the course of two academic years, the Campus Global Theme program identifies a topic linked to one or more of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and connects the entire UC Davis community in discussion, learning, discovery and action that is personally, academically and professionally significant. 

With events running between January 2020 and May 2021, the inaugural Campus Global Theme “Food for Thought: Feeding Ourselves, Feeding the Planet” engaged more than 600 participants across a variety of backgrounds and disciplines on the global dimensions of food. Food for Thought events ranged from student-led tours of regional diaspora community farms, to a talk by 2018 World Food Prize winner Lawrence Haddad, to a film on a hydroponics system run by staff with intellectual disabilities. 

The inaugural theme began with an opportunity to meet with Samin Nosrat, a cookbook author and host of the Netflix Series Salt Fat Acid Heat at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. Althought a portion of the scheduled Food for Thought programming was canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, 34 events were nonetheless held across campus and virtually. 

During this time, UC Davis Global Affairs awarded Food for Thought mini-grants to 19 grantees in 2019, and eight grantees in 2020. Ranging from $250 to $1,000, this micro-funding provides faculty, staff and students with the opportunity to address important global issues related to a given Campus Global Theme.  

Erica Kohl-Arenas, faculty director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, and Ermias Kebreab, associate dean of global engagement in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and director of the UC Davis World Food Center, co-chaired this inaugural program and were responsible for transitioning certain campus events to virtual offerings on account of the pandemic.  

"It was an honor to participate in the first Campus Global Theme Program, especially on the pressing issues surrounding food. Ranging from food justice in the Central Valley, to sustainable farming, to the healing possibilities found in food culture and cooking, the mini grants and events enabled students, faculty and community partners to come together, learn and grow," says Kohl-Arenas. 

“Shifting programming when COVID occurred—and helping to adapt it to the virtual space—was incredibly important,” says Kebreab.“ Working together with Erica, making sure that the events were moving along, was a big help for everyone.” 

Because Kebreab’s background is in food production, he initially saw Food for Thought programming in terms of his own research and expertise. It wasn’t until event proposals began trickling in that he realized how much the theme touched on. 

“Throughout this process, the diversity of food innovations, and how people interpreted them, was really eye opening for me,” he says. “Whether you’re a food enthusiast, interested in production and consumption, studying its impact across the globe, or following the history of food and its cultural significance—all this made the inaugural theme very unique and educational,” he says.  

Kebreab also found the Campus Global Theme program important because of how it brings people together from all walks of life through the lens of the SDGs. 

“When people participate in this programming, it’s good to have a holistic view so you can open yourself to ideas you might not have thought about,” he says. “We talk about the notion of being in silos—this program definitely provides a way to break the silos so people can work together on the theme and the SDGs and look at these issues from different perspectives,” Kebreab says. “If you want to foster collaboration across the university, this is the best way to achieve that.” 

Announcing the 2022–23 Campus Global Theme

Transformative Energies: Repowering and Empowering the Planet 

UC Davis’ second Campus Global Theme, “Transformative Energies: Repowering and Empowering the Planet,” invites the campus community to explore the humanistic, social and scientific dimensions of energy. Faculty co-chairs, Suzana Sawyer, professor of anthropology in the College of Letters and Science and Rebecca R. Hernandez, associate professor in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources and co-director of the UC Davis Wild Energy Initiative at the John Muir Institute of the Environment  stress the need for strategies for achieving a just energy transition given the environmental crisis that global warming poses in their statement of purpose.  The theme, Transformative Energies, dares to imagine repowering and empowering the planet as being two sides of the same coin. 

Transformative Energies calls upon our campus to share creative ways to reconsider and reconfigure our relationship to power through scientific, social, humanistic, and artistic experimentation and analysis. In support of the SDGs, the second Campus Global Theme will run events from January 2022 to June 2023, and offer a platform for the entire university community—students, faculty, staff, alumni and the broader Davis public—to engage in discussion, debate and dynamic action. 

“As part of the second Campus Global Theme, we encourage our university community—students, staff and academics—to think creatively in developing venues for transdisciplinary, intercultural engagement that incorporate various ways of knowing, learning and participating” says Nancy Erbstein, associate vice provost of Global Education.  

Transformative Energies Programming and Events 

We invite all members of the campus community to submit proposals to host an event or activity. 

Possibilities include: 

  • guest speakers and colloquia 
  • field trips and hands-on learning 
  • fiction boards or collective speculation 
  • experimental workshops 
  • experiential laboratories 
  • performances or story-circles 
  • film or art showings 
  • apps or web mapping 
  • podcasts or radio shows 
  • data synthesis or crowd sourcing 
  • research collaboratives 
  • design competitions 
  • science-to-action or science-to-policy 
  • dissemination of educational materials and surveys 
  • collaborative action with communities 
  • visions of campus transformation 
  • daily acts challenge 

UC Davis Global Affairs call for mini-grant proposals is now open and closes on January 10, 2021.


About Global Affairs

Global Affairs brings the world to UC Davis, welcoming more than 10,000 international students, scholars and leaders, and hosting programs that inspire global curiosity, understanding and engagement. Compelled by the valuable outcomes of thinking globally, we make transformative opportunities a reality by supporting the thousands of students and faculty learning and researching globally—and by facilitating collaborations that tackle the world’s most pressing challenges through more than 150 global partnerships.

Putting our vision of a UC Davis community that engages, thrives, and leads in this interconnected world into action, Global Affairs is in pursuit of an ambitious goal: Global Education for All.

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