The place for all things Iowa and Honors.

People and the Environment: Technology, Culture, and Social Justice

Fall 2014

MW 3:30-4:45 in TILE Classroom 350 VAN

ANTH:1046 (113:046); GWSS:1046 (131:046), GEOG:1046 (044:046)

This course explores how resources, commodities, people and ideas cross borders.  It examines globalization through issues of technology, social justice and environment and brings together perspectives from anthropology, gender studies, geography, energy science and development.   This is a course about “big questions” related to the interaction between environment and culture: How is my life connected to that of a tribal woman living in rural India?  What is the cause of drought, in Iowa and Rajasthan?  What does Google Earth tell us?  What does it NOT tell us?   This course will guide you through the process of addressing urgent, real world problems by focusing on the causes, impact and potential solutions of rapid deforestation in Rajasthan, India.  It will do so through active, inquiry-based learning that involves classroom-activities, discussion, team work and a combination of short lectures, exams, writing assignments, discussion, and projects that all relate to one guiding question of the course:  What is the relationship between my daily life and large-scale environmental and social processes? 

This course fulfills GE requirement for International and Global Issues.

This course links to study abroad through the 3-week India Winterim program for interested students.

This course can be taken as an Honors Contract course for Honors students.

This is a Big Questions course team-taught by five faculty members:

            Meena Khandelwal, course director (Anthropology and GWSS)

            H.S. Udaykumar (Mechanical Engineering)

            Matt Hill (Anthropology)

            Marc Linderman (Geography)

            Jerry Anthony (Urban Planning)

The Real Students of Iowa Med

Join us for a “reality show-esque” look into Iowa Med school!

Our special guest speaker will be Ellen Franklin, a manager of clinical skills assessment and learning community at the Carver College of Medicine. She will be discussing the new Iowa Med curriculum and the Performance Based Assessment (PBA) program that Iowa Med runs among other topics.

 We will also have a panel of medical students at the event to share their medical school experiences at Iowa. They’ll offer a great student perspective on what medical school is really like.

Date: Thursday, April 10

Time: 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Location: IMU Illinois Room

  • Do you want to have an impact through your education?
  • Do you feel like making a community a better place?
  • Would you like to work as a team and build on your ideas
  • Would you like to get a first-hand look at one of the great social experiments of our time - the Las Vegas’ Downtown Project?

This spring, The University of Iowa is offering an innovative new major for a select group of first-year Honors students.  The major track, Engaged Social Innovation, is meant for students who want to learn more while helping others.  Selected students will apply their education and creativity toward a specific initiative – the Downtown Project, located in the Fremont East and Arts District areas of Las Vegas, Nevada (  Working in teams, students will create an initiative that helps improves the community of Downtown Las Vegas.  Students who are majoring in the arts, humanities, or natural and social sciences that would apply their interests towards making a city or community a better place are encouraged to apply.

To learn more about the major, attend an information session on Monday, April 7th at 5:00 p.m. in the South Commons on the third floor of the Blank Honors Center.

You can also learn more from our website at or by emailing us at  We will be happy to answer any questions you have.

Student Profile: Sarah Mayer, Vice President of the Presidential Scholars Program

Year: Junior
Area of Study: Biochemistry, Spanish, Pre-Medice
Hometown: Johnston, IA
Involvement: Presidential Scholars Program Vice President, UIHC Student Leader Board, Research Assistant in the Bartlett Lab, Big Brothers Big Sisters, WiSE, Alpha Chi Sigma, Medicus, Biochemistry Majors Club
Interesting Fact: I learned that my name means “corn” in Quechua (the indigenous language of Peru) - quite fitting for an Iowan!
Much of my involvement with the new Presidential Scholars Program developed from a meeting in the Burge cafeteria, and a summer in Cusco, Peru — very different places, but a satisfying integration of interests. Freshman year, Fellowships Director Kelly Thornburg met with my class of Presidential Scholars to discuss future fellowship opportunities as well as other ideas for scholarship recipients. One idea was having regular meetings where people could get together to discuss different articles, stories, or lectures so that we could practice professional discourse while learning about a wide variety of topics. That great idea got filed into a back corner of my brain for a few semesters, until I spent a summer studying abroad with a group of eight people with the most random combination of majors you could imagine. Leaving my bubble of science reminded me that there are so many other perspectives out there that I might miss as I specialize more and more, and I came back to the States excited about diversifying my intellectual consumption.
With the help of two of my classmates, Allison Kindig and Alex Hjelmaas, I approached Honors Director Dr. Art Spisak about starting those events Kelly had suggested back in that Burge meeting, since the new organization of the PSP was taking shape. The Honors Program’s willingness to support a few students’ pet project led us to start monthly events called “Discourse” that have helped build more of a community among Presidential Scholars. The mix of intellectual discussion, a casual setting (with food, of course!), and a variety of people from really diverse disciplines leads to enlightening, enjoyable discussions. I always come away from Discourse with more questions than answers, but pleased to hear so many cool perspectives. I’ve since joined the executive board as Vice President, helping plan other events for Presidential Scholars, dreaming up new ideas for the program, and working with the rest of the board on a proposal with the UI Foundation to potentially secure funding for more activities within the PSP, such as workshops or group travel.
The best part about the PSP is that its future direction is completely up to all of us. All ideas from students are valued, because the goal is to create a community that develops scholars individually and as a group, so they can go out in the world and meaningfully contribute to whatever they are called to do. I hope other scholars will use the PSP community to make a new idea brought up over dinner, or overseas, a reality. I’m so excited to see where this community will go!

ICFRC Lecture Luncheon: The Globalization of Air Pollution—Implications for Our Air, Water, and Food Quality

Gregory R. Carmichael, is the Karl Kammermeyer Professor of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering at the University of Iowa.  He is internationally known for work on international air pollution concerns. Carmichael’s studies have led to greater understanding of problems related to the long range transport of pollutants within Asia and across the Pacific. Most recently his work has focused on the role of black carbon in the atmosphere and its dual role as an air pollutant and climate warming agent.

Date: Thursday, March 27

Time: 12:00 pm - 1:15 pm

Location: 30 N. Clinton St. (church next to Phillips Hall)

  • H@I:

    What is your favorite work that Professor Field has produced?

  • Professor Solow:

    I have known Professor Field since I was a graduate student, when I took his Economic History class (a required course for PhD’s back then) at Stanford. Although I didn’t choose to be an economic historian, I did enjoy that class very much.

  • H@I:

    Can you give us an explanation of behavioral economics? What does Professor Field do in this field?

  • Professor Solow:

    Behavioral economics lies at the border between economics and psychology. While economics has always treated people as optimizing agents (choosing the outcome that makes them as well off as possible given the constraints they face. Psychologists like Daniel Kahneman and the late Amos Tversky noted that people don’t always behave that way; for example, they make different choices depending on how the question is asked, they discount evidence that runs counter to their initial beliefs and pay excessive attention to evidence that supports those beliefs, and they treat small gains and losses asymmetrically. Behavioral economics utilizes these observations in a theory of economic behavior. It is a relatively new branch of economics, and has yet to supplant the traditional economic model, but there is a growing number of economists who study it.

  • H@I:

    Professor Field is known for using past economic history to inform the present. What are some relevant historical instances that help us understand our current economy?

  • Professor Solow:

    Since the ability of economists to do controlled experiments is limited (but not non-existent – there is a growing body of research in both laboratory and field experiments), much of how economists test their models is by looking at historical data, sometimes recent history and sometimes more distant history. For example, one way to learn about recessions like the Great Recession that the U.S. economy is emerging from today is to look at past recessions, including the Great Depression of the 1930’s and 40’s.

  • H@I:

    Professor Field’s research focuses on technology and productivity. What are the most prominent ways our world can be affected, or will be affected, by the current rapid technological advancement?

  • Professor Solow:

    Economists have known since the 1950’s that the greatest source of improvement in our standard of living comes from technological progress. This means inventing new and better things (cars, washing machines, pharmaceuticals, etc) and inventing new and better ways to produce things. And one thing we know about new technologies is that it is difficult to predict what they are going to be or how they are going to affect the world.

  • H@I:

    Professor Field’s work tends to focus on war economies. As America is coming out of a war, how can we expect our economy to change?

  • Professor Solow:

    This is difficult for me to say. One thing we have to do as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down is reduce the size of the armed forces, which means finding employment opportunities for former servicemen and servicewomen. This will also lead to a reduction in government spending on defense, unless the government chooses to divert those savings to other defense initiatives, and perhaps to a reduction in government spending overall, unless the government decides to divert those savings to other non-defense initiatives. But as a general matter, I wouldn’t see any radical change in how the economy works.

  • H@I:

    What are some ways business students can get involved with the Honors Program?

  • Professor Solow:

    The Tippie College of Business has an Honors Program that currently focuses on preparing students to write Honors Theses in order to graduate with departmental honors. Since graduating with honors involves doing original research, the ideal Honors student is someone who is (a) bright, (b) has some training in their field and (c) is intellectually curious. The third item is the most important; Honors is not something you do just to put something on your resume. You need to be able to ask questions and think up answers for yourelf.

Alpha of Iowa, Phi Beta Kappa Luncheon

Wondering how membership in Phi Beta Kappa can impact your professional career?  Interested in the ways in which altruism and economics intersect with the human sciences? Join us for pizza and “Altruistically Inclined: An Informal Conversation with Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Professor Alexander Field.” Space is limited, so email Donna Parsons by March 14 to reserve your seat.

Date: Tuesday, March 25

Time: 11:00 am - 1:00 pm

Location: BHC South Commons (350)