SUNY New Paltz’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences boasts a panoply of disciplines from the humanities to the social sciences which engage with questions using everything from poetic prose to laboratory based statistics. While the liberal arts have never been more important in the development of an informed citizenry, it is important to reconsider, reimagine, and reaffirm their place in higher education and civic engagement. Focusing on a distinct theme each year, the "Without Limits" program aims to make connections among the many aspects of the liberal arts while inviting campus and community partners to investigate the meaning and role of liberal education in the twenty-first century.
Food has become a significant domain of inquiry for a wide range of disciplines in the arts and sciences: it is political, it is ecological, it is cultural, and it is economic. In recent decades, the simple questions of what we should eat, how we should eat, when we should eat, and even where our food comes from have developed into profoundly complex issues. How do our choices shape the environment? What government policies should we adopt regarding our food chains? What is the connection between diet and disease, food and behavior? Should we eat locally? Globally? What are the ethical boundaries of our eating choices? Thinking about food consumption and production requires that we consider how histories of colonialism meld with the happenings of modern day capitalism (or late capitalism). In a fundamental way, it unites the natural world with the humanistic. As Michael Pollan writes in his widely read book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, “Daily, our eating turns nature into culture, transforming the body of the world into our bodies and minds.” This lecture series will invite faculty and outside speakers who can address any of the range of questions related to food culture in the twenty-first century. We hope that the location of New Paltz in New York’s Hudson Valley, a geographic region with a rich history of agriculture and culinary innovation, will support a vigorous discussion of the present and future of food studies.
Panelists Vanessa Plumly, Vicki Tromanhauser and Kenneth Nystrom
Spring programming began with the event "Food and the Liberal Arts: A Smorgasbord of Approaches," on March 9, 2017, from 5-6 p.m. in Lecture Center 104.
A panel of LA&S faculty members from different disciplines discussed how their research addresses food-related topics. Panelists included: Kenneth Nystrom (Anthropology), "Archaeological Diet Reconstruction as it Informs Debates about Modern Diets;" Vicki Tromanhauser (English), "Eating Well: Food Studies in British Literature;" and Vanessa Plumly (German), "Food as Floating Signifier: Orienting Race, Gender, and Sexuality."
The event was sponsored by The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of Anthropology, Department of English, Department of Languages, Literatures & Cultures, and Campus Auxiliary Services.
Brian Bogart, an External Relations Advisor on Governance and Sustainable Development in the United Nations World Food Programme's New York office, gave a talk entitled "Getting to Zero Hunger Globally by 2030 – the Role of the UN World Food Programme” on Wednesday, April 5, 2017 from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Coykendall Science Building Auditorium.
Bogart is responsible for defining the organization's strategic engagement in key global initiatives, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the World Humanitarian Summit, and Habitat III. Prior to his current position, Bogart acted as a Policy Advisor in the Office of the Director of Policy and Programme in WFP Headquarters. He has also held a number of positions in the field, including as an Advisor in the East and Central Africa Regional Bureau and Head of Operations in the South Darfur and Abyei regions of Sudan. Bogart joined WFP in 2005 as a Congressional Hunger Fellow in Kampong Speu, Cambodia. Prior to joining WFP, he worked for the Office of Food for Peace in the U.S. Agency for International Development in Washington, DC. He holds an MA in International Relations from the University of Kent at Canterbury and a BA in Political Science from the State University of New York at New Paltz.
The event was sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, SUNY Global Engagement Program in NYC, World Affairs Council of the Mid-Hudson Valley, UNA-USA Mid-Hudson Valley Chapter and Campus Auxiliary Services.
“Without Limits” concluded with a keynote address by food systems consultant Kate Clancy. Clancy’s talk was entitled, “A Systems Exploration of Food Security in the Northeast.” The event was held on Thursday, April 27 from 4-6 p.m. in Lecture Center 104.
Clancy is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, Adjunct Professor at Tufts University, and Senior Fellow in the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture at the University of Minnesota. Clancy earned her doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Berkeley. She has worked as a nutrition and policy advisor at the Federal Trade Commission, and at several nonprofits such as the Wallace Center. Clancy developed a graduate course on food systems in 1982 and since then has published, taught, spoken, and consulted widely on sustainable agriculture, food systems, and food policy with government agencies, universities, and nonprofits around the country. She has promoted the idea of sustainable diets since 1983. She has served on many boards including the Food and Drug Administration Food Advisory Council. She is the deputy director of the USDA-funded six-year EFSNE systems project in the Northeast United States, and engaged with many initiatives including Agriculture of the Middle and It Takes a Region. She publishes a column in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development on topics related to the application of systems concepts to food systems.
The event was sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Campus Auxiliary Services.
The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences flagship speaker series “Without Limits” kicked off its 2016-17 season on Nov. 17 with “Classroom to the Farm,” a panel conversation between three SUNY New Paltz alumnae who have found fulfilling careers in food production and distribution.
Panelists Jamie Levato ’03 (Elementary Education – Psychology), ‘06g (Literacy Education), Katy Kondrat ’11 (Adolescent Education – Social Studies) and Stiles Najac ’03 (Sociology) addressed an audience of more than 50 students, faculty and staff about the work each does in the food industry, and how their liberal arts education prepared them for these careers, sometimes in unexpected ways.
While the three panelists represent three distinct areas of the regional food industry (Levato as Education Director at the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, Kondrat as manager of the Kingston Farmers Market and Najac as Food Security Coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension Orange County), they all shared similar narratives of the connection between their classroom experiences and their passion for working toward the physical, moral and intellectual nourishment of their communities.
One comment from Kondrat, discussing her experience as co-founder and president of Students for Sustainable Agriculture at New Paltz, was representative of the broader themes of the program.
“It’s so hard for me to divorce the work I was doing in food and social justice from my coursework,” she said. “What’s important about the liberal arts is that they give a holistic vision of the world. Everything I learned in class deepened my curiosity, and I just can’t say how inspiring and important those courses were to me, how critical they were to my understanding of how the world works.”
Panel moderator Brian Obach addressed the liberal arts’ unique ability to fuel this kind of passion in students and graduates, and prepare them to work in a variety of disciplines and occupations.
“In my mind the greatest value of the liberal arts education is that it makes good citizens: well-rounded, critically thinking people capable of effective, informed contributions in a democratic society,” Obach said. “But it’s of obvious importance to employers as well. Most are not looking for narrow specialists. They are looking for employees who can bring a range of skills to the table, who have experience working with others, who are capable of problem solving and have knowledge of the world and its people.”
Illuminating the versatility of the liberal arts and sciences education is the core goal of the “Without Limits” speaker series. As it continues into the spring 2017 semester, organizers will invite students and community members to find new ways of observing that versatility through the lens of food creation and consumption.
“What makes this theme particularly intriguing is its seeming disconnection with the liberal arts,” said Linda Barrett, dean of the College Liberal Arts & Sciences. “But what we continue to discover is that our faculty’s and students’ disciplines are only the beginning of their work, the springboards from which they approach and create solutions for our current questions, issues and crises. That tonight’s panelists, having majored in the social sciences, have shaped careers in the Hudson Valley’s vibrant agricultural community speaks to the scope of our influence in society.”
The “Without Limits: Interdisciplinary Conversations in the Liberal Arts” series is coordinated by Associate Professor of English Cyrus Mulready and Associate Professor of Anthropology Kenneth Nystrom, with support from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.
Screens have become an omnipresent part of our daily lives: we find them in our offices, classrooms, cars, and, of course, even in our pockets. Screens are therefore sites of work and play, entertainment and education, art and information. Yet even as the technologies and content associated with our screens have come to be definitive markers of our modern world, our understanding of their cultural, social, psychological, even ethical impacts has lagged behind their mass appeal. This series is intended to explore how the different disciplines within College of Liberal Arts and Sciences approach these issues.
An academic panel discussion entitled "The Liberal Arts and the Digital World" served as the inaugural event in the SUNY New Paltz College of Liberal Arts & Sciences’ year-long series, “Without Limits: Interdisciplinary Conversations in the Liberal Arts.” The event was held October 28, 2015, in the Lecture Center.
The slate of “Without Limits” programming has been planned to highlight the College’s proud heritage of faculty expertise and vital education in the humanities and social sciences, while inviting campus and community partners to investigate the meaning and role of liberal education in the twenty-first century.
“The liberal arts have been the foundation of higher education for centuries, and they have been at the heart of higher education in the United States since its inception,” said Laura Barrett, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “’Without Limits’ is designed to highlight connections among disciplines, to explore themes through the multiple lenses of the humanities and social sciences and to enhance connections between our work and the world, in order to make more visible the contributions of the liberal arts to SUNY New Paltz and to our community.”
Each of the four panelists (faculty members Wendy Bower, instructor of Communication Disorders, Thomas Olsen, associate professor of English, and Lauren Meeker, associate professor of Anthropology, as well as student Megan Doty ’16 [graphic design, French]) at the Oct. 28 launch event considered the “Screens and Scenes” theme from the perspective of his or her own disciplinary background and research. What ensued was a thoughtful dialogue about the role of technology in our professions, our education and our personal lives.
“In determining what we could talk about that would both be topical and touch upon the strengths of the liberal arts, we came up with ‘Screens and Scenes’: that is, technologies, representations, content, all of which seem to be so central to our lives,” said Cyrus Mulready, associate professor of English and series co-chair. “We as a society have divided feelings about our technologies and their place within our culture. On the one hand, we feel triumphant and elated at the launch of the new iPhone that comes every year; our devices are part of our lives and help us create and think about the world in new and exciting ways. On the other hand, we find they generate alienation, anxiety and worry about what the future holds. We’re happy to present this panel of scholars to carry on this conversation about these topics.”
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences concluded its “Without Limits” series in the spring with two events and a live mural painting on campus by a renowned Chilean artist.
On April 25-26, 2016, Pau Quintanajornet painted a mural, entitled KRA, in the concourse between the Sojourner Truth Library and Fine Arts Building. Pau sees the mural, which incorporates Latin American iconography and aesthetics, as a way to “bring something of the southern hemisphere up to the northern to establish an exchange, a dialogue between the America’s, connecting people through unifying visual imagery.”
Following the mural installation, Quintanajornet joined Jessica Pabón (Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies) and César Barros (Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Latin American and Caribbean Studies) for a panel discussion on “Street Art and the Digital World,” on April 27, 2016, in the Coykendall Science Building (CSB) Auditorium.
“Without Limits” wrapped up with a lecture by Brittney Cooper entitled “Dis-Respectability: Towards A Ratchet Black Feminism” on April 28, 2016, in the CSB Auditorium. Cooper, an assistant professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers University, used Hip Hop music, television, and film as a backdrop for addressing the limitations of respectability politics as a productive framework for thinking about representations of race, gender, and sexuality in popular culture. Cooper’s talk argued for a distinct turn away from the politics of respectability, and for an intentional embrace of "ratchetness," as a form of feminist celebration and resistance.
Spring events were sponsored by: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; The Office of Academic Affairs; The College of Fine and Performing Arts; Campus Auxiliary Services; James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professorship; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program; Languages, Literatures and Cultures Department; and Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program.
You can view videos of all the presentations by clicking on the titles above.
For more information, contact committee members Ken Nystrom (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Cyrus Mulready (email@example.com).