When: Wednesday, September 20th @ 12pm
Where: Online via zoom
Speakers: Dr. Robert Asaadi
In an era when the Islamic Republic of Iran is vilified and poorly understood, Dr. Asaadi will talk about the possibility for political change in and reformation of the Islamic Republic. He will discuss the evolution of postrevolutionary Iran’s formal and informal institutions from 1979 to the present and explore the possibilities for change embedded in its constitutional order.
Robert Asaadi has been an Instructor in the Department of Political Science at Portland Community College in Portland, OR. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, and a B.S. in Political Science from the University of Iowa. His research and teaching interests include: international relations theory; international security; modern and contemporary Iranian politics; and U.S. Foreign Policy. His first book, Postrevolutionary Iran: The Leader, the People, and the Three Powers, was published with Rowman & Littlefield in April 2021 and was just released in paperback in September.
When: Wednesday, September 9th @ 12pm
Where: Online via zoom
Speakers: Dr. Oleg Timofeyev
Many have been surprised by Ukraine’s fierce, and effective, resistance to Russia’s invasion. What these observers missed was how strongly Ukrainians are attached to an independent national identity. That attachment is not new; a long cultural history sustains it. Dr. Oleg Timofeyev will examine this crucial background for understanding today’s Ukraine, including its Viking and Cossack roots, the role of Ukrainian epic songs as oral history, Ukrainian Jewish life, and how contemporary Ukrainian art reflects folk traditions.
Oleg Timofeyev is a musicologist, guitarist, composer, and documentary film director. The world authority on the Russian 7-string guitar tradition, he has recorded and released over twenty solo and ensemble albums to critical acclaim worldwide. The recipient of two IREX Fellowships, two Fulbright Research and Teaching Fellowships, he has won the coveted Noah Greenberg Award for his CDs “Music by Princesses at the Court of Catherine the Great.” His book, which will be the definitive work on the history of the Russian guitar tradition, is forthcoming with Cambridge Scholars in 2022. Dr. Timofeyev holds an M.A. in Early Music Performance from the University of Southern California, and a Ph.D. from Duke University. He has taught at universities and conservatoires in the US, Russia, and Ukraine, including the University of Iowa where he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor.
Welcoming and Supporting Refugees and Immigrants: Making the case for an intentionally Inclusive Iowa
When: Wednesday, September 7th @ 12pm
Where: Online via zoom
Speakers: Dr. Peter Gerlach, Kathryn Wittneben
The ICFRC has just released its report on the series we conducted earlier this year
focusing on refugees and immigrants in Iowa. As we write in the executive summary,
the ICFRC “recognizes that our state is at an inflection point, wherein collective
prosperity requires truly open, public, and engaged conversation about the many and
layered ways that our communities reorganize when new arrivals come, particularly in
these challenging and fast-paced times. For everyone to thrive, we must be intentional
in how we talk about our rapidly diversifying cities and towns to ensure that we all know
how to welcome and support refugees and immigrants as well as (re)create our
communities to be the kinds of places we all want to live for a long time to come.” To
begin our fall 2022 lineup of programs, project director and board member Dr. Peter
Gerlach and executive director Kathryn Wittneben will discuss the inspiration for the
series, its intended impact across the state, as well what it represents for the nature of
ICFRC programming going forward.
Dr. Peter Gerlach is Visiting Assistant Professor in the International Studies Program at the University of Iowa. He received his BA and MA degrees in English from Ripon College and the University of Northern Colorado, respectively. After serving in the US Peace Corps in Mongolia, he earned a PhD in Cultural Foundations of Education from Syracuse University where he conducted dissertation research on the lived experiences of international students at Grinnell College. His teaching areas include international studies, international education, refugee and immigrant studies, and community engaged learning. Dr. Gerlach serves on the International Studies Academic Advisory Board and the Fulbright Committee at The University of Iowa and on the Board of Directors at the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council (ICFRC), Global Ties Iowa, and theRefugee and Immigrant Association.
Kathryn Wittneben is Executive Director of the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council. She returned to the Iowa City area in the fall of 2020, after having served for four years as Vice President of Advancement at the University of the West of Scotland near Glasgow, Scotland. Previously she was Director of Development at the College of Public Health, University of Iowa Center for Advancement. She has taught International Politics and Economics at the University of Umea in Sweden, Washington State University and George Washington University in the U.S. She has worked as a Senior Economist on international economic and trade issues for two Congressional Committees (Banking, Small Business) in the U.S. House of Representatives; led an international policy institute at Middlebury College; and helped to develop two grantmaking foundations -- Eurasia Foundation which supported economic reform and democratization projects in the former Soviet
Union, and The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund (U.S.) which addressed challenges facing marginalized youth. Kathryn spent most of the 1990s working on economic reform and private sector development projects in the former Soviet Union and has addressed the Parliament of Ukraine and the CSCE on these issues. She has a B.G.S. degree with majors in Political Science and Economics from The University of Iowa; and a M.A. in International Studies from The American University. She received the Scottish Women's Award for Services to
Education in 2018.
When: Wednesday, May 4th @ 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Where: Online via Zoom
Speakers: Cristina Ortiz, Caleb Knutson,Art Cullen, Cara McFerren
The ICFRC has hosted the series, Refugees and Immigrants in Iowa, as a catalyst for discussing issues that could lead to positive social change in our state, both for new residents, and those who have been here for years or even decades. We believe the experiences and the stories shared by refugees and immigrants can and should inform public policy–creating the kind of discussions that can provide valuable information for policymakers, and the general public. Stories of lived experiences, including those shared during the series, are most compelling when they echo what is already happening in communities across Iowa. In this final session of the 6-part series, the panel will discuss how perceptions and policies about diversity and inclusion at the local level have evolved, and the part refugees and immigrants have played in this evolution. These new residents have discovered new opportunities for personal and professional growth and they have provided a needed workforce to support economic development in many of these communities, as well as a vibrancy of culture that benefits the community and the state. This panel will showcase the efforts of business and community leaders in towns such as Columbus Junction, Marshalltown, Storm Lake, and West Liberty, who are striving to create a thriving inclusiveness for this new diversity, precipitated by the arrival of refugee and immigrant populations. They will share what has gone well in their respective towns, the difficulties they have overcome, and the challenges each continues to face. Panelists will also offer their views on how policymakers in Des Moines might look to Iowa's most diverse towns to help create new welcoming and inclusive policies to support the state’s growing reputation as a place refugees and immigrants seek to call home.
Cristina Ortiz is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota Morris where she also contributes to the Latin American Area Studies and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies programs. Her research interests began as an effort to understand her own heritage as the grandchild of Mexican-American migrant workers who settled in the Midwest. She is broadly interested in issues of rurality, belonging, ethnic identities, labor, and migration. Her research explores the everyday experiences of rural Midwesterners with a particular focus on communities with Latinx and immigrant residents.
Art Cullen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, editor of The Storm Lake Times (a family-run weekly newspaper in small-town Iowa), and author of the new book, Storm Lake: A Chronicle of Change, Resilience, and Hope from a Heartland Newspaper. Art has made it his life’s work to ask the big questions, speak truth to power, and share the struggles and successes of his unique community of Storm Lake, Iowa (Census pop. 10,076). His new book is part cultural history, part memoir — it explores the themes of family, community, immigration and diversity, the meaning of home, and the Heartland’s turbulent history and promising progressive future. Drawing from the stories of one special small town on the “broken prairie,” and his family’s perspectives from their small-town newspaper business, Art hopes to inspire a broader sense of dialogue, renewal and understanding of rural places. In politically divisive times, when Americans from Red States and Blue States often feel estranged from each other, Art Cullen’s book attempts to show an optimistic way forward — that there is still abundant hope in the Heartland. This is a book that America needs now, written by a small-town newspaper editor who has earned journalism’s highest honor.
Caleb Knutson was born in Tegucigalpa (Honduras), and grew up in rural Iowa. Currently he is the Senior Planner for Mid-Iowa Planning Alliance. Caleb and his wife also operate their family’s startup coffee shop in Story City. At Iowa State University, he studied Criminology and Criminal Justice, as well as Community and Regional Planning. Presently Caleb serves on the Empower Rural Iowa Grow Task Force, Iowa Commission of Latino Affairs, the Iowa American Planning Association (APA) Board and the Iowa APA DEI Committee for which he is the Co-Chair. He resides in rural Hardin county with Anjuleah (Spouse), and their three children, three cats, one Chinese Dwarf hamster, one chocolate lab, and 0 Fish (RIP Lightning). When Caleb isn't working he enjoys coaching his children in various sports, introducing them to “new” music, and building Star Wars Lego sets. His motto comes from Kawhi Leonard: Board man gets paid.
Cara McFerren is an artist, business woman, wife, mother, elected official, and third generation Mexican-American. Born in the Midwest, she grew up in Davenport Iowa. In 1992, McFerren received her BFA from the College of Design at Iowa State University in Ames In 1997, she and her husband moved to West Liberty, thereby beginning their journey into small-town rural living. Presently, they have been very busy raising a son and operating their own business, Cardinal Sign & Graphics, a vinyl graphics company. In 2015, McFerren was the first Mexican-American woman to be elected to West Liberty’s city council. In 2019, she was elected for a second term. She is one of five council members, all at-large, and, as of 2021, a member of Iowa's first city council to have a majority of Latino members.
When: Friday, April 1st, 2022 @ 12pm-1:00pm
Where: In-Person: MidWestOne Bank 102 S. Clinton St., Iowa City, IA
Speakers: Dr. Monica Prasad
Corruption lowers economic growth, increases poverty and inequality, and is one of the biggest complaints of ordinary people around the world. The international development community has tried for twenty years to fight corruption, but there is a general consensus that these efforts have not been successful. This talk aims to give a better understanding of corruption and examines a new strategy to control it.
Monica Prasad's areas of interest are political sociology, economic sociology, and comparative historical sociology. She has written three award-winning books using comparative and historical methods to examine the political economy of the United States and Europe, including the history and divergent trajectories of welfare states, the rise of “neoliberalism,” and the origins of distinct patterns of economic growth in different countries and their consequences for redistribution. Dr. Prasad is currently conducting research on the economic consequences of market-oriented welfare policies in Europe. She is also examining state-building and the development of meritocratic bureaucracies in contemporary developing countries. Dr. Prasad has received the Fulbright award, the National Science Foundation Early Career Development Award, the Guggenheim Fellowship, and several other grants and awards. She received her PhD in Sociology from the University of Chicago in 2000. Her new book, Problem-Solving Sociology, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.
When: Tuesday, April 5, 2022, @ 12pm-1:00pm
Where: In-Person: MidWestOne Bank 102 S. Clinton St., Iowa City, IA
Speakers: Dr.Eric Vazquez
This talk examines bitcoin enthusiast's arguments about the viability of bitcoin as legal tender in El Salvador. It raises specific concerns about bitcoin adoption in a context of growing authoritarianism, a history of unstable monetary policy, and limited technology.
Eric Vázquez is an assistant professor in American Studies and Latino Studies at University of Iowa. His scholarship emphasizes the cultural, political, military, and economic bonds that link populations and institutions in the United States to Central America.His current book project, States of Defeat: US Imaginaries of Central American Revolution, explores how thwarted ambitions for revolution in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala give rise to ambivalent, outraged, cynical, and mournful affects for novelists, intellectuals, immigrants, and military technocrats living in the US. Out of these experiences of defeat and disappointment American intellectuals retreat into questions about the viability and legitimacy of state power. Dr. Vázquez argues that by deploying a mode of analysis that is speculative about the future and discouraged by the past, at once, these texts prefigure later war-on-terror era anxieties about state failure, the rise of non-governmental organizational forms, and raison d'etat secrecy and securitizationIn his research, Eric Vázquez has enjoyed the support of the Ford Foundation with a 2013-2014 Dissertation Writing Fellowship. Dr. Vazquez received his PhD in Literary and Cultural Studies from Carnegie Mellon University in 2015.
When: Wednesday, April 13th, 2022 @12pm
Where: Online via zoom
Speakers: Andrea Wilson, Chuy Renteria, Eyad Said, Antonia Rivera
Reading, for people around the world, has been one of the primary ways to better understand the vast, complex, and uneven global landscape of immigration. Yet, immigration is not simply an abstract subject of study, not simply headlines flashing on our smartphone screens about distant events, not simply a topic for (often heated) policy debates. When it is, empathy and our ability to understand and appreciate the ways in which we are all interconnected are lost or diminished. Immigration, we cannot forget, is peoples’ lives. And the experiences of refugees, immigrants, asylees—their journeys, fears, and hopes—are as varied and complicated as the individuals living them. Books like The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives, edited by Viet Thanh Nguyen and We the Interwoven: An Anthology of Bicultural Iowa, Vols. I, II, and III, edited by Andrea Wilson, are important and necessary counterweights. In them, refugee and immigrant writers bind us together through the power of storytelling and the sharing of personal experiences. They imbue personality, nuance, and contradiction—humanity—to that vast, complex, and uneven subject. Through their words, we see each other with our many similarities and differences, anew. Empathy deepens and understanding grows. Perhaps, too, a call to action—for us, the impetus to welcome and support new neighbors to Iowa. In this session, the panel will discuss what it has been like for them to write and share their migration stories, why they chose to do so, and maybe offer some insights about the craft of writing personal narratives. They will reveal what it has been like to receive readers’ feedback. And they will share their views on what the publication of refugee and immigrant firsthand accounts, theirs and others, offer readers and society and why such voices are so very important today.
Jesus “Chuy” Renteria is an artist, writer, dancer, and teacher, but above all, he is a storyteller. Born in Iowa City and raised in West Liberty IA, both sides of his family are from border towns in Mexico that transplanted to meatpacking towns in the Midwest. Growing up in West Liberty, he oscillated between the Mexican, Laotian, and small-town cultures that made up Iowa’s first majority-Hispanic town. Chuy tells stories celebrating the spaces between cultures, of mangled Spanglish and generational clashes, of the messiness of people finding themselves. In addition to his writing, Chuy is an Assistant Director for the University of Iowa’s Inclusive Education and Strategic Initiatives Unit. He is the host of The Englert’s Writers of Color Reading Series podcast. His first full length publication, a memoir titled “We Heard it When We Were Young,” released in November 2021 with The University of Iowa Press. He spends his free time with his wife Darcy and their first born Marisol Alana.
Andrea Wilson is the founder and Executive Director of the Iowa Writers' House, a nonprofit supporting the creation and publication of literature in Iowa. She is the founder of the Bicultural Iowa Writers' Fellowship, and the editor and publisher of We the Interwoven, the first series of essays by immigrants, first- and second- generation Americans in Iowa. As a trained narrative therapy practitioner, she develops programs and workshops which use story as a method to support mental health, psychological healing and empowerment. Her most recent workshop, Reframing the Past & Writing the Next Chapter, was taught in Panama. Andrea has a BFA from Iowa State University and a Master’s in Narrative Therapy from the University of Melbourne, Australia.
Antonia Rivera was born in Distrito Federal, Mexico. At age six, she crossed the border and spent her youth in California. Eventually, she received temporary protection and a work permit through DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). She writes about migration and what it means to be part of the 1.5 generation. She now lives in Des Moines, Iowa and works at Grassroots Law Project.
Eyad Said was born in Damascus, Syria. He lives with his family in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He earned a master’s degree in banking and finance from the University of Damascus, Syria, before getting a PhD in mathematics from Louisiana State University. A husband and father of two, he is an assistant professor of mathematics at Mount Mercy University.
When: Wednesday, April 20, 2022 @ 12pm-1:00pm
Where: In-Person: MidWestOne Bank 102 S. Clinton St., Iowa City, IA
Speaker: Stratis Giannakouros
This talk will discuss the challenges to a zero carbon transition posed by the simultaneous crises of the pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As the world emerges from the pandemic, disruptions in global supply chains and pent up demand have caused inflation not seen since the oil crisis of the late 70s. This in turn has lead to increased commodity prices from oil to food staples, as well as scarcity in the materials necessary for renewable technology deployment (chip shortages and rare earths). The ongoing Russian Invasion of Ukraine has further destabilized energy markets, supply chains and raw materials procurement. The geopolitical energy landscape has at once been transformed, with Europe redoubling efforts to wean itself from Russian energy through accelerated clean hydrogen R&D, as well as other clean energy targets. At the same time, the US has doubled down on shale oil production and LNG export, while it remains to be seen how we will respond through accelerated renewables R&D. What do all these changes portend for our efforts to address climate change? How does this affect the commitments made at COP(26) in Glasgow? How will this catalyze our energy transition? How will it undo progress?
Stratis Giannakouros is the Director of the UI Office of Sustainability. He comes to the UI from Arizona State University, where he served as project manager and program manager for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Prior to that, he was the assistant director at the Center for Sustainable Communities at Luther College and sustainability outreach coordinator at Colorado State University. Mr. Giannakouros has a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Loras College and a master’s degree in Environmental Politics and Policy from Colorado State University.
When: Tuesday, April 26th @ 12pm-1:00pm
Where: Online via Zoom
Speakers: Heather Brandon-Smith
Following the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), permitting the president to use force against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and those who harbored them. Since then, four presidents have utilized this AUMF to justify using force against an array of groups – many of whom did not exist on 9/11 – in over half a dozen countries around the world. These post-9/11 wars have resulted in over 929,000 people killed, including over 387,000 civilians, and have cost over $8.9 trillion. While President Biden declared to the United Nations in September 2021 that “the United States is not at war,” the Biden administration continues to rely on the outdated 2001 AUMF to conduct lethal strikes and other operations that continue our forever wars. This presentation will discuss the 2001 AUMF, its origins, and how it has been stretched by successive administrations, as well as efforts being made to repeal it and bring an end to U.S. forever wars.
Heather Brandon-Smith is Legislative Director for Militarism and Human Rights at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) in Washington, DC. She leads FCNL’s work to repeal outdated war authorization, promote respect for human rights and international law, and reduce U.S. armed interventions around the world. Prior to joining FCNL, she served as the Advocacy Counsel for National Security at Human Rights First, where she worked to advance U.S. national security policies that are consistent with human rights and the rule of law. Ms. Brandon-Smith is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. Her writing has appeared in The Hill, Lawfare, Just Security, and Intercross (the blog of the International Committee of the Red Cross). She holds an LL.M. from Georgetown University Law Center and a B.A. in Politics and International Relations, an LL.B., and an LL.M. from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.