Course Home Page for INTR 132 :  Contemporary Global Issues

(This is an evolving document so check back occasionally for additions. especially as links to new material)

Padrick Dennis

Stephanie Hannon

Mike Horning

Ben Long

Chris Pow

Kelly Price

Greg Tweardy


Class Time: MTuWThF 9am
Class Location: Parmly 114


Dr. Ronald Nigh

Office: Science Library, Level 4 (study room at back)

Office Hours: by appointment (usually right after class)


During the course we will be kindly supported by our Science Librarian

Dr. Hugh Blackmer

Phone:    458-8647
Office: Science Library


Course objectives

We are engaging in an experiment in learning and democracy.  We will take advantage of new technologies to construct new ways of learning in a group setting.  Our subject matter, contemporary global issues and especially those that loosely orbit around food and agriculture, is a thematic area that will allow us to coordinate our individual efforts and construct a learning community.  We are more interested in learning how to learn as a group than we are in systematically covering a set amount of material.  We are inspired by the notion that “Democracy begins in the classroom and the community. Students who direct their own learning can do so only by engaging the community. Just as it is impossible to learn effectively without engaging in discussion, consensus, and collaboration, it is equally impossible to engage in democratic collective action without a learning community.“ (Halavais). The role of the ‘professor’ here is not to ‘profess’ but rather to facilitate, to introduce the subjects and the tools and then participate in the community along with everyone else. We will each develop individual projects within the general thematic area and engage each other in dialogue to seek a new way of understanding the issues surrounding the globalization of food and agriculture.



  • [1/2 of final grade] Project, in the form of a suite of Web pages, on a subject to be negotiated, but dealing with an issue related food and agriculture in the global context. 
    1. You might analyze a commodity, such as corn, or cocoa and trace it through its chain from field to consumer,
    2. or you may prefer to look at a production or distribution issue such as factory hog farming, organic vegetable production or fair trade chocolate.
    3. Another possibility is to look at farming or food production in a certain area of the world such as California or Chile or the />//>Shenandoah valley//> (where does your food come from?)
  •  [1/3 of final grade] Assigned writing, some in class and some to be completed outside of class, often reactions to an assigned reading or a research exercise, all to be posted to your course Web pages (I'll use a check, checkplus, checkminus scheme, with zero for missed assignments and some lesser sanction for lateness)
  • [1/6 of final grade] Log file and blog entries
  • There won't be afinal exam.


Tentative schedule of topics

Week I

Monday,April 19

Some introductions.  Who we are and what we will be doing. Introduction to seeing global patterns in the concrete and local: reading agricultural landscapes.

Assignment:  Begin reading through some thoughts on Globalization from Prof. Blackmer’s Geography of Human Culture class

Tuesday, April 20

A look at some tools we will use I.<>/> Setting up your web page

Assignment:  Make a page and write a brief introduction to yourself and tell us (the professors and other students) a little about your interests, academic and otherwise and brief comment on your expectations, if any, for this course. Also, post a comment on the course blog.  (Due tonight at 9pm)

Wednesday, April 21

Chiapas, where I work and what I do. (and a Video)

Assignment:  Read the article by Lind and Barham 2004 to get a feel how the globalization and food come together in a local place like Chiapas.(Due 9am Friday) We will write something on this subject.  If you would like to find out more than you would ever want to know about tortillas, take a look at Professor Blackmer's Collection on the subject!

Thursday, April 22

Checking everyone out.  How to find stuff

Friday, April 23

Some initial notions about food, agriculture and globalizatio.

Assignment:  Think about a food that you like or one that eat every day.  Begin a collection (less than 10 items) of materials from off the web about that food.  Write a brief meditation (a couple of paragaphs) on the 'social life' of that food. .   Do you think that food is commodity?  A basic right?  What should we do if someone doesn't have enough to eat? Put these things together on a web page in your course page. (Due 9am Monday)


 Week II

Monday, April 26

Report on first assignment.

Tuesday April 27

Resolving some technical issues. Video: The Multicultural Feast

Wednesday April 28

Theories of Crop Origins. (see notes on Crop Origins, Diversity and Disperals)

Thursday April 29

Importance of crop diversity

Friday April 30

Dispersal of crops and foods

Assignment:  Take a food or crop (from previous assignment, for example) and investigate its origins and dispersal on the web. You may have all ready identified materials that have some of this information, but put them together and write a brief summary of the natural history of your crop or food. (Place it on your log page).

Week III

Monday & Tuesday

Report on assignments

Wednesday, 5 de mayo

Video: The Global Banquet: Politics of Food

Thursday, May 6

Symbiosis I. video:  Life in the Soil

Friday, May 7

Symbiosis II. See notes on symbiosis

Assignment:  Comment on class blog entry 'Politics of Food'  What do you think US trade and agriculture policies should be? (Due Monday, 9am)


Week IV

Monday - Visitors

Tuesday - Some more about soils

Wednesday Ag & trade policy discussions

Thursday - organic agriculture resources

Friday - Future farming

Some web resources for organic and sustainable agriculture and Factory Farming


Week V

Monday - visiting professor Dr. Juan Aguirre, Costa Rica

Tuesday - Future of farming video  Mut Vitz

Wednesday - Food and Health I - some resources here

Thursday - Food and Health II

Friday - Visit, Kippy Nigh, La Casa del Pan, Chiapas