By Leslie Martin
The Camden Conference is an educational organization that helps to generate discussion about world affairs through community engagement all year long. Educators from the University of Maine organize an annual course around an important global theme, which changes each year to highlight the Camden Conference topic. Marking its 27th anniversary, the Camden Conference tackled “The Global Politics of Food and Water.”
According to the UMaine Course Description, “this year’s topic allows faculty and students to explore issues that evolve from scarcity of food and water, such as disease, starvation, emigration, internal strife and wars between rival nations. It will investigate the role global climate change plays in different parts of the world as well as understanding how more powerful countries have the wealth to exploit new sources of food, water, energy and minerals.”
The three professors who taught the course this year were G. Paul Holman, libra professor of International Relations; Timothy Cole, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and Captain James Settele, director of the School of Policy and International Affairs, U.S. Navy, Retired.
This was Professor Holman’s sixth time teaching the course. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Camden Conference. “This year was the best reception we have ever received from the community and the student attendance was the highest ever,” said Holman.
The course, offered through The Division of Lifelong Learning, is open to undergraduate and graduate students. Students meet three Saturdays a semester for daylong sessions. Attending the Camden Conference is one of the requirements for students.
The University of Southern Maine, College of the Atlantic, Unity College, and several area high schools were also among the attendants at the sold out Camden Opera House.
UMaine student Malado Ba has enrolled in the course the past two years. “Along with the Conferences being informative, students are able to network and meet the speakers,” Ba said.
Faculty and students reflected on the conference in discussion during the following class. Students were expected to bring a written synopsis and critique of each speaker.
According to Jonathan Dvorak, a graduate student in The School of Policy and International Affairs, the different perspectives offered by the many speakers broadened his understandings of food and water politics. “Interacting with students and faculty from other Maine schools, such as College of the Atlantic was a great opportunity,” said Dvorak.
Students and guest lectures with different interests and expertise helped make this course a success. Professor Cole was particularly fond of this year’s course because the topic attracted a number of diverse participants. “It’s not your typical classroom in a lot of ways,” Cole said.
Guest lecturers involved in the course were Seth Singleton, libra professor of International Relations; Susan Erich, director of the School of Food and Agriculture; Mark Anderson, senior instructor in Resource Economics and Policy, School of Economics and the Sustainability Solutions Initiative; and Kate Kirby, MA.
Course coordinators have seen an influx of graduate student enrollment over the past couple of years. To highlight their accomplishments, oral presentations were added as a requirement last year. The presentations give the graduate students an opportunity to share their own research.
Previous Camden Conferences and accompanying courses included “Global Leadership and the U.S. Role in World Affairs”; “The U.S. in the 21st Century World: Do We Have What it Takes?” and “The Middle East – What Next?”
Next year’s topic “Russia on a Global Stage,” will be presented on February 20-22, 2015 in Camden, Maine.