Brown Bag Lecture Series

The International Brown Bag Series has been an integral part of the Alworth Institute's programming since its inception in 1987. In the fall of 2013, it was renamed the Martha B. Alworth International Brown Bag Series. It provides the audience the opportunity to share in the international travel experiences of numerous individuals from the University, local, national and international communities. Many presentations are travelogues; some are reflections of the current issues confronting a country's people; others capture the cultural character of distant societies; but, each allows a unique insight into places many would never have the opportunity to visit.

The objectives of this series are to:

  • help fulfill the overall objectives of the Alworth Institute;
  • introduce students, staff and the wider community to interesting aspects of foreign culture, society and history;
  • raise awareness of political life and conditions in diverse parts of the world;
  • create opportunities for sharing insights developed during professional and leisure interest travel and other programs of study abroad;
  • create opportunities for visiting faculty to share relevant topics with the wider University;
  • involve students, staff and community members in exchanging ideas and reflecting on international and any related domestic policy issues.

To learn more about the renaming of the International Brown Bag Series.

If you are interested in proposing a topic for discussion, finding a qualified speaker, or co-sponsoring a lecture; check the suitability of the topic and the speaker against the objectives above and contact the Alworth Institute at [email protected] or (218) 726-7753.

Fall 2021 Schedule

(All presentations for the International Brown Bag Series will be virtual. You may register in advance at the link provided, or you can use the link to join the webinar as it starts.) 

Tuesday, October 5 – 12:00 PM – Chocolate in Trinidad - Presented by Dr. Steven Stenberg, P.E., UMD Department of Chemical Engineering - Featured will be a discussion of the UMD short-term Study Abroad trip to Trinidad and Tobago that focuses on making chocolate. In past programs students toured the Chocolate Research Unit at the University of the West Indies and participated in the process of making chocolate, from harvesting then roasting cocoa pods to using their own recipes to create unique confections. He will also talk about experiencing time in Trinidad and Tobago, one of the most biologically and ethnically diverse places on the earth. Students can sign in to learn about this Study Abroad opportunity for the 2021-2022 Winter term (applications due on October 15th); others can join the webinar to experience a bit of what Trinidad and Tobago has to offer. 

Register at or sign in at noon.


Thursday, October 7 – 12:00 PM - Our Cultural Filters Construct Our World View – Presented by Dr. Chang'aa Mweti, Associate Professor, UMD Department of Education - Storytelling breaks cultural barriers. We cannot see the picture while we are in the frame. Teachers and educators need to get out of the frame to engage students and all people. Teaching as storytelling, when combined with humor, will thaw peoples’ brains. Even the reluctant reader or writer will be motivated when engaged in narrative activities that enhance the use of creativity and imagination. Dr. Mweti will discuss the benefits for all, not just educators, to learning and understanding through storytelling. Even if you are not an educator, you will learn about the importance of storytelling to enhance your own life. 

Register at or sign in at noon.


Thursday, October 14 – 12:00 p.m. - Zedes: A New Form of Colonialism in Honduras – Presented by Associates of the Witness for Peace Midwest. Solidarity Collective - Learn directly from those on the ground in Honduras about the Special Development and Employment Zones (Zedes in Spanish) also known as “charter cities”  in Honduras. Zedes are being touted as a new model of “free trade zones”, where these zones would have their own government, legal system, police force and tax systems. In this model, the government of Honduras would have no jurisdiction on the land slated as a ZEDE. Under Zedes, there is a lack of consultation, transparency and accountability to the communities of Honduras as well as the nation-state. Local and international communities have grave concerns over land dispossession as ZEDES can expropriate land for development without challenge from landholders. (Co-sponsored by UMD Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Department of World Languages and Literatures)

Register at or sign in at noon. 


Wednesday, October 20 –12:00 p.m. – How I Wrote a Book About Slovenia - Presented by Dr. Jay Ebben, Schulze School of Entrepreneurship, University of St. Thomas - Dr. Ebben and his family lived in Slovenia for five months in 2011 and they have returned five times since. His experiences in Slovenia inspired him to write Painted Hives, a novel about a boy who travels to Ljubljana to take a beekeeping class. Dr. Ebben will share how a non-Slovene, non-beekeeper, and non-author ended up writing a novel about beekeeping in Slovenia. In this talk and in the book, he shares the "magic of exploration". 

Register at or sign in at noon.


Thursday, November 4 – 12:00 p.m. - Diwali: The Indian Festival of Light – Presented by Dr. Devaleena Das, Assistant Professor, UMD Studies in Justice, Culture, & Social Change - Diwali is a five-day festival celebrated by millions of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains from across the world. It often coincides with the harvest and new year celebrations and represents new beginnings and the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance. Dr. Das will discuss the history, preparation,  symbolism and traditions of Diwali, as well as her own stories about observance of the festival. 

Register at or sign in at noon.


Thursday, November 11 - 12:00 p.m. - Virtual Internships and the Realities of Diplomacy Online - Presented by Erin Cain, UMD Political Science and Philosophy Student (minor in German Studies) - In the summer of 2021, Ms, Cain was accepted and completed a prestigious internship with the US State Department's Consulate in Frankfort, Germany. Because of the COVID pandemic, her internship was virtual. This meant working on German time, the middle of the night in Minnesota. She will discuss her experiences working online and how the Consulate "did" diplomacy in the virtual world. 

 Register at or sign in at noon