Martha B. Alworth International Travel Talks


International Travel Talks (formerly the International Brown Bag Series) have been an integral part of the Alworth Institute's programming since its inception in 1987. In the fall of 2013, the series was renamed to honor Martha B. Alworth, the spouse of Royal D. Alworth, Jr. The talks provide 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 these talks 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.

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.

Spring 2024 Schedule

Please note: A couple of noon hour talks will actually be held at 4:00 pm. This provides a more suitable time for some individual's schedules. 

Thursday, February 8 - 4:00 pm – KAM Library 4th Floor Rotunda – The Dangers and Promise of Lake Kivu: Defusing an Explosive African Great Lake – Presented by Dr. Sergei Katsev, Professor, UMD Large Lakes Observatory and Department Head, Physics and Astronomy Department - Dr. Katsev will discuss the unique hazards of Lake Kivu, and how they can be turned into economic development. Featured in stories by National Geographic and BBC, Lake Kivu is often described as the most dangerous lake in the world. Volcanic gases seeping into its deep waters create a unique danger of a catastrophic "limnic eruption" that continually threatens three million people living by the lake. Ambitious engineering projects are currently underway to remove the gas, while commercially generating electricity for Rwanda. The talk featuring UMD work will recount the tales of nature, science, engineering, and the challenges of doing research in a volatile region.

Thursday, February 22 – 12:00 pm – KAM Library 4th Floor Rotunda – Slowing Down: A Fulbright Year in Sweden – Presented by Dr. Scott Laderman, UMD Professor of History, spent the 2022-2023 academic year as the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies at Uppsala University in Sweden. It was a marvelous but also occasionally challenging time for him and his family, with new places to see, new foods to try, and new people to meet. This presentation will recount some of the sites they visited, the perhaps surprising Vietnam War research Scott undertook, and the more balanced Swedish value system his family came to appreciate.

Thursday, February 29   – 12:00 pm – KAM Library 4th Floor Rotunda – Writing in times of the Holocaust: Elias, Auerbach, and Cassirer - Presented by Dr. Barbara Buchenau, Professor, North American Literary and Cultural Studies at the University Duisburg-Essen, Germany - Exiled by genocide and alienated by German antisemitism and national socialism, the philologist Erich Auerbach, the sociologist Norbert Elias and the philosopher Ernst Cassirer did not end their academic careers, yet they also did not write about the Holocaust, as Hannah Arendt did. Instead, they continued to produce scholarship that would prove pivotal to their respective fields. Each of them found a way to defend the value and the validity of transhistorical, transregional and cross-cultural inquiries. This talk provides an introduction to these thinkers and offers reflections on the impact of the Holocaust in their works. Those impacts often appear in ways that are indirect and highly abstracted, especially considering their individual experiences of violence and displacement. Read in conjunction, their texts yield building blocks for an engaged figural account of the social dynamics, the symbolic form and the hermeneutics of social control.

Thursday, March 21 - 12:00 pm -  KAM Library 4th Floor Rotunda - A Fulbright Year in Kazakhstan: Learning to Expect the Unexpected - Presented by Dr. Igor Melnykov, Associate Professor, UMD Department of Math and Statistics - Dr. Melnykov visited Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, as a Fulbright US Scholar in 2022-2023. He was based in Nazarbayev University, a newly founded research university, only 12 years in existence. His presentation will describe an experience of working in such a new university and living in a modern Central Asian city. He will share what he learned about the culture of the Great Steppe and the amazing people who live in this part of the world.

Thursday, March 28 - 12:00 pm - KAM Library 4th Floor Rotunda - Under the Midnight Sun: An Environmental and Outdoor Education Expedition - Presented by Jeanette Johnson, UMD Alum, Environmental and Outdoor Education Major, Park Ranger, Army Corps of Engineers at the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, Duluth - From Iceland's fiery volcanic eruption at Fagradalsfjall, to Finland's summer bounty in the arctic tundra, come along to explore the land of the Midnight Sun. 

Thursday, April 4 - 4:00 pm - Griggs Center - A Semester in Ireland: Studying and Traveling - Presented by Elliot Schatz, UMD Junior, Political Science Major with minors in International Studies and Economics, and Recipient of the 2023 Alworth Institute Study Abroad Scholarship - Ms. Schatz studied in Ireland in the fall of 2023. She will discuss the differences in the classes she took at University College Dublin and UIMD classes. She will also share her experiences living in Ireland, specifically in Dublin, and her travels within Ireland and throughout Europe.  

Thursday, April 11 - 12:00 pm - KAM Library 4th Floor Rotunda - Visiting South Korea - Presented by Dr. John Schwetman, Associate Professor, English Graduate Faculty, and Dr. Chongwon Park, Professor, Linguistics, both from the UMD Department of English, Linguistics, and Writing Studies - In the Fall of 2023, Drs. Schwetman and Park visited South Korea to explore partnerships between UMD and South Korean universities. South Korea is an amazing country of 52 million people that has risen from the ashes of a devastating war to assert itself as global economic and cultural power at the start of the 21st century. In this talk, they will tell a story of opposites—of a native Korean’s re-establishment of connections with local colleagues and friends, and of a complete neophyte’s encounter with an Asian location that was previously unfamiliar to him.

Thursday, April 18 - 12:00 pm - Virtual via Zoom - Queen of the Danube: The Wonder that is Budapest - Presented by Cindy Christian, Director of the Royal D. Alworth, Jr. Institute for International Studies - Dr. Christian and her spouse visited the city of Budapest in July of 2023. Despite not liking classic Hungarian dishes, she loved the city. Divided by the Danube River, Buda and Pest offer amazing architectural sites (both old and modern), thermal baths, museums, churches, synagogues, and a Great Market. Christian will share images of the places she visited and discuss what she learned about the complexity of Hungarian history. Additionally, she will end with stories of visiting family in Kufstein in the Tyrolian region of Austria. Register or sign on at