The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a bitter halt to a majority of Concordia College’s in-person events. Instead, through diligence and creativity, the planners of Concordia’s annual Faith, Reason and World Affairs Symposium found a way to turn lemons into lemonade.
The 2020 Symposium will be a virtual event featuring speakers around the theme “Food for Good,” held September 22-23 via online presentations.
Event programmers will be streaming speakers’ prerecorded videos at their scheduled times. Other times, such as the keynote speaker Tuesday night, the speakers will be live-streamed. Student volunteers will deliver their introductions to the speakers in the Concordia On-Air studio. There will not be a Q&A session.
Joan Kopperud, Concordia’s director of integrated learning, proposed the theme. In the proposal brought forth to the cultural affairs committee, the symposium aims to “intentionally and directly engage our students and others in diversity of thought, knowledge, tradition, competing interests and experience associated with the food system to which we all have a relationship.”
This is Concordia’s first time experiencing an all-online symposium. Normally, events would be held all around campus, where students would attend lectures in-person.
“It’s a challenge, but we at Concordia are up to that challenge,” said Kopperud. “We’re having to embrace all kinds of new challenges with our teaching and learning, and the symposium is no different.”
“We’ve had a symposium for more than 40 years,” said Kopperud. “We never said ‘we’re not going to have a symposium,’ but, ‘how are we going to have it?’”
In some ways, the all-virtual platform is opening up the symposium to the online community, as there is no sign-up or restrictions as to who can view the broadcasted events. Concordia alumni, the metropolitan area, and whoever else wants to experience the message of this year’s symposium is able to tune in.
Normally, because some sessions are concurrent, students would have to choose one event to attend over the other. This year, because the sessions are rewatchable online, students are not faced with the burden of attending only one.
When asked which sessions she is most excited to see, Kopperud said it is hard to choose, as all guest speakers will be bringing something “to the table.”
At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, the symposium will open with Kwame Onwuachi, a successful chef and author of the memoir “Notes From a Young Black Chef.”
“I’m really eager to hear what he has to say, especially in the context of racial issues that are going on now and his own experience and his sense of vocation,” said Joy Lintelman, who is a co-chair of the symposium planning committee along with Kopperud.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Concordia’s dining services will serve three recipes from Onwuachi’s memoir.
At 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Jonathan Bloom, a food waste expert and author of “American Wasteland,” will speak. His book exposes the jaw-dropping amount of food Americans throw away every day. Bloom helped Kopperud kick off the Taste Not Waste program when he was invited to Concordia four years ago.
“It’s really a great footnote for us to virtually have him back on campus in order to celebrate the accomplishments that the Concordia community has made regarding food waste reduction in Anderson Commons,” said Meredith Wagner, the chair of nutrition, dietetics and exercise science. “He’s a champion of what Concordia has done.”
Fall 2020 was the Taste Not Waste campaign’s goal date for a 50 percent reduction of plate waste. Data collection was suspended during the spring 2020 semester due to COVID-19 and is predicted to resume during the spring 2021 semester.
Wagner also said she was excited to watch Amy Thielen’s cooking demonstrations, held on Wednesday afternoon, geared toward college students. Thielen is a James Beard Award winner, which is a recognition given to those who have exhibited excellence in the culinary arts.
On-demand sessions include Concordia faculty-led programs aimed at such topics as gumbo, biblical foods and sustainable diets.
The full symposium schedule is available at https://www.concordiacollege.edu/academics/events/symposium/schedule-of-events/.