UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 10 Summer 19 Library
John Robinson
UVA Arts

National Geographic & UVA Tackling Resilliency

IMAGE ABOVE: UVA Associate Professor of Music, I-Jen Fang, playing melting ice during a telematic opera, Auksalaq: A Performance by EcoSono, composed by Matthew Burtner. 

What’s in a frame? When it comes to National Geographic, the answer is: the whole wide world. On March 1 and 2, the National Geographic Society and the University of Virginia partnered on a two-day event called National Geographic On Campus that brought an array of leading National Geographic explorers together with UVA faculty and students for an unforgettable weekend of science, art, and storytelling. Vice Provost for the Arts Jody Kielbasa and Vice Provost for Academic Outreach Louis Nelson collaborated to bring National Geographic to UVA. The event kicked off on Thursday, February 28 with a special edition of National Geographic Live! that was offered for the public at The Paramount Theater. The event featured the groundbreaking and world-renowned photographer Jodi Cobb, one of the first female photographers on staff at Nat Geo and the first woman to be named White House Photographer of the Year. Cobb captivated a packed Paramount Theater house with a trip through her fascinating career, from her days as a young photographer at the epicenter of the American rock and roll scene in the early 70’s to her award-winning stories exposing human trafficking around the world. 

Karen McGlathery (R), Professor & Director of the Environmental ResilienceInstitute at UVA moderating the Waterway Panel with (l-r) Andres Ruzo,Geoscientist, National Geographic Explorer // Wally Smith, Assistant Professor of Biology, UVA-Wise // Scott Doney, Joe D. and Helen J. Kington Professor in Environmental Change, UVA // Greg Kahn, Documentary Fine Art Photographer
(Photo: John Robinson)

On Friday, the action moved to Old Cabell Hall and a full day of symposia in which dynamic panels explored the topic of resilience, addressing critically important issues ranging from the global water crisis to the future of resilient cities to the preservation of fading cultures. Following a welcome from world-renowned National Geographic photographer Nick Nichols, the day kicked off with a session on protecting our waterways, addressing how issues like global warming, pollution, and development have made water security a defining issue of the 21stCentury. Led by Karen McGlathery, the director of the Environmental Resilience Institute and a co-presenter of National Geographic Live, the presentation also included geoscientist and National Geographic Explorer Andres Ruzo; Scott Doney, the Joe D. and Helen J. Kington Professor in Environmental Change; Greg Kahn, Documentary Fine Art Photographer; and Wally Smith, assistant professor of Biology at UVA-Wise. Later that afternoon, the issue of resilience got a fascinating musical treatment with “Auksalaq: A Performance by EcoSono.” Named for the Inupiat word for “melting snow/ice,” this opera, by composer Matthew Burtner of the UVA McIntire Department of Music and visual media producer Scott Deal, takes audiences on an in-depth sonic journey into the vast, remote, and rapidly-changing Arctic regions of Alaska and Canada, and featured an ensemble comprised of UVA faculty musicians. One of the highlights of the day was a conversation between National Geographic Magazine Executive Editor Susan Goldberg and UVA History Professor John Edwin Mason, who continued a conversation on race that they had started in the magazine’s April 2018 edition, which was dedicated to the topic. The talk centered around the ways in which each institution had begun to grapple with their respective complex histories around race and racism. National Geographic On Campus wrapped up on Saturday, March 2 with a series of interactive, hands-on workshops where students were invited to learn or hone real-world skills. The half- and full-day programs featured topics including photography, investigative journalism, public speaking, and an in-depth introduction to virtual reality storytelling and filmmaking. The sessions allowed students to connect with leading UVA scholars and leading National Geographic scientists, storytellers, photographers, and educators. “UVA’s partnership with National Geographic brings together our faculty’s current research on resilience—environmental, social, and cultural—together with explorers who have seen environmental change first hand,” Louis Nelson said. “This combination of research and practice is critical for encouraging students to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to developing global solutions.”

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