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Josef Korbel School of International Studies

Cultural Diplomacy Speaker Series


Cultural Diplomacy Speaker Series

Cultural Diplomacy is a type of diplomacy and soft power that includes the exchange of ideas, information, art, language, and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples in order to foster a mutual understanding.

The Korbel School and the Bonfils Stanton Foundation have collaborated to bring students, faculty, staff, and the community, a speaker series focused on cultural diplomacy. The series brings innovative global thinkers, practitioners, and performers together to discuss culture and its impact on societies here and abroad. This dynamic collaboration has introduced us to heads of state, Olympic athletes, classical musicians, and Indian kathak dance performers who have used cultural influences to advance knowledge and information sharing among small diverse communities as well as through large-scale geopolitical arenas.

For more information on this program and to participate in upcoming events, please email [email protected].

Winter 2019 Events

A Conversation on Cultural Diplomacy with Silkroad
Grammy Award-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma created the Silkroad Ensemble to foster cultural collaboration in a rapidly globalizing world; the ensemble — built from a collective of artists and instruments from around the world — went on to win a Grammy of its own. In a visit presented by the Korbel School and the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, Silkroad performed two concerts at the University of Denver. Before its intimate performance at the Korbel School, members of the ensemble discussed the intersection of cultural diplomacy and the performing arts with Korbel Acting Dean Pardis Mahdavi, and Korbel faculty member and Sié Chéou-Kang Center Director Cullen Hendrix. Topics ranged from how each member of the ensemble found their way to Silkroad, the meaning of cultural diplomacy, how artists share and express their own culture through their work, and how exchange can shape artists in their endeavors.

See the video of Silkroad at the Korbel School on YouTube.

Spring 2018 Events

A Talk with Dean Laura Bloomberg of the Humphrey School and Performances by students from the Lamont School of Music
The first event featured a three-part introduction to Cultural Diplomacy by Laura Bloomberg, Dean of the Humphreys School at the University of Minnesota, followed by a lecture demonstration of northern Indian Kathak dance introduced by Dr. Sarah Morelli, Associate Professor and Chair of Ethnomusicology at the Lamont School of Music and performed by her former student, Carrie McCune. The finale of the lunchtime program was a performance of the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence by students from Lamont.

A Talk with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
Former Secretary of State, Madeleine Korbel Albright visited the Korbel School in April 2018 to speak about her new book, Fascism: A Warning. During her hour-long conversation with the Korbel School’s Acting Dean Pardis Mahdavi, Albright entertained her audience with her wit, old war stories, and advice for the future, reiterating both a warning and hope. She fears fascism is gaining a foothold in what has been a trying time for her beloved but cash-strapped State Department, yet she believes today’s students have a better understanding of the world than their predecessors and are capable of fighting back. “Academics are some of the most effective soldiers in the fight against fascism. Their job is to uncover the truth and teach their students to explore and respect differing opinions,” Albright explained. “Therefore, institutions of higher education must play a leading role in encouraging civil discourse, welcoming speakers with opinions at odds with campus consensus and hearing them out.”

A Talk with Olympian and Korbel Graduate Michelle Kwan
The Korbel School welcomed Michelle Kwan to speak to Korbel students and fellow alumni. Kwan was in town to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award as part of the annual Alumni Weekend festivities. Kwan graduated from DU in 2009 with a BA in International Studies. As the most decorated figure skater in US history, Kwan shared her reflections about her journey to DU and described her time at DU as a turning point in her life.

In her interview with Acting Dean Pardis Mahdavi, Kwan said her classes, classmates, and professors gave her a sense of identity she was afraid she would never find after retiring from professional ice skating. Notably, she stated that DU taught her the importance of following a passion and lifelong learning. “It [hasn’t been] rainbows and butterflies,” she said. “It’s challenging. You need to follow your passion to a place where you can move the needle, being creative where you land and being fluid: if you don’t like the place that you land, just be flexible enough to adjust where you want to go and do good.” Kwan also shared her practical experience in public diplomacy, citing fellow alumnae Condoleezza Rice and her mother as guiding influences.

Fall 2018 Events

Conflict Kitchen: Dinner and a Talk with Chef Hoss Zare
The Korbel School kicked off Conflict Kitchen, a series aimed at bringing together people from disparate parts of the world over a meal, with a dinner and talk from Persian chef Hossein "Hoss" Zare. Chef Zare, who previously owned fine-dining Persian restaurant Fly Trap in San Francisco, recounted his experience of moving to the United States from Iran as a student and then refugee, touching on what it was like to learn an entirely new culture and language, and sharing how difficult it was to return to Iran decades later. His restaurant, he explained, gave diners a new window into his home country. His multi-course meal, prepared with the help of refugees from Afghanistan and Laos, featured a number of Persian specialties. At the meal, Acting Dean Pardis Mahdavi also announced that Beans, the Korbel School's coffee shop, would be run entirely by refugees as of the beginning of 2019.

A Talk with Dr. Grant McCracken on the Chief Culture Officer
Grant McCracken is a cultural anthropologist. He holds a PhD from the University of Chicago. He is the author of 14 books including most recently Chief Culture Officer, Culturematic, and Dark Value. He is the founder of the Institute of Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum.

Grant has taught at Harvard, the University of Cambridge, and MIT. He is the founder of the Artisanal Economies Project. He designed and staged The Automated Anthropologist project, covered by The New Yorker. Malcolm Gladwell has called his work "brilliant." With Mitch Hurwitz and Wired Magazine, he helped create what AdAge calls the “Snow Fall” of native advertising for Netflix.

Grant consults widely, including with the Ford Motor Company, Google, Ford Foundation, Kanye West, Netflix, Campbell Soup, Boston Book Festival, Timberland, Sony, Diageo, Siemens, NBC, IBM, Nike, and the White House. He is on advisory boards for IBM and Sam Adams. He has taught his Culture Camp in New York City, London and Mexico City.

See the video of Dr. McCracken's presentation on YouTube.