Our First Information Session of the Year!

2015 MSI Email Graphic (2)

Hey, everyone!

I know you’ve probably missed us, but we’ve been busy planning this year’s program. To kick things off, you are cordially invited to our first Info Session this Tuesday, January 27th at 6:15 p.m. in Monroe Hall Room 116. We will have free pizza from Whole Foods!

Please email Cassidy Pillow at clp2dk@virginia.edu if you have any questions.

RSVP to the event on Facebook:


Check out our course line-up for the summer:

BLOCK A (May 18-30)

Garrick Louis, Departments of Systems and Information Engineering

What is a sustainable quality of life or standard of living? Is it at the current level of consumption in industrialized countries like the US, in emerging economies like China, or in lower-income countries like Kenya? How should governments balance the need to create national income and provide for the human needs of their citizens against the desire to conserve natural resources and the environment for future generations? This course will analyze sustainability in the context of human needs and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The course will examine the methods and costs of satisfying these needs, including the externalities they incur and the tradeoffs involved between social benefit and environmental impact. Coverage of the Millennium Development Goals will emphasize the special needs of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Manuel Lerdau, Departments of Environmental Science and Biology

This class will cover the fundamental principles of agro-ecology, the science of using ecological theory to improve agricultural practice. We will begin with the basics of plant-crop science and integrate the fundamental biology of crops into an ecological view of growth and production. Specific topics we will cover include, but are not limited to, mono- vs. poly-culture approaches, drought stress, and disease ecology. The class will look in some detail at the ecological consequences of traditional and modern breeding approaches. We will also examine the roles of economic and sociocultural factors in designing ecologically aware agricultural systems. Students should, but are not required to, have Introductory Biology and Introductory Chemistry. The course will be international in scope but will focus on Central Virginia for field projects.

BLOCK B (June 1-13)

Willis Jenkins, Department of Religious Studies

Where do ideas of nature come from, and what cultural and political consequences do they carry? In an era of rapid human expansion and uncertain ecological change, cultures everywhere are reexamining their basic orientations to their environments. What stories and values shape the patterns of everyday ecological life? This course interprets humanity’s changing ecological relationships through religious and philosophical traditions. It takes up ethical questions presented by environmental problems, introduces frameworks for making sense of them, and examines the symbols and narratives that shape imaginations of nature. We consider relations of belief and behavior in practical problems like climate change and food choices, and their implications for both personal commitments and public goals.

Paul Freedman, Department of Politics

This course explores the politics of food and food systems, with a focus on farmers markets. What role do farmers markets play in America’s food system? What legislation and regulation at the federal and state levels affects how farmers markets carry out these roles? Students will gain practical experience in applied data gathering and analysis, building a set of skills that can be applied in studying farmers markets. A roster of guest lecturers, developed in collaboration with the national Farmers Market Coalition, will include researchers, policy makers, farmers market managers, and farmers. Students who take this course will be eligible for a research internship in a Virginia farmers market.

MSI Bar-B-Que

Yesterday we held the MSI Bar-B-Que! It gave students, professors, and other Morven staff the chance to get together outside of class and enjoy some good food and conversation. Despite a brief ran shower that forced the Bar-B-Que to move inside, it was a great get together. Check back for more posts as we finish up our last week of MSI.

HIV Treatment: More Than Just Medicine

Today our public health class held a fascinating discussion about the treatment of HIV around the world, but particularly in South Africa. They combined their knowledge of the subject with the information provided in the Frontline documentary on AIDs to examine the social, political, and racial dimensions of treating and preventing the spread of HIV, both currently, and in the past. They also discussed the importance of specific individuals in changing the way AIDs is treated in South Africa, and why those particular people were well positioned to influence AIDs policy.

TB and Global Health

Today Christian McMillen from the UVA History Department spoke to the Global Health class about vaccination programs, their successes and failures, and social resistance to widespread use of vaccines. He mainly focused on Tuberculosis treatment and the unique challenges it poses, particularly when combined with high rates of HIV infection. He also outlined some of the reasons previous vaccination and eradication programs have not been successful, and provided a few suggestions for improving their success rates. Stay tuned for more exciting updates on the Morven Summer Institute.

Today’s the day!

We kicked off the 2014 Morven Summer Institute with introductions to the Block A faculty and staff, to one another, and to Morven!  We’re looking forward to a busy 10 days of learning about Agro-Ecology and Farmers Markets, including guest lectures by members of Market Central here in Charlottesville, a trip to the Farmers Market, and experimental testing of agricultural approaches on portions of the Kitchen Garden.  Stay tuned for details of our work and experience!

Block B Classes

Block B is June 2-June 13 and features two classes: Global Health Policy and Practice and Sustainability and Human Needs.

Global Health Policy and Practice (PHS 5184) is taught by Professor Rebecca Dillingham. This class will explore the topic of Global Health and assess how individuals, organizations, and the government became involved in Global Health as well as the ways in which each of these are involved.

Sustainability and Human Needs (STS 3500/SYS 4502) is taught by Professor Garrick Louis. This class focuses on answering the question: What is a sustainable quality of life or standard of living? It will compare consumption in industrialized countries to that of emerging countries. The class will look at sustainability in terms of basic human needs as well the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. The class will also look into the costs of achieving these goals.

Don’t forget sign up for MSI classes starts tomorrow on UVA SIS.

Just Announced: The Morven Summer Institute will offer four partial scholarships for the summer of 2014!

The Morven Summer Institute (MSI) serves to bring University students out to Morven Farm and into a “living laboratory”—a physical space where they can address questions of sustainability, ecology, and public health by conducting their own research, interacting with their environment, and making both local and global connections. Morven Farm is a 3,000 acre working farm owned by UVa located 15 minutes from Grounds. Through MSI, the farm becomes an extension of the Academical Village, promoting interdisciplinary collaboration and enriching students’ education through experiential learning. In the past, students have selected from courses in architecture and social science, such as the Politics of Food and Farmers Market Research, and from environmental science classes in agro-ecology and food and nutrition.

This year, the program is widening its scope, offering not only the Food Politics and Agro-Ecology courses, but also courses in Sustainability and Human Need and Global Health. Students in these classes conduct experiments in the kitchen garden to test the effects of natural pesticides and gardening techniques, and compare land use and production.

Application and selection process:

  1. Short essay (300-500 words): Why are you interested in taking a course at the Morven Summer Institute? How does MSI fit into your past and future coursework, past experience in food/agriculture/sustainability, and your post-graduation plans?
  2. Please submit your essay, copies of your resume and transcript (from SIS), and three references by April 23 to Whitney Farmer, Morven Farm Programs Assistant, waf7r@eservices.virginia.edu.
  3. Selection criteria: The MSI committee will select scholarship recipients on the basis of the essay, financial need, resume, transcript, and references and will notify recipients on May 2, 2014 by email.