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Mason-Launched Global Problem Solving Consortium Tackles Food Supply Issue

July 11, 2014

By Sudha Kamath

George Mason University senior Leena Halabi is joining students from other international universities this summer in Moscow to tackle the issue of global food supply. She’s representing George Mason at the second annual workshop held by the Mason-launched Global Problem Solving Consortium.

GPS-Leena Halabi

Leena Halabi at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Photo by Gabriela Cunha Dos Santos.

“I am so humbled,” says Halabi of participating in the workshop, which is being held in Moscow from July 7-18. “I’m surrounded by excellence and inspiration all over, from the dedicated professors, directors and academics, to my colleagues who represent four out of the world’s six continents.”

The global affairs and Russian studies major is meeting with students from universities from Russia, Brazil, Turkey and China at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. “It’s really critical to think about how to feed a growing world population in the future,” she says. “It’s a topic that doesn’t get much attention.”

Halabi delivered a presentation on U.S. food security this week at the workshop. “I focused my presentation on the disparity of food between urban and rural America, particularly among the Latino community,” she says. “I believe that the United States is typically left out of the food security dialogue because we are seen as having too much food—an opinion usually ingrained in people’s perception due to the obesity epidemic.

Halabi grew up with a global perspective. The Fairfax, Va., native’s family is originally from Syria. She is fluent in Arabic and Russian, and is one of 10 Global Problem Solving Consortium fellows at Mason. Halabi applied last fall to participate in the workshop and accepted the position in May. “I am thrilled. It’s a dream come true, not only to participate in the workshop, but also to represent Mason, see Russia firsthand and practice my Russian,” she says.

GPS-Higher School of Economics in Moscow

Higher School of Economics in Moscow.
Photo by Gabriela Cunha Dos Santos.

Halabi adds that the workshop also is an opportunity to develop professional skills and establish contacts toward reaching her goal of a career in international development. She will join the Intensive Russian Language Program at Moscow International University this fall.

Mason faculty also is involved in the consortium’s workshop. Dann Sklarew is lecturing via video conference on July 11. He’s an associate professor of environmental science and policy and associate director of the Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center.

The consortium was created in 2012 by then Mason provost Peter Stearns to create joint academic programs for students and faculty from eight global universities. Along with Mason and the Higher School of Economics, participants include University of Brasilia in Brazil, Tsinghua University in China, University of Delhi in India, Kenyatta University in Kenya, Yonsei University in Korea and Istanbul Sehir University in Turkey.

Madelyn Ross, Mason’s Global Problem Solving Consortium director at Mason’s Office of Global Strategy, says a workshop will be held every year, rotating to member institutions, for student fellows to examine global issues. Last summer, the first workshop was held at Mason’s Fairfax Campus, tackling the issue of global water management and environmental sustainability. Next year’s summer workshop, on conflict resolution, will be held in Turkey.