Challenge Week

Challenge Week 2018 image

About the Theme

Challenge Week is an annual event hosted by UCA’s Norbert O. Schedler Honors College that brings to campus a wide range of regional, national, and international thinkers to discuss a specific issue or problem that impacts our society. Speakers present compelling information and arguments, challenging us to see that issue or problem from a new perspective and take action to move towards thoughtful change.The theme for Challenge Week 2018 is Breaking the Chains: A Critical Examination of the Global Supply Chain, which will run from October 19th through October 27th.
We are interested in starting a conversation about the human and environmental implications of our global economy.  What is the relationship between the consumer goods we interact with on a daily basis—such as the coffee in our mugs or the iPhone in our pockets—and the well-being of people and places around the world?Almost everything we possess and consume comes to us through supply chains, a globally dispersed network of producers (those who grow or extract raw materials); processors (those who take those raw materials and turn them into useable products); retailers (those who sell the final product); and the public-private actors and agreements that control, oversee, and connect these basic links (transnational corporate managers, transportation logistic engineers, trade treaties between countries). Look down at the clothes you are wearing and consider the device you are reading this webpage on. Each piece of clothing and each component of your smartphone or laptop has its own supply chain and, therefore, its own story. Now think about everything you own and everything you eat. You are surrounded by thousands of stories. Your reach is global.
The challenge of Challenge Week is to ask ourselves what do we actually know about these stories? Should we want to know more? Why might these stories matter to us and other people we will never meet? How can we become informed and can we create new stories by shaping the way global supply chains work?  The faculty and staff of the Honors College would like to start this conversation, with you, right now, in partnership with the Department of Geography. There is no reason to wait until late October to start exploring, and understanding, the global supply chains that support our way of life. Click here to read about the chain of places and people that produce lithium ion batteries and Starbucks coffee, and why you might want to start thinking like a geographer.

Speaker and Event Preview

An Introduction to Global Supply Chains (Friday, October 193:00-5:00 p.m., Burdick Hall, Room 205): Challenge Week begins with an introduction to how global supply chains work that gets us beyond the “Made in China” label on so many of our consumer goods. What does this label mean, exactly? What specific places, people, institutions, and policies are behind this generic statement? Zachary Smith, Assistant Professor of History and Coordinator for the Asian Studies Program here at UCA, will help us answer these questions by exploring the life cycle of an iPhone.  In so doing, Dr. Smith will challenge what we think we know about “Made in China” and assumptions we make about the process.

Global Supply Chains, Historic and Moral Perspectives (Monday, October 22, 4:00-6:00 p.m.,Doyne Health Science Center Auditorium): Now that we’re thinking about contemporary global supply chains in more detail, Dr. Eric Bowne, Assistant Professor in Anthropology and Dr. Sharon Mason, Assistant Professor in Philosophy and Religion will offer historic and ethical perspectives on our global economy.

Dr. Bowne will provide historic context. How are modern day global supply chains different from, yet similar to, the way trade and labor played out in the past? How have these relationships shaped our country and/or our region? In so doing, he will point to themes and connections to keep in mind as we move through the week.

Dr. Mason will pose moral, ethical questions to take with us. What responsibility do we have to obtain knowledge about the sources of goods we consume? Can someone escape certain kinds of responsibility by choosing to remain ignorant? When is a person culpable for their own ignorance?

What sorts of obstacles stand in the way of knowing, both political and social?

You will also have the opportunity to engage with student work on global supply chains, before the talk. Students in Dr. Leah Horton’s Honors Scholar first-year seminars and students in Dr. Mason’s Theories of Knowledge junior seminar will be producing posters on the Challenge Week theme, which you can peruse, with refreshments, outside the Auditorium from 4:00-4:30 p.m.

The Human Face of Global Supply Chains (Tuesday, October 236:00-8:30 p.m., College of Business Auditorium): Please join us Tuesday evening for dinner, a movie, and discussion. Start gathering for pizza and salad at 6:00 p.m. as a prelude to a public screening of Not My Life, a 2012 hour-long documentary directed by Robert Bilheimer and narrated by Glenn Close. This film focuses attention on children as a distinctive and troubling face of modern day slavery and human trafficking. Bilheimer traveled to a dozen countries, including the United States, to document the stories of both boys and girls forced into hard labor, begging, domestic service, sex tourism, and fighting in armed conflicts.  You will hear from those who have been exploited, as well as those who benefit from, and control, the exploitation.

Following the screening there will be time to react, process, reflect, ask questions, and discuss.  Three UCA faculty members—Dr. Rifat Akhter, Associate Professor of Sociology; Dr. Taine Duncan, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion and Director of UCA’s Gender Studies Program; and S. Lynne Rich, Associate Professor of Sociology—will be on hand to help us think through the issues raised in the documentary, especially as they relate to women’s status, bodies, and work both here in Arkansas and in other countries.

Keynote Address (Wednesday, October 24, 7:00-8:00 p.m., with book-signing and reception to follow, Ida Waldron Auditorium): Our Farris Family Lecturer and keynote speaker is Dr. Kevin Bales, Professor of Contemporary Slavery at the University of Nottingham, UK. Dr. Bales brings a wealth of experiences and stories to our discussion of global supply chains. He will open our eyes to how many points in the chain rely on contemporary forms of slavery, which not only harms individual lives but the environment as well.

Dr. Bales has roots in Ponca City, Oklahoma, a small town in north-central Oklahoma on the banks of the Arkansas River. His interests and passions, however, have taken him far from home for education—to the University of Oklahoma for a BA in Anthropology; to the University of Mississippi for an MA in Sociology; to the London School of Economics for a Ph.D. and an MSc in Economic History—and for research into modern day slavery—everywhere from the Rupsa River in Bangladesh, to the Amazon forest in northern Brazil, to tin mines near Walikale, Democratic Republic of Congo. His research has informed the United Nation’s Global Program on Trafficking of Human Beings, as well as government policy on slavery in the United States, Britain, Ireland, Norway, and Nepal. Dr. Bales reaches a wider audience through numerous publications, including Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World; Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy; and The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today (co-authored with Ron Soodalter); as well as the documentary film, Slavery: A Global Investigation, and numerous TED Talks.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Bales and his work.

Food Production and Processing (Thursday, October 25th—7:00-8:30p.m.—College of Business Auditorium): Thursday evening we turn to an intimate topic—food production and processing.  We not only rely on farmers and processors around the world for our daily sustenance, but many Arkansans work in the agricultural industry and Arkansas is a major exporter of rice and poultry.  How does the production and processing of food, in the Natural State and abroad, impact human lives and the physical environment?  How are conditions here and abroad similar and/or different?  How can we account for the abundance, wealth, poverty, and hunger that results from the links that make our food supply chains work?  How can we affect the way food is produced and distributed, with an eye towards healthy and equitable living?

Three members of our Arkansas community will bring their knowledge and experience to UCA to help us answer these questions:

  • Magaly Licolli, Director of the Northwest Arkansas Workers Justice Center (NWAWJC).  The overarching goal of this non-profit is to assist low-wage workers in Arkansas secure safe workplace conditions and fair wages.  This goal has brought them to the Arkansas poultry processing industry and the largely foreign-born population that makes grocery store packaged chicken possible.
  • Ben Maddox, Value Chain Manager for Heifer International’s USA Program (and graduate of UCA).  Heifer International, headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, is known for their work in poor rural areas around the world, providing individuals with materials and skills so they can become independent producers.  Heifer’s USA Program reaches out to farmers here in Arkansas with the goal of creating “fresh food value-chains,” connecting small, local producers to local consumers.
  • Jett Ricks, Senior V.P. of Sales and Marketing for Westrock Coffee Company, a coffee importer and roaster headquartered in North Little Rock, AR.  Instead of relying on a “typical” supply chain to acquire its coffee—which, from farmer to consumer, involves many intermediaries—Westrock has direct relationships with farmers in Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Peru, Brazil, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

The Challenge of Challenge Week (Friday, October 26th—3:00-4:30p.m.—Burdick, Room 205): Friday is a chance for us, as a community, to start processing what we have learned and ask, where we do we go from here?  Dr. Kimberly Little, from the Department of History, and Dr. Adam Frank, from the Honors College, will guide the discussion.  A key part of this discussion will be a challenge: how can we actively rearrange the links in our supply chains right here, on campus and in Conway?  On hand to provide ideas and resources will be Ambra McPeters from the Community of Hope Outreach, a local non-profit that supports under-served communities in Conway, as well as activists and student organizations involved in local food.

Education and Action Resources

The Schedler Honors College and University of Central Arkansas would like to thank our Challenge Week speakers, as well as our audience, for the engaging and insightful exploration of the human and environmental impacts of our global supply chains.  So many of us have not only been informed, but changed by the discussion. And we hope to continue.  Each speaker highlighted specific resources and organizations that will further our education and, more importantly, help us act and get involved in meaningful, tangible ways in shaping humane and sustainable global supply chains.

Day 1: The Birth and Death of an iPhone

  1. Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China, by Leslie T. Chang.

Dr. Smith emphasized the importance of hearing from, and listening to, the Chinese workers who assemble the wide variety of consumer goods we purchase everyday here in the United States.  We have our own assumptions about how they feel, their concerns, their desires, but how accurate are these assumptions?  To that end, he pointed us to this insider-look, Factory Girls, by Leslie T. Change, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent.

  1. China Labor Watch and Student and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior

Two organizations doing on-the-ground activism in China.  Click on the links to find out how you can get involved.

Day 2: Historic and Moral Perspectives

In creating his lecture, Dr. Bowne drew on the following scholarly works:

  1. Kevin Bales, Blood and Earth: Modern Slavery, Ecocide, and the Secret to Saving the World.
  2. James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States
  3. David Graeber, Debt: The First Five Thousand Years
  4. Jack Forbes, Columbus and Other Cannibals
  5. Jack Weatherford, Indian Givers: How Native Americans Transformed the World

Dr. Mason recommends Lorraine Code’s paper, “The Power of Ignorance,” for an introduction to epistemological issues of ignorance.

She also recommends Carol Rovane’s essay “Forward-Looking Collective Responsibility: A Metaphysical Reframing of the Issue” for more exploration of backward vs. forward looking responsibility.

 Day 3: The Human Face of Global Supply Chains—public screening of the documentary, Not My Life

For those interested in how technology has shaped human trafficking, Dr. Duncan recommended the work of Dana Boyd: “What is the Role of Technology in Human Trafficking?”

The website for the Polaris project mentioned in the film and discussion is: Another article by Boyd relevant to the discussion: This article is by one of the sex workers who is also a philosophy professor doing work on consent that Dr. Duncan mentioned:

Day 4: Keynote Address by Dr. Kevin Bales

Visit Kevin Bales’ website for his publications and videos, and the research initiative of which he is a part, The University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab

Resources and organizations highlighted by Dr. Bales:

  1. The University of Nottingham’s Slavery and Liberation Masters degree.
  2. Non-profits dedicated to combating slavery
  • Free The Slaves
  • Polaris Project
  • Voices for Freedom. Universities that raise $30,000 over a three-year period can sponsor the freeing of a village.  Additional sponsorship provides a scholarship for a survivor from that village, who attends the sponsoring institution.
  1. Zooniverse’s “Slavery From Space” project, that taught volunteers to map slavery through identification of brick kilns that typically use slave labor, is no longer running, but visit the Zooniverse sight for other projects to get involved in.

We’ll add one more resource: a CNN article that links to many more anti-slavery organizations, many of which offer ways to get involved and take action.

Day 5: Food Production and Processing Panel

The three panelists:

  1. Magaly Licolli, The Northwest Arkansas Worker Justice Center
  2. Jett Ricks, Westrock Coffee
  3. Ben Maddox, Heifer International

Additional resources for understanding and engaging the chicken processing industry in Arkansas, from Magaly Licolli:

  1. Alliance for Fair Food
  2. Coalition of Immokalee Workers for farmworker justice.
  3. Chicken: The Dangerous Transformation of America’s Favorite Food, by Steve Striffler

Day 6: The Challenge of Challenge Week

Local organizations where you can address the inequality and waste produced by our global supply chains:

  1. City of Hope Outreach
  2. Food Recovery Network