Tufts Friedman School Of Nutrition Science and Policy


NUTR 0397 – Group Directed Study:

International Perspectives on Agriculture Food and Environment

Spring 2016


Faculty Sponsor: Tim Griffin

Director – Agriculture, Food, and Environment Program

Tufts University, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy

timothy.griffin@tufts.edu / 617.636.3613


Time/Location:    3 hour meetings, once per week (12)

                                Standing time: Mondays 9:00 am -12:00 pm

Alternate time 1: Fridays 9:00 am -12:00 pm

Alternate Time 2: Monday afternoon, time depending


Graduate Credits:    1 credit

Prerequisites:       Graduate standing

Participation:        The class is primarily intended for AFE Masters and PhD students, but colleagues from other programs at Friedman may join. There is space for at least 12 students, and others may participate in individual lectures as observers.  


Grading Basis:      Graded


Course Description:       This directed study was developed in response to growing student interest in international applications of concepts presented in the core courses of the Agriculture, Food, and Environment Program (specifically, NUTR215, 233, 333, and 341). It will focus on current approaches employed by working professionals in solving problems related to growing global demands for food, resource constraints, and tensions between agricultural and environmental goals. This course will weave together natural and social sciences, drawing from empirical concepts to explain policymaker approaches, primarily in international development contexts. It will also provide opportunities for students to improve didactic skills related to group moderation, facilitation, presentation, and external communications.

Course Objectives: Upon completion of this course, students will have gained an understanding of:

  1. a) scientific concepts underpinning global policy initiatives related to agriculture, food and the environment;
  2. b) how these approaches are currently being applied by working professionals at local and regional scales;
  3. c) challenges in shortcomings in implementing international programs to improve global nutrition, food security, and environmental resilience;
  4. d) integrated linkages and potential synergies between global food and nutrition goals;
  5. e) how to plan a seminar and employ methods of public engagement with stakeholders across a range of issues.

Format:      Over the course of the semester, students will plan and organize twelve seminar style lectures, inviting expert professionals from diverse backgrounds to present on a range of topics directly related to their work. A pre-established rotation of students will identify one to act as “moderator” and one to act as “scribe” for each weekly session.  

Before each class meeting, all students will prepare by reading at least two background documents, with at least one provided by the speaker and one agreed upon by the moderator and scribe for that day. Students should come to class ready to discuss this material in detail. Before each lecture, each student will elaborate three questions integrating concepts from the readings with prior knowledge and experience, and add them to a google document.

Each week, the student moderator will introduce the lecture with a guided discussion of the readings. They are free to choose the format for this discussion and employ dynamic teaching approaches as desired. Following the discussion, the moderator will greet and escort the speaker, introduce him/her, and give a short 1-2 sentence background introducing the topic and the context of the speaker’s employment as it relates to food, agriculture, and the environment. The speaker will then give a short, (1-1.5 hour) lecture on the particular topic, followed by a 30 minute group Q&A, moderated by the student and based off of questions submitted prior to the lecture. During all of these events, the scribe will be responsible for taking notes. With any time that remains at the end of the class session, the group will help the scribe review major ideas and themes that were discussed during or following the lecture, and help to identify those that would provide the most interesting material for a blog article.

In summary, the three hour class period will be divided roughly into the following sections:

  • 30 minutes: Students meet to review the provided material and discuss initial responses
  • 90 minutes: Speaker will arrive and give a 1-1.5 hour lecture
  • 30 Minutes: Q&A with Speaker
  • 30 minutes: Group debrief and identification of major themes ideas for a blog post

After each lecture, the scribe for that day will be responsible for writing a blog post that summarizes the discussion and illustrates the major points raised by the speaker. If possible, the scribe should collaborate with the speaker on the content of the blog post. Before the end of the following weekend, or sooner, the post should be ready for publication on the Friedman website, and if possible shared for publication of the organization represented by the speaker. The blog should incorporate sound scientific principles, but be written for public consumption in clear, interesting, creative, and easy to understand language that promotes public comment and engagement. At the end of the course, the blog author will incorporate any public comments in a more formal paper with citations totaling 4-5 pages double spaced. A final deliverable will be the compilation of these final reports into a compendium of topical briefs.

Texts or Materials:

There is no required textbook for this course. Weekly readings will be provided at least two weeks before each session and posted on the class website and in a google drive folder.

Academic Conduct:        

Each student is responsible for upholding the highest standards of academic integrity, as specified in the Friedman School’s Policies and Procedures manual (http://nutrition.tufts.edu/student/documents) and Tufts University policies (http://uss.tufts.edu/studentAffairs/documents/TuftsStudentHandbook.pdf) It is the responsibility of each student to understand and comply with these standards, as violations will be sanctioned by penalties ranging from failure on an assignment and the course to dismissal from the school.


Class assignments and their contribution to overall grade are as follows:

  •       Recruitment and Coordination         25%
  •       Public Blog                                       25%
  •       Peer Evaluation                               25%
  •       Final Paper                                       25%


Assignment Details:

Recruiting and Coordination of Speakers

Each student will agree to recruit between 1-3 speakers, according to perceived ability. The topics addressed should merge the work of the speaker with the interests gathered in pre-planning student feedback. Speakers can be culled from within Tufts, the consortium of local schools, or from external sources. Speakers may present in person or through web-mediated technologies. To avoid confusion, students will be responsible for all written communication and coordination with their invited speakers.

Public Blog

The blog post summarizes the discussion during the seminar, and should be prepared by the scribe as soon as possible following the class it reviews. The blog should incorporate sound scientific principles but will be written for public consumption. The language should be engaging and capture controversy in a way that promotes public comment and engagement. The length of the blog post should be 1- 2 pages double spaced.

Peer Evaluation

Peer evaluation will be based on overall participation, taking 3 considerations into account:

  •       How well did the student communicate during the planning process and during the individual session they moderated? How easy was it to collaborate with him/her? Did they take in information as well as they dispensed it?
  •       How well prepared was the student for seminars? Was it clear that they had done the readings? Were they present most of the time? Did they participate in the conversations?
  •       Did students provide relevant and provocative questions to guide the Q&A?

A qualtrics survey will be used to develop the peer evaluation component of the grade

Final Paper

The final paper will be a 3-4 page elaboration of the blog post, taking into account any comments generated on the blog. It will use formal citations and be written for a more technical audience. The style should be similar to a memo or technical brief that describes the concept, identifies examples of where it has been implemented, and critically analyzes the concept, assessing strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to Agriculture, Food, and Environmental issues.

Course Schedule:  

Week of:

January 25           First monday of the Semester    Planning Meeting/No Speaker

  1. February 1          Speaker Name:                                  Topic:
  2. February 8         Speaker Name:                                 Topic:
  3. February 15       Speaker Name:                                Topic:
  4. February 22       Speaker Name:                               Topic:
  5. February 29       Speaker Name:                               Topic:
  6. March 7              Speaker Name:                                Topic:
  7. March 14            Speaker Name:                                Topic

March 21             —SPRING BREAK, NO CLASSES—

  1. March 28             Speaker Name:                                  Topic:
  2. April 4                  Speaker Name:                                  Topic:
  3. April 11                    Speaker Name:                                  Topic:
  4. April 18                    Speaker Name:                                  Topic:

April 25                    Last Class, Summarize, Review, Evaluate

Annex 1: Topics of Interest

Systems Perspectives

                Food Systems



                Pastoral Systems

                Permaculture / Perennial Crop Systems


                Public Private Engagement, CSR, and Partnerships

Theoretical Perspectives

                Gender and Agriculture

                Climate Smart Agriculture

                Community Based Agricultural Development

                Communication with Farmers (PAR, RBA, ICT)

                Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture, Diet Diversification, Bio-Fortification

                Food Sovereignty

                Rural Livelihood Strengthening / Asset Development / Value Addition

Technical Perspectives

                Sustainable Intensification

                Food Safety/Pesticides

                Value Chain Development

                Water Resource Management and Food Security

                Rural Livelihood Strengthening

                Agricultural Marketing / Cooperatives

                Accessing Capital for Agriculture, Agro-banks, Microcredit

                Integrated Pest Management

                Plant Pathology, Breeding & Genetics

                Sustainable Fisheries / Aquaculture

                Home / School Gardens

Annex 2: Class Roster

  1. David Grist
  2. Quinault Childs
  3. Dylan Anderson-Berens
  4. Caroline Nathan
  5. Rachel Gilbert
  6. Julie Kurtz
  7. Sarah Abdelmessih

Annex 3: Meeting Times / Locations


Monday January 25, 20169:00 AM -12:00 PMSackler 604
Monday February 1, 2016

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Sackler 216A
Friday February 12, 2016

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM International AFE

Jaharis 254
Thursday February 18, 2016

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM International AFE

Sackler 320
Monday, February 22, 2016

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM International AFESackler 604
Monday, February 29, 2016
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM International AFESackler 216A
Monday, March 07, 2016
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM International AFESackler 216A
Monday, March 14, 2016
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM International AFESackler 216A
Monday, March 28, 2016
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM International AFESackler 216A
Monday, April 04, 2016
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM International AFESackler 216A
Monday, April 11, 2016
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM International AFESackler 216A
Monday, April 18, 2016
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM International AFESackler 216A

For the most up to date information on speakers, please check the scheduling tool.