Students Turn Storytelling to Action at Feeding the Planet Summit

Planet Forward event April 23 features leading voices, live demos and internship opportunities.

feeding the planet
Planet Forward founder and School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno at the 2013 Feeding the Planet Forward Summit.
April 20, 2015

By Brittney Dunkins

Planet Forward’s 2015 Feeding the Planet Summit begins with stunning stories—of greenhouse agriculture 10,000 feet above sea level in the Andean mountains, a four-season organic farmer, reforestation projects in Haiti, Kenya and India and the rise and controversy surrounding Monsanto and the “big bio-tech” industry.

But according to Frank Sesno—founder of Planet Forward and director of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs—the summit will culminate in students taking action.

“The power of this summit is in its interactive nature,” Mr. Sesno said.

“The program is designed to allow students to engage with farmers, food delegates, agricultural organizations and sustainability leaders and connect them with internships and other opportunities to do something about climate change, food and agriculture.”

Students and faculty from 20 colleges and universities across the country—13 that belong to the formal Planet Forward consortium—will attend the summit Thursday at the Jack Morton Auditorium along with a high-profile roster of food, agriculture, climate and sustainability leaders.

The summit is free and open to the public. 

Among the featured guests are Sustainability Collaborative Executive Director Kathleen Merrigan, “hunger fighter” U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Kansas-based farmer and YouTube sensation Greg Peterson, Monsanto Vice President of Global Commercial Michael J. Frank and Land O’ Lakes Inc. CEO Chris Policinski. 

Rather than relying on the staid formality of traditional panel discussions, the summit will include demonstrations of a PrecisionHawk drone used to monitor crops and the Gannett Company’s “future of media” demo of the Oculus Rift—a 3D gaming, virtual reality headset.

An interactive luncheon will connect students with farmers from across the country and includes a keynote by Mr. Policinski, Mr. Sesno said.

GW is one of five universities participating in the Land O’ Lakes Global Food Challenge to feed a global population of 9.6 billion people by 2050. Anna Sumi, a sophomore in the School of Media and Public Affairs, will travel to Africa as a fellow for the Global Food Challenge Emerging Leaders for Food Security Fellowship program.

Students will obtain information about and apply for internships and jobs with Gannett Company, reforestation nonprofit Sadhana Forest, the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development and other organizations.

The event also will mark the premiere of Planet Forward’s Storyfest, a collegiate storytelling competition on topics related to food, sustainability and climate change.

“We’ve seen a funny video about two guys on bike, a beautifully produced piece on food waste and other pieces on hydroponics, urban agriculture, climate change and water,” Mr. Sesno said.

A panel of judges will select two winners based on the quality of information, the creativity of their presentation and the potential of the idea or innovation that they are capturing, he added.

They will travel to Rome with Mr. Sesno in October to present their pieces to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

According to Mr. Sesno, the opportunity exemplifies the mission of the summit.

“This is a totally interactive summit filled with opportunities for those attending to get involved and engage with leaders on these issues,” he said.