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Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

2021 Idea Incubation Showcase

Over the last year, the Northwestern Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs has engaged more than 120 researchers from 45 Northwestern University departments and 10 Northwestern schools in its Idea Incubation Process.   

The process offers Northwestern faculty unique opportunities to explore global problems and workshop solutions alongside practitioners, community partners and scholars from across disciplines. It encourages intellectual risk-taking, promotes dialogue around provocative new research questions, and catalyzes creative research projects with the potential for real-world impact.

On Friday, April 23, Northwestern Buffett will host a virtual showcase of the research projects stemming from its 2020-21 Idea Incubation Process. The showcase will feature faculty presentations on collaborative, transnational research projects Northwestern Buffett will support in the coming year, as well as commentary from the panel of experts who judged the merits of this year’s project proposals on the basis of their potential for societal impact.

Learn about Northwestern Buffett’s Research Trajectory >>

2021 Idea Incubation Showcase

Friday, April 23, 2:00-4:30 p.m. CDT | Zoom

Register Here

This Year’s Judges

 Chris Abani
Chris Abani, Professor of English; Program of African Studies Director, Northwestern University

Chris Abani teaches Creative Writing (Fiction and Poetry) and Literature. He is a novelist, poet, essayist, screenwriter and playwright. He holds a B.A. in English from Imo State University, Nigeria, an M.A. in Gender and Culture from Birkbeck College, University of London, an M.A. in English and a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California.

He is the recipient of an Edgar Prize from the Mystery Writers of America, PEN USA Freedom-to-Write Award, the Prince Claus Award, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, a California Book Award, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, a PEN Beyond the Margins Award, the PEN Hemingway Book Prize and a Guggenheim Award. FULL BIO

Fernando Chico
Fernando Chico, Northwestern Buffett Board of Advisors Chair; Northwestern University Trustee; Chairman and CEO, Promecap

Fernando Chico is Chairman and CEO of Promecap, a private equity investment firm dedicated to projects within diverse industries, including, the Financial sector, Infrastructure, Tourism, Manufacturing, Real Estate, Oil and Gas and Retail. Mr. Chico received his bachelor’s in business administration from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.  His middle sonAndrés also holds an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. He is currently a member of Northwestern University’s Board of trustees. FULL BIO

Sarah FodorSarah J. Fodor, Executive Director of Foundation Relations and Corporate Engagement, Northwestern University

Sarah joined Northwestern's Office of Foundation Relations (OFR) in 1998, after a career in secondary school and college teaching. She holds a PhD in English language and literature and MST in English from the University of Chicago and BAs in English education and French literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. FULL BIO

Marwan KraidyMarwan Kraidy, Dean and CEO, Northwestern University in Qatar

As dean and CEO of Northwestern Qatar, Marwan M. Kraidy oversees academic programs in communication, journalism, and the liberal arts. In addition to his position at NU-Q, Dean Kraidy is also a professor of communication and the Anthony Shadid Chair in Global Media, Politics and Culture at Northwestern’s School of Communication.

Kraidy, a scholar of global communication and an authority on Arab media, culture, and politics, has long been immersed in the study of geopolitics and media in the Middle East having authored numerous books and articles on the region’s geopolitics and media culture. He is fluent in Arabic, English, and French and conversant in Spanish. FULL BIO

Balakrishnan Rajagopal
Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Associate Professor of Law and Development, MIT; United Nations Special Rapporteur on Right to Adequate Housing

Balakrishnan Rajagopal is Associate Professor of Law and Development at the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing. He founded the Program on Human Rights and Justice at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and the Displacement Research and Action Network.  He is recognized as a leading participant in the Third World Approaches to International Law (TWAIL) Network of scholars and is one of its founders, and is recognized as a leading global commentator on issues concerning the global South.

He is currently a Counselor to the American Society of International Law and has been a member of the Executive Council and Executive Committee of the Society.   He is a Faculty Associate at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation and has been a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, DC, the Madras Institute of Development Studies and the Jawaharlal Nehru University in India, the Institute for Advanced Studies at Stellenbosch University and Hebrew University and a Visiting Professor at the UN University for Peace, University of Melbourne Law School and the Washington College of Law, the American University. FULL BIO

This Year's Selections


Antibiotic Resistance

gettyimages-1219949581.jpgThere has been a rapid spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) across the world over the last several years. Infections with these resistant bacteria are associated with high mortality and morbidity across all age groups, in both developed and developing countries. Compounding the rapid spread of AMR is a serious dearth of a global coordinated effort, limited antimicrobial stewardship programs in some healthcare systems, overuse and misuse of antimicrobials due to poor healthcare regulation, lack of diagnostics for infectious diseases, and in some cases, misunderstanding of the role of antibiotics in common illnesses. This project aims to develop basic infrastructure to evaluate AMR across two disparate healthcare systems in different parts of the world and understand how healthcare providers make decisions around antibiotic prescribing.

Group Leads

  • Mehreen Arshad, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Feinberg School of Medicine
  • Erica Hartmann, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering 

Race, Caste, Colorism

gettyimages-157591564.jpgWhat are the ways that the persistence of color and colorism not only inflect different world-systems, but could be said to constitute a particular world-system itself? How do we “translate” (literally and figuratively) discourses of race, caste, and color around the world? We seek to develop an interdisciplinary project that explores the cultural and social systems of racism, casteism, and colorism worldwide, with a focus on the U.S., South Asia, and the Caribbean/Latin America. A primary focus on these sites – and their social, political, and religious histories, intellectual traditions, and literary, art, and media cultures – reveals the connective tissues among writers, scholars, artists, and activists who foreground the embodied experiences of race, caste, and color in their work.

Group Leads

  • Laura Brueck, Asian Languages & Cultures, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences
  • Ivy Wilson, English, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences 

Trauma, Music, and the Breath

gettyimages-1163111536.jpgMusic is emerging as a powerful and transformative force in cultivating well-being among humans all around the world, particularly among those who have endured trauma. A small but growing body of research has highlighted the developmental disruptions children around the world have experienced due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. We aim to gather an interdisciplinary team of clinicians, researchers, musicians, and thought leaders to examine the ways music is being used globally to improve the health and well-being of children throughout and following the traumas of COVID-19. Ultimately, our goal is to establish Northwestern as a global leader in the field of music, health, and well-being, pursuing cutting edge, interdisciplinary research that responds directly to the traumas of the recent global pandemic and broadly addresses United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #3: “Good Health and Well-being.” 

Group Leads

  • Heather Aranyi, Northwestern, Lyric Opera
  • Sarah Bartolome, Music Education, Bienen School of Music


Climate Crisis and Media Arts

gettyimages-1166842465.jpgThere is no shortage of scholarly studies and media representations that frame the ongoing climate emergency as an existential problem. These forms imagine possible environmental futures in order to enact real change in the present. Whether they will succeed in decisively shifting the cultural, political, and legal obstacles to effective action is the greatest uncertainty humanity has ever faced. In the midst of this uncertainty, however, people around the world are already living within a changing climate. This public-facing and interdisciplinary project centers on the everyday experiences of people living on the front lines of the climate emergency. What does climate change actually look and feel like? How does it intersect with and compound other pressing problems, including migration and economic inequality?

Combining the expressive power of the media arts with critical frames offered by the environmental humanities and the rigor of climate science, this project seeks to influence cultural and political discourse on the climate emergency not by speculating on unlivable futures, but by creating new ways of depicting what it means to live and die within a changing climate, right now. It brings together artists, scholars, activists, and students, with the goal of producing empowering, public-facing, and sensorial depictions of the material effects and lived experience of climate crisis in a range of sites in China, Central America, the US-Mexico Borderlands, Southeast Asia, and beyond.

Group Leads

  • JP Sniadecki, Associate Professor; Director of the MFA in Documentary Media, Northwestern UniverSchool of Communication
  • Corey Byrnes, Asian Languages & Cultures, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences 

Global Media Representations of Mental Health/Illness

gettyimages-1248336291.jpgWhat social and cultural assumptions are embedded in and reinforced by media portrayals of mental illness? How might richer, more counter-cultural depictions of mental illness broaden social understandings of distress, and highlight the structural factors that shape individual and group vulnerabilities? We aim not only to study portrayals of mental illness in media but to add to those portrayals by promoting the creation of film/TV (narrative and documentary), plays, performance pieces, and other forms of media. Our goal is to help rewrite dominant narratives and understandings of mental health in the U.S. and globally in a way that better captures the complex determinants, inequalities, and forms of knowledge production and activism at work.

Group Leads

  • David Tolchinsky, Radio/Television/Film, School of Communication
  • Rebecca Seligman, Anthropology, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences
  • Peter Locke, Global Health Studies, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences