Skip to main content

Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Breaking Boundaries Podcast

Innovators. Trail Blazers. Boundary Breakers.
These are the people you will meet on the Breaking Boundaries podcast.

The ideas shaping the modern world are generated by connections across fields, sectors and geographies. Our new "Breaking Boundaries" podcast features stories of successful collaborations fueling progress toward reaching the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Episodes will spotlight idea catalysts and innovators working across borders of all kinds to address complex global challenges ranging from the climate crisis and food insecurity to poverty and inequality.


spotify-podcast-badge-blk-wht-165x40.png en_google_podcasts_badge_2x.png us_uk_apple_podcasts_listen_badge_rgb.svg us_listenon_amazonmusic_button_white_rgb_5x.png 


Catherine Régis, expert in AI governance and regulation talks about the importance of involving experts and citizens to address AI's ethical challenges

Artificial Intelligence Governance and Regulation with Catherine Régis

Catherine Régis, expert in AI governance and regulation talks about the importance of involving experts and citizens to address AI's ethical challenges, the need for international collaboration and initiatives to address AI-related issues and the potential of AI to accelerate progress on the UN SDGs.

Listen Now
Jacqueline Stevens, Founding Faculty Director of the Deportation Research Clinic at the Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs

Big Data and the Human Rights of Migrants with Jacqueline Stevens

Jacqueline Stevens, Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University and Founding Faculty Director of the Deportation Research Clinic at the Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Affairs, shares her expertise on the use of big data technology at the border and its impact on migration, deportation and human rights.

Listen Now
S. Venus Jin, AI and marketing expert

The Impact of AI on Consumer Decision-Making with S. Venus Jin, PhD

As more consumer-focused companies harness the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, research on human-machine interactions is becoming increasingly important. S. Venus Jin, Director of the Communication Program at Northwestern in Qatar, discusses her research on how AI influences and shapes individuals' choices across various industries.

Listen Now
Francois Hollande

Former French President François Hollande on Democracy & Global Challenges

François Hollande, the 24th President of France, reflects on progress towards the goals and addresses the need for international reform, the importance of intergenerational collaboration and the potential for democracy to address global crises.

Listen Now
Chernobyl nuclear radiation hazard sign

Preparing for a Nuclear Disaster with Radiation & Bionanotech Expert Gayle Woloschak

In this episode, radiation expert Gayle Woloschak, PhD, shares insight on the impact of past nuclear disasters, how Russia's war on Ukraine brings to the surface the threat of more nuclear disasters and how emerging technologies can help us combat these threats.

Listen Now
Different languages

Multilingualism in the Era of AI with Viorica Marian and Morten Christiansen

This season on the podcast, we are exploring the intersections between emerging technology, global affairs and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In this episode, Guests Morten Christiansen and Viorica Marian join Riles to discuss multilingualism research and shed light on how the use of large language models, such as ChatGPT, might impact the way we think, speak and interact with people around the world.

Listen Now
ICAN volunteers protesting

Working to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons with Beatrice Fihn

Not long ago, the idea of global nuclear disarmament seemed impossible. Yet a recent groundswell of support from civil society and governments around the world has built momentum. Annelise Riles discusses with Beatrice Fihn, former Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

Listen Now
Impression of a face

The Future of Deepfakes with V.S. Subrahmanian, PhD

Many deepfakes are designed to spread disinformation or cause confusion and mistrust, and therefore are a threat to UN Sustainable Development Goal 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions. Annelise Riles discusses with V.S. Subrahmanian, one of the world's leading experts on the role of AI in national and global security.

Listen Now
Wooden legal mallet lying on top of the Ukrainian flag.

One Year into Russia's Invasion: Will Justice Be Served? with Oona A. Hathaway, JD

The impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine is far-reaching with some scholars arguing that the conflict threatens progress on all of the UN SDGs. International law expert Oona A. Hathaway, discusses legal recourse to prosecute Vladimir Putin and other top Russian leaders for the crime of aggression, a move that many say is essential to restore international world order.

Listen Now
Cardboard sign painted with S.O.S. with the earth in the middle.

COP27 Takeaways from the Northwestern University Delegation

Three members of Northwestern University’s delegation to the United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) reflect on their experiences at the event, which was held November 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Listen Now
Wooden blocks with letters on them spell out the words "Global" and "Local."

Local Diplomacy and Global Challenges

In this episode, two foreign career diplomats explain why facilitating communication and cooperation between their homelands and the communities of Chicago is essential, and the role of local diplomacy in addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 17, which is partnership for the goals.

Listen Now
Wind turbines with silhouette of the world

Democratizing Climate Science with Spencer Glendon, PhD

Combating climate change, and its impacts, is at the heart of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). More specifically, public education is key to addressing UN SDG 13: climate action. In this episode, Spencer Glendon, talks about his efforts to create a public utility for climate change through his nonprofit climate literacy initiative, Probable Futures.

Listen Now
Shadow figures of a child and parents.

Diplomacy and the Welfare of Children

In this episode, former Ambassador Susan Jacobs joins Annelise Riles to talk about her career in the foreign service, as one of the first married women to become a foreign service officer, and her work as it relates to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16, which includes targets related to protecting children.

Listen Now
Passports with locations on a map pinned.

How to Be a Better Global Citizen

Collaboration is a skill set that requires training and practice and it is an essential part of UN SDG 17, which focuses on partnerships between governments, the private sector and civil society. In this episode, guest Blythe McGarvie shares expert advice on how to collaborate across global spaces and be a better global citizen.

Listen Now
Raised, overlapping colorful hands.

Art, Scholarship and Social Justice

In this episode, Osborn Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University and Northwestern Buffett Faculty Fellow Vilna Bashi discusses her work critically examining themes related to racism and human rights through her career as an artist and sociologist.

Listen Now
Field of solar panels with overlaid computer code.

The Role of Data in Sustainable Development

Jean-Louis Sarbib has built a career working across boundaries of public and private international organizations and national governments to address this important challenge. In this episode, he shares insights into the current challenges facing the field of international development today and how open access to data and information may help solve some of these challenges.

Listen Now
Different brightly colored people outlines overlapping.

The Day of 8 Billion

Scientists estimate that the global population will cross the 8 billion mark on November 15th, 2022, ushering in a new age of potential challenges for countries across the globe. John Wilmoth, PhD, director of the United Nations Population Division, joins Annelise Riles to discuss this new milestone.

Listen Now
A map focused in on Fiji.

Strengthening U.S.-Pacific Island Country Partnerships

Combating climate change was at the forefront of the historic U.S.-Pacific Island Country Summit, which was recently held in Washington. It resulted in an important new declaration signed by leaders of 14 Pacific Island countries and the United States. Former U.S. ambassador Steven McGann joins Annelise Riles to talk about the summit, the human security concerns facing these countries and United Nations sustainable development goal number 13: climate action.

Listen Now
Colorful lightbulbs in a row with the last one lit up.

UNESCO Futures of Education Report

Education is a basic human right and the foundation for peace and sustainable development according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO recently released the Futures of Education report: "Reimagining our futures together: a new social contract for education." In this episode, Noah Sobe, PhD, explains what is in the report and how education must be reformed to create the futures we all want.

Listen Now
A green arrow of vegetation points up on a yellow background.

Building Scientific Capacity in Developing Nations

Building scientific capacity is essential to strong institutions and supporting problem-solving and innovation, especially in the Global South. Romain Murenzi, PhD,  Executive Director of The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) joins Annelise Riles to talk about United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16, peace, justice and strong institutions, and how TWAS is working to meet this goal.

Listen Now
Bricks painted with the flags of Russia and Ukraine with a jagged line in the middle.

The Impact of Russia's War in Ukraine

Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine is no longer a short-term event and its impact is going to shape global affairs for a long time to come, according to Fiona Hill, a leading expert on Russia and Vladimir Putin’s regime. In this episode, Hill shares insight on Putin’s actions, what could happen next, and how the war may impact our world for decades to come.

Listen Now
Connected, glowing blue digital nodes.

Solving Complex Problems with Nexus Thinking

In this episode, Julio M. Ottino, Dean of the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Northwestern University, discusses his new book The Nexus, which is a call to “augmenting” our knowledge in the face of complex global challenges, by bringing together the insights, and the conceptual moves, of art, technology, and science.

Listen Now
Five white ladders of increasing heights rest against a wall.

How to Help Women Succeed in the State Department

Alison E. Dilworth is a Foreign Service Officer with more than 20 years of experience, serving in countries such as Paraguay, Israel, Egypt, Poland and the United Arab Emirates.  In this episode, she talks about her career  and what needs to be done to address gender and diversity issues at the highest levels of government.

Listen Now
Wave of computer coding in blue and pink on a dark background.

Global Cyber Security Challenges

The companies behind popular digital platforms are critical players in this effort that is central to United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16, which is peace, justice and strong institutions. Roland Cloutier is the global chief information security officer at TikTok. He has more than 30 years of experience in cybersecurity and law enforcement.

Listen Now
An image of earth from space.

A New Focus on the Global South

Marwan M. Kraidy is a scholar of global communication, a leading authority on Arab media, and the CEO and Dean of Northwestern University in Qatar. One of his first major initiatives as Dean was the creation of the Institute for Advanced Study in the Global South. He discusses the goals of this institute and how it relates to United Nations sustainable development goal number 16, peace, justice and strong institutions.

Listen Now
Chicago skyline with an image of a world map over it.

Tackling Global Issues Locally

Maria Hadden brings a global point of view to her position on the Chicago City Council as the alderwoman of the 49th Ward. Since being elected in May 2019, she has pushed forward issues of local, national and international importance, such as recognizing Juneteenth as a holiday, exploring reparations to Black people and supporting a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons.

Listen Now
The female symbol on a blue background.

Gender Discrimination and International Human Rights

Juliet Sorensen talks about SDG #5, her career and her recent work with the Clooney Foundation for Justice to bring international attention to women in El Salvador who were convicted and imprisoned after suffering an obstetric emergency related to pregnancy.

Listen Now
Globe of the world zoomed in on Russia and Ukraine.

Insight on Russia-Ukraine Tensions

In recent weeks, Russia has assembled tens of thousands of troops on its border with Ukraine, leading to a phone call on December 7, 2021, between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin about consequences should Russia attack Ukraine. On this episode of the Breaking Boundaries podcast, two former U.S. ambassadors weigh in on the historic and geopolitical dynamics behind current tensions.

Listen Now
A dark video camera image on a dark purple background.

Feature Films and Global Crises

Using the power of narrative film to create empathy and motivate action in response to human rights abuses is a personal passion for Rana Kazkaz. She is an award-winning filmmaker and Assistant Professor of Communication at Northwestern University in Qatar where she teaches narrative filmmaking.

Listen Now
A brainstorm with equations and drawings on a green chalkboard.

Humanistic Thinking in the Age of Big Data

Breaking down silos, trying to help people to work together across boundaries of discipline, profession and culture, is a difficult job and one that Christian Madsbjerg has spent much of his career trying to accomplish with much success.

Listen Now
Silhouette of a child playing a flute in front of windmills with a sunset in the background.

Indigenous Rights and COP26

The Northwestern delegation that attended COP26, the annual UN climate change conference that took place in Glasgow, is back on campus. Of the many topics discussed at COP26, climate change and the roles and rights of Indigenous peoples was top of mind for our delegation.

Listen Now
Solar panels in a green space in the middle of a city.

Infrastructure and the Climate Crisis

Building new and necessary infrastructure while complying with sustainability agendas and agreements is a challenge that must be met in the next decade. Kate Newman, Vice President for Sustainable Infrastructure and Public Sector Initiatives at the World Wildlife Fund, and Jim Hambleton of Northwestern University, discuss the paths forward to make sustainable infrastructure a priority.

Listen Now
Aerial view of six people standing on an illustration of swirling water with fish.

Universities and the Climate Crisis

Universities are uniquely positioned to take action on climate change. Experts John Robinson of the University of Toronto, and Jennifer Dunn of Northwestern University, discuss how to change the institutional culture of universities to make sustainability an essential component of operations as well as research and education missions.

Listen Now
A scale made out of grass in front of a blue sky.

Law and the Climate Crisis

Righting injustices in energy and climate change regulation is an important part of addressing the global climate crisis. Hari Osofsky, Dean of Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, talks about working with business, government and nonprofit leaders to make bipartisan progress on climate, energy and equity issues.

Listen Now
A brainstorm superimposed over a cement maze.

Economics and the Climate Crisis

Economic growth at expense of the environment is no longer an option. Chris Canavan, Chair of the Board of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, talks about how an outdated economic structure is endangering our planet and new approaches that could save it.

Listen Now