Former U.S. Food and Drug Administrator Lectures at Lampert Institute’s Dedication

The dedication of Colgate’s Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs took place in Olin Hall on Friday, October 4, commemorated by a lecture from former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration David Kessler.

The Lampert Institute for Civic and Global Affairs, formerly known as Colgate’s Institute for Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), was founded in 2007 by alumnus Edgar Lampert ’62 and his wife Robin Lampert, both of whom were present at Friday’s affair.

Lampert spoke of his motivations for founding the Lampert Institute. He described the excitement the Lampert Institute gave him in being able to play an active role in furthering the education of young people. Lampert framed education as the great equalizer in society, and he still greatly admires Colgate for giving him a rigorous education that helped him ultimately to seek opportunities he otherwise may not have had.

“I feel that disciplined research is an invaluable learning experience,” Lampert said. “The Lampert Institute’s mission is to prepare Colgate students for the world in this time of increased globalization.”

The Lampert Institute engages in an examination of the public realm by attracting important speakers to campus, and encouraging research by both faculty and students.

President Jeffrey Herbst, who made some opening remarks during the dedication, talked about the Lampert Institute as an institution that augments the intellectual vitality on campus.

“One of Colgate’s strengths is its international and global engagement,” Herbst said. “However, Colgate needs to continue to allow students to immerse themselves in complex global issues and develop global competency. The Institute helps to address these global challenges.”

Each year, the Institute dedicates its efforts to a new issue of civic and global affairs. The topic of the 2013-14 year is health and healthcare. By focusing on health, the Institute aims to investigate theories of health, major threats to health and potential remedies to these threats.

Speaker David Kessler’s lecture “Public Health and Private Choices: Obesity, Tobacco, and Government Policy,” honed in on some of the most threatening public health issues today, especially in relation to America’s own domestic policy issues. Kessler discussed his commitment to opposing cigarettes while he served as Commissioner, as well as his current studies of obesity as a public health issue. He explained the complexity of taking on the obesity issue, since it requires an understanding of

numerous fields of study.

 “While some think of obesity as a biological issue, it is at the same time a philosophical, economic, sociological, cultural and neuro-scientific issue,” Kessler said.

The need for more understanding of the interdependencies in health issues directly reflects the goals of the Institute, which also aims to plumb deeper into issues that touch the public in various ways.

Kessler walked the audience through the historical and scientific data and research he has collected on the issue of overeating, available in his top-selling book, “The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.”

He ultimately concludes that there are many reasons why people today are overeating and wants to continue to unpack the problem of loss of control over eating, lack of satiation and obsessive thoughts about food that effects 70 million Americans today.

“In order to solve the issue, we need to change how we view the issue as a society,” Kessler said. “Just as we changed the norms of the social acceptability of smoking, we must change the norms and social constructions around eating. The government and FDA can play a role, but it is ultimately how the public perceives a product or an issue that will change the

obesity issue.”

Provost and Dean of the Faculty Douglas Hicks echoed this sentiment as he lauded the Institute’s inclination to bring students into the public forum and out into

the world.

“The Lampert Institute takes the academic rigor of the classroom and pushes out into the world,” Hicks said. “Faculty-mentored student research has reached all corners of the world.”

Seniors Kate Maffei  and Caroline Libby had the opportunity to serve as Lampert Summer Scholars, an award allotted to six to eight students each summer. In conjunction with faculty mentor Professor Mark Stern, Maffei and Libby travelled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to conduct research on the portrayal of the Dirty Wars of the 1970’s in Argentinian education today.

“Kate and I became involved with the Lampert Institute because we both wanted to do research abroad and saw an opportunity to implement an interdisciplinary research project-using Kate’s Spanish skills, my Peace and Conflict Studies background on transitional justice and both our backgrounds in educational studies,” Libby said. “The Institute is so important. Since Colgate is not a large research institution, the Institute allows for students to have the opportunity to conduct research. More specifically, it allows for qualitative research studies and redefines the idea that research is confined to science in a lab setting.”

“The Lampert Institute is immensely generous,” Maffei said. “Without their material support, I would not have been able to travel to Argentina and conduct the interviews and participant observation on the ground that proved critical to our qualitative study.”

Contact Hannah Fuchs at [email protected].