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Susan O'Rourke | September 15, 2021

Mark Dowling of Coastal Carolina Community College knows just how important it is for students to get a taste of other cultures. As Culinary Arts Instructor, Mark is passionate about helping students study the intersection between food, culture, and identity. For Mark and his students, that means diving deeper into the rich history of distinct global cuisines. Mark incorporated what he learned from his research visit to UNC-Chapel Hill and the 2021 UNC World View Global Fellows Program: “Exploring Indigenous Cultures: Ancient North Carolinians, Past and Present” into his course “Global Cuisines.”  There, students not only learned how to prepare local dishes but also researched the “histories and ecology of ingredients” and the indigenous cultures that gave rise to these cuisines. Mark appreciates that global cuisine is rooted in ritual and tradition. Mark teaches his students that “food is not only a way of life, but also a component of life interwoven into life’s biggest, sacred and most memorable moments.” As students recreate those dishes, they have the opportunity to bring that cultural history to the table, as well.  

Mark also encouraged his students to take a global perspective on contemporary issues of food justice in his course. As students studied different cuisines, they also investigated the connections between food accessibility and factors like climate change and urban planning. Mark explained that his “inspiration was taken from the World View program itself, when I identified East African nations that have severe hunger.” While the region is known for its diverse cuisines and spice-rich stews and curries, East Africa has also been significantly impacted by food crises in the 2010s caused by poverty, unstable governments, climate change. Mark knew, too, that this global issue hit home, and designed his course to include research on “structural and systemic barriers on food security, the food distribution system in America, and…. ‘food deserts’ in communities in the United States.”  Mark invited his students to study these challenges and research policies aimed at ensuring adequate nutrition for the people affected. He was impressed by their meaningful research.  According to Mark, “All were thoroughly engaged in the topic as was evidenced by their deep dive into the subjects that they chose for the presentation on Black Americans and food insecurity” or food insecurity and East Africa. Many students, too, completed presentations and formal research essays for the first time as part of this class. Even further, Mark’s students put their research into action as they partnered with the Onslow County Community Service Soup Kitchen. Students went out into the community to learn from those leading the organization.   

Mark’s commitment to deepening his students’ knowledge of global cultures and advocating for the community exemplifies what it means to be a UNC World View Global Fellow. We are eager to see how Mark continues to integrate global curriculum into his future course designs.