College of Business & Technology

Robert and Mary Ferguson Lecture Series

Alan Bjerga

2017 Ferguson Lecturer • Alan Bjerga • Monday, March 6, 2017

"U.S. Leadership in Global Agriculture: To Be Continued?"

3:00 - 4:00 p.m. • Morgan Hall 109

This event is free and open to the public.

Alan Bjerga is a longtime writer on food and agriculture for Bloomberg News and co-host of "Bloomberg Politics, Policy and Power," a public-affairs program on Bloomberg Radio. His writings on the global food system have given him bylines in 30 states and 5 continents, and his international reporting provided the foundation of the book he published in 2011, Endless Appetites: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest.

Bjerga grew up on a farm near the town of Motley, Minnesota, where his family raised sheep, sweet corn and alfalfa. He earned a bachelor's degree in History and English Literature from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, and a master's degree in mass communication from the University of Minnesota. Both have honored him for his work since graduation: Concordia bestowed its "Sent Forth" award for an outstanding young alumnus, and the University of Minnesota its "Notable Achievement" award for graduates of its school of liberal arts. He also was an inaugural "Above the Fold,” recipient, an award given to outstanding alumni under 40 by The Minnesota Daily, where he was managing editor.

After starting his professional career in public radio, Bjerga's trek to Washington ran through the St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press, Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader, and Wichita (Kan.) Eagle. He arrived in Washington on the eve of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and worked in the Knight-Ridder Newspapers Washington bureau from 2001–2006. Along with his Bloomberg work, Bjerga served as president of the National Press Club in 2010 and was president of the North American Agricultural Journalists during 2010–2011. In 2012 he began teaching as an adjunct lecturer at Georgetown University and in 2016 received its "Golden Bulldog" award for faculty dedication.

A frequent speaker, Bjerga gave a TEDx talk on global food security in 2016 and has keynoted conferences from state farm bureaus, agricultural science organizations, and the N8 Agrifood consortium, a food-security effort led by the eight research universities of northern England. He has commented on food and agriculture for Bloomberg Television, RFD-TV, National Public Radio, the BBC and PBS Newshour, among other programs.

Along with his professional work, Bjerga is an accomplished game-show contestant, appearing on both "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire," where he won $50,000, and a second place finish on Jeopardy! He also plays guitar and has sung with "Honky Tonk Confidential," a retro/alt country band with songs written by former CBS Face the Nation anchor Bob Schieffer. He has also competed for the standup comedy title of "DC's Funniest Journalist" and completed five marathons. But recently he's spent more time chasing his daughter around -- she's two years old, and energetic.

Lecture Series History

The series was developed through the generosity of the late Dr. Robert Ferguson and his wife, Mary. Dr. Ferguson passed away in December of 1991. His 40-years of commitment to Western Illinois University and the College of Business and Technology live on through the Robert and Mary Ferguson Lecture Series. Dr. Robert Ferguson received his bachelor’s degree in business education from Western in 1943. After serving in the United State Army from 1944-46, Bob returned to Western and completed his master of science degree in 1948. He later taught for two years at Brooklyn College while completing his doctorate at New York University and returned to WIU where he retired in 1986. Bob held faculty ranks from instructor to professor and was business education chair for 20 years. He played a key role in guiding the Department of Business Education through many changes that led to his longtime goal of the establishment of the College of Business in 1966. He served as interim dean of the College of Business prior to the appointment of the late Howard C. Nudd as dean. Throughout his teaching career, Dr. Ferguson firmly believed that our students benefit from the depth and breadth of experience, especially by seeing and hearing from key business leaders who are illustrations of success.

Past Speakers

  • 2015: Tyler Gage, co-founder and co-CEO of Runa
  • 2013: Patrick M. Magoon, President and Chief Executive Officer - Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
    Improving Child & Adolescent Health in the Healthcare Reform Era
  • 2012: Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation
    Investing in an America Built to Last
  • 2009: Richard Longworth, Author
    Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalization
  • 2005: Troy Rice, Division President Northern - The Home Depot
  • 2003: Glen Barton, Chairman and CEO - Caterpillar, Inc.
  • 2002: Lawrence Gill, Attorney/Certified Public Accountant - Schiff Hardin & Waite
  • 2001: Mary Lou Quinlan, Founder - Just Ask A Woman
  • 2000: Richard E. Rominger, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture - United States Department of Agriculture
  • 1999: Michael J. Litwin, Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer - Heller Financial, Inc.
  • 1998: Edward J. McManus, Chief Operating Officer of Procurement and Logistics - American Stores Company
  • 1997: Robert L. Nardelli, President and Chief Executive Officer - GE Power Systems
  • 1996: Emma Chappell, Founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - The United Bank of Philadelphia
  • 1995: Joe Cowans, Information Consultant - TCI
  • 1995: Lynn Martin, Labor Secretary - Bush Administration
  • 1994: William Weiss, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - Ameritech
  • 1993: John W. Bachmann, Managing Principal - Edward Jones & Company
  • 1992: Howard Putnam, Chief Executive Officer - Southwest Airlines
  • 1991: William Alexander Hewitt, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer - Deere and Company
  • 1990: James C. Miller III, Director of Budget and Cabinet Member - Reagan Administration