Academic Speakers Program


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Rod Dreher: "Dante's Message in a Bottle: The Astonishing True Story of How a Medieval Poem Saved My Life"

Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher is an American writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Time magazine, The Wall Street Journal, the Weekly Standard, The New York Post, the Washington Times, The Dallas Morning News, and the National Review. He is the author of three books, Crunchy Cons, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, and How Dante Can Save Your Life. He has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, MSNBC, the BBC, and Fox News. Dreher's most recent books explore issues of faith, family, place, the meaning of home in contemporary American life—and the lessons his late sister, a schoolteacher, and a 14th-century Italian poet taught him about the meaning of life. He is currently senior editor at The American Conservative.


Date: September 16th: Watkins Auditorium: 6:00PM


John Williams: "There is a New Way of Appointing Judges in Tennessee."

John Williams

Judge John Everett Williams has spent the majority of his life in Huntingdon, Tennessee. He graduated from Huntingdon High School and attended college at the University of Tennessee at Martin. He majored in criminal justice, and he recently received the Outstanding Alumnus award from the criminal justice program. Judge Williams received his law degree from the Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham. After graduation, he returned to Huntingdon and began his law practice in 1981. In 1998, Governor Don Sundquist appointed him to the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals, and Judge Williams has served on this court for nearly seventeen years. Judge Williams is the senior member of the Western section of the Court of Criminal Appeals. His jurisdiction is state-wide, and his courthouses are in Jackson, Nashville, and Knoxville. He also serves as the Commission Chair for the nationally recognized Tennessee Lawyers Assistance Program. When Judge Williams is not on the bench, he fishes, hunts, is a thespian, and performs magic shows.


Date: October 29th: Humanities Auditorium: 7:00PM


Arthur W. Hunt and Phillip Smart: "The Art of Storytelling: Communicating Parks to the Public"

Arthur Hunt

Arthur W. Hunt III is Professor of Communications here at UTM. He teaches courses in Public Speaking, Honors Public Speaking, and Communication in Professional Environments. He is this year's co-receiptent of the Cunningham Outstanding Teaching/Scholar Award. He is an active member of the Media Ecology Association, which considers the cultural consequences of media change. He is the author of two books and numerous publications. He also portrays Davy Crockett for schools, civic groups, and state parks.






Phillip Smart

Dr. Philip Smartt is the Professor of Park Management and Heritage Interpretation at the University of Tennessee at Martin.  He is a Certified Interpretive Trainer and was the first CIT in Tennessee.  He has a Ph.D. in Forestry from Texas A&M University and a Master of Forestry in Forest Recreation from Stephen F. Austin State University.  He also has a B.S. in Aerospace from Middle Tennessee State University. Dr. Smartt has spoken nationally and internationally on the subject of heritage interpretation.  He lives with his family on 16 beautiful wooded acres in rural northwest Tennessee near Dresden.  He is married to the love of his life, Lisa.  She is a writer and a motivational speaker.  They have two rambunctious boys, Stephen and Jonathan, who love to explore the woods and wrestle with their dad.


Date: November 9th: Watkins Auditorium: 6:00PM





Susan R. Grayzel: Women in a World at War, 1914-1918

Susan R. Grayzel

Susan R. Grayzel is Professor of History and Director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Mississippi.  After receiving her A.B. Magna cum laude with Highest Honors in History and Literature from Harvard University, she earned her MA and PhD in modern European history from the University of California at Berkeley. 


For twenty years, she has been researching and teaching about culture, gender and the world wars in national, European, and global contexts.  Her books include Women's Identities At War: Gender, Motherhood, and Politics in Britain and France during the First World War (1999), awarded the 2000 NACBS British Council Prize for the best book in the field of nineteenth and twentieth-century British Studies; Women and the First World War (2002—under contract for a revised, second edition); The First World War: A Brief History with Documents (2012) and At Home and Under Fire: Air Raids and Culture in Britain from the Great War to the Blitz (2012) as well as co-editing Gender, Labour, War and Empire: Essays on Modern Britain (2009) with Philippa Levine and the forthcoming Gender and the Great War with Tammy Proctor.


In conjunction with the start of the centenary of the First World War in 2014, she contributed essays to The Cambridge History of the First World War and The Oxford Illustrated History of the First World War (2nd edition). She has also published articles in The Journal of Modern History; The Journal of Women's History and Twentieth Century British History as well as in numerous edited collections.  In recent years, she has spoken about her research at the Military History Seminar at All Soul's College, University of Oxford; the College of Europe's Natolin Campus in Warsaw, Poland; Indiana University; Amherst College; the University of California at Irvine and delivered the Annual War in History Lecture at the Centre for War Studies at Trinity College, Dublin; the Stanton Sharpe Lecture at Southern Methodist University, and the Sahin Lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


During 2014-16, she is working as an ACLS Collaborative Research Fellow on a new project on gender, civil defence and citizenship in twentieth-century Britain with Lucy Noakes of the University of Brighton (UK) and finishing a book entitled The Age of the Gas Mask: Chemical Weapons and Civilian Bodies in Imperial Britain, 1915-1945, a study that uses the material object of the gas mask as a way to reflect upon the changing nature of modern war and analyze the new relationship between the state and its subjects militarily and domestically.


Date: November 23rd: Watkins Auditorium: 6:00PM

William Barber: Unfinished Business: The Continuing Struggle for Civil Rights in America

William Barber

Reverend Dr. William Barber heads the North Carolina branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and is one of the principal leaders of North Carolina's Moral Monday Movement. In these Moral Monday rallies and demonstrations thousands of North Carolinians have gathered to protest the attacks on voting rights for poor and black people. Historian Timothy Tyson named Barber "the most important progressive political leader in this state in generations... He built a statewide interracial fusion political coalition that has not been seriously attempted since 1900. "


Date: February 18th: Watkins Auditorium: 6:00PM



Sigma Xi Speaker: Andrew Keys: The Technology and Science of NASA's Journey to Mars

Andrew Keys

Dr. Andrew S. Keys is the Center Chief Technologist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Since May 2010, he has guided the center in defining and developing the latest technologies to help Marshall scientists and engineers accomplish NASA's exploration mission.

From 2009 to 2010, Dr. Keys was team lead for exploration technology and development in the Marshall Center's Science & Mission Systems Office, overseeing research at the center and in partnership with other NASA field centers, government agencies and industry and academic partners. From 2007 to 2010, he was project manager for the Advanced Avionics and Processor Systems project in the Exploration Advanced Capabilities Office, developing robust new materials, design techniques and software to help spacecraft electronics systems better withstand radiation and temperature extremes during flight. From 2005 to 2008, Dr. Keys worked within the In-Space Propulsion Technology Program office, serving as project manager of the instrumented aeroshell system for the proposed Space Technology 9 Aerocapture mission. In 2004, he participated in a detail to the newly formed Exploration Mission Systems Directorate at NASA Headquarters. From 1998 to 2004, he led a Marshall optical systems team in the design, development and testing of advanced optics technologies for ground- and space-based optical instruments, remote-sensing systems and space-based imagers and observatories. From 1991 to 1997, he was a lead systems engineer for the Huntsville Operations Support Center, helping develop ground control systems to enable support for space shuttle missions and the International Space Station.

Prior to joining NASA in 1991, Dr. Keys was an associate systems engineer for the Space Station Program Support Division of Grumman Corp. in Huntsville. Raised in Decatur, Ala., he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., in 1988 and 1990, respectively, and received a doctorate of philosophy in electrical engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 2002. He has published more than a dozen papers and technical reports, is the recipient of numerous NASA awards and is the co-holder of two patents.


Date: March 21st: Watkins Auditorium: 6:00PM

Paul Meek Library Speaker: Jeff Hardin: "Imagining the Language, Imagining a Life."

Jeff Hardin

Jeff Hardin was born in Savannah, TN, (Hardin county), an eighth generation descendant of the county's founder. He is a graduate of Austin Peay State University (B.S. in English) and the University of Alabama (M.F.A. in Poetry). He is the author of two chapbooks, Deep in the Shallows (GreenTower Press, 2002) and The Slow Hill Out (Pudding House, 2003) as well as four collections of poetry: Fall Sanctuary, recipient of the Nicholas Roerich Prize from Story Line Press; Notes for a Praise Book, selected by Toi Derricotte and published by Jacar Press; Restoring the Narrative, which received the 2015 Donald Justice Poetry Prize. His fourth collection, Small Revolution, is forthcoming in 2016. A limited edition letterpress collection, Until That YellowBird Returns, was printed by Red Hydra Press in 2015. Nearly 500 of his poems have appeared in such journals as The Southern Review, North American Review, Ploughshares, The New Republic, The Hudson Review, The Gettysburg Review, Southwest Review, Poetry Northwest, Meridian, Tar River Poetry, The Florida Review, Southern Poetry Review, Poem, Zone 3, and many others. His poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize multiple times and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer's Almanac. He is a professor of English at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, TN.


Date: April 7th: Humanities Auditorium: 6:00PM

Leigh Ann Duck: Screening Civil Rights: Placing the Movement in Space and Time

Leigh Ann Duck

Leigh Anne Duck is an associate professor of English at the University of Mississippi, where she edits the journal The Global South. She is the author of The Nation's Region: Southern Modernism, Segregation, and U.S. Nationalism ( 2006) as well as several essays on literary and visual representations of the U.S. South; these have appeared in American Literary History, American Literature, Journal of American Folklore, and other venues. Her current book project is tentatively titled "Hollywood South: State, Cinema, and Societal Change."


Date: April 14th: Humanities Auditorium: 6:00PM


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