Academic Speakers Program


John Geer

Making Some Sense of the 2016 Presidential Election

October 3rd, 2016 at 6:30PM in the Humanities Auditorium


John Geer

John G. Geer is Vice Provost for Academic and Strategic Affairs at Vanderbilt University, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science, and Co-Director of the Vanderbilt Poll. He earned his PhD in 1986 from Princeton University. Geer is past editor of The Journal of Politics. Geer has published widely on campaigns, elections, and public opinion. He is author of In Defense of Negativity: Attacks Ads in Presidential Campaigns, which won Harvard University’s Goldsmith Prize in 2008. Geer is about to publish the fourth edition of Gateways to Democracy (2017). He has provided extensive commentary in the news media about American politics, including live nationwide interviews for FOX, CNN, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, ABC, and NPR. Geer has also written numerous op-ed pieces for Politico, The Washington Post, LA Times, USA Today, and Chicago Tribune. His lecturing has earned him a number of awards at Vanderbilt, including the “Squirrel Award,” the 2004 Birkby Prize, the 2005 Jeffrey Nordhaus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the 2009 the Ellen Gregg Ingalls Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching, and the 2014 Vanderbilt Alumni Education Award.


Heather Wilkins

Adventures Studying Birds at Reelfoot Lake.

October 25th, 2016 at 7PM in Watkins Auditorium


Heather Wilkins

Wilkins received a Bachelor of Science in natural resources management with a concentration in wildlife biology from UT Martin. Wilkins later received her master’s degree in biological sciences from Eastern Kentucky University, where she studied communication in red-bellied woodpeckers, and a doctoral degree from Mississippi State University, where she studied the winter foraging ecology of yellow-bellied sapsuckers. Wilkins is currently a professor in the UT Martin Department of Biological Sciences where she teaches a variety of courses, including ornithology, animal ecology and conservation biology.


Steven Snowden

Creative Communion: Music Composition as a Collaborative Process

November 18th, 2016 at 6PM in the Blankenship Theater, Fine Arts Building


Steven Snowden

The music of Steven Snowden has been described as “Beguiling… combining force with clarity” (San Francisco Classical Voice), “Wonderfully dynamic” (Interlude Hong Kong), “Rustic, red-blooded” (New Music Box), and “Marvelously evocative” (Cleveland Plain Dealer). Writing music for dance, theater, multi-media installations, and the concert stage, he is equally at home writing acoustic and electro-acoustic music and has taken a keen interest in interdisciplinary collaboration and live electronic audio manipulation as a tool for improvisation.


Snowden’s work often deals with concepts of memory, nostalgia, and the cyclic nature of historical events as they pertain to modern society. While his musical influences are deeply rooted in bluegrass, folk, and rock, he utilizes non-traditional techniques and processes to compose works that don’t squarely align with any single genre or style.


A native of the Ozarks countryside, he began composition studies in 2002 at Missouri State University and subsequently earned his Masters degree at the University of Colorado and Doctorate at the University of Texas. In 2012-2013 he was a Fulbright Scholar in Portugal, researching and implementing motion tracking technology as a means to facilitate collaboration between music and dance. In 2013-2014, he was a visiting professor and composer in residence at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is the co-founder/director of the Fast Forward Austin Music Festival and currently resides in Austin, Texas where he works as a freelance composer and rides his Harley through the Texas Hill Country whenever weather and time allow.


Dr. Szabolcz Marka, Professor of Physics at Columbia University, on Gravity Waves, November 29th ... more details to come soon!


Kwame Rose

Social Justice in the Age of Black Lives Matter

February 23rd, 2017 at 7PM in Watkins Auditorium


Kwame Rose

Kwame Rose is a social activist, artist, and writer. He is known for having boldly held mainstream media, particularly Geraldo Rivera of Fox News, accountable for its inaccurate representation of protestors during the Baltimore Uprising. Since then Kwame traveled the Country speaking at some of the most prestigious universities and college campuses about the unrest in Baltimore, and the issue of policing Black communities. More recently Kwame was a producer and host for The Real News Network.


Kwame was born and raised in Baltimore, MD. His passion for public speaking once earned him a full scholarship to the University of Texas at San Antonio as a member of the Debate team. As a student, he advocated for hip-hop-infused education as a means to educate the youth and give a voice to the voiceless. After the completion of his freshman year, deteriorating social conditions in his hometown of Baltimore prompted the permanent return of the young activist with a firm commitment to improve and serve his community.


In 2013, Kwame helped form the organization Brothers In Action, Inc., a mentoring group for young Black males in Baltimore City. He served on the Executive Board until recently stepping down to launch BE Foundation, in an effort to not only highlight Black youth but also, help them excel in pursuing their dreams and aspirations. Realizing that one way to ensure that the stories of oppressed communities were told accurately, Rose began writing for several media publications including Mashable, Huffington Post, and USA Today about the issues of his generation.


Dr. Amy Bix

Girls Coming to Tech: A History of American Engineering Education for Women

March 23rd, 2017 at 6PM in Watkins Auditorium


Dr. Amy Bix

Dr. Bix is an associate professor in the History Department at Iowa State University and director of ISU's Center for Historical Studies of Technology and Science. Originally from the Chicago area, she earned her Ph.D. in the history of science from Johns Hopkins University. She has been at Iowa State since 1993, where she teaches courses in women's history; the history of technology; history of medicine; history of American popular culture, the history of women in science, and more. Her most recent book is "Girls Coming to Tech: A History of American Engineering Education for Women" (MIT Press, 2014). In 2014, Bix won the Betty Vetter Award for Research from WEPAN (the Women in Engineering ProActive Network), recognizing notable achievement in research related to women in engineering. She is currently writing her next book, which will explore the more recent history of women, gender, and engineering work.


Weston Smith


April 11th, 2017 at 8PM in Watkins Auditorium


probity Weston Smith

Weston Smith began his career as a CPA with Ernst & Young, specializing in audit and healthcare consulting. He was hired by Healthsouth Corporation during it's infancy, and ultimately became CFO of the company with over 2,000 locations in all 50 states and five countries. However, underneath the persona of success, Mr. Smith was a participant in a financial statement fraud that ran for over 15 years, with an earnings overstatement of over Three Billion dollars. Weston eventually voluntarily exposed the fraud, and accepted the consequences of his former actions.


Today, in addition to working as an accountant for small businesses, Mr. Smith is a lecturer and trainer with an emphasis on fraud prevention and ethical conduct. He has been published in Issues in Accounting Education, and has spoken for universities, corporations and professional groups across the country and internationally. He has also appeared on CNBC, Fox Business Network, and other media outlets.


Anita Lobel

Crossing Sven'€™s Bridge: a Tennessee Talk

April 20th at 7:30PM in the Paul Meek Library


Anita Lobel

Anita Lobel is an award-winning children's author and illustrator, and her books have appeared on The New York Times Best Illustrated List.


Born in Krakow, Poland, in 1934, Lobel's early life was marked by fear and danger. '€œFor five years, the only life I had known involved running, hiding and being hungry,'€ she said. She and her brother avoided Nazi capture until 1944, at which point they were found and sent to a series of concentration camps.


The Swedish Red Cross was able to rescue the children in 1945, and two years later they were reunited with their parents in Stockholm. Lobel attended school for the first time at the age of 12 and was drawn to the fine arts and literature.


After the family's move to New York City, Lobel developed a growing portfolio of student artwork, which later led to a scholarship to the Pratt Institute. The talents learned during her education have led to a successful career in the world of children's literature. She received a Caldecott Honor Medal for her book '€œOn Market Street,' and her personal memoir, '€œNo Pretty Pictures,' was a finalist for the National Book Award.


'€œI have arrived at this moment in my life, somewhat stunned, still in one piece; still at work,' she said.


Tim Henderson

Owning Our Stories -- The Public Importance of 'Culture'

April 27th at 5:30PM in Watkins Auditorium


Tim Henderson

Tim Henderson is the executive director of Humanities Tennessee, a statewide nonprofit organization that supports humanities-based, community-oriented public programs and is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Before being hired as Executive Director in 2012, Tim had worked there as Director of Operations and Digital Programs since 1998. A native Tennessean, he received a B.A. in English and Philosophy from Union University, an M.A. in English Literature from Middle Tennessee State University and an M.S. in Information Science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In his varied studies, Tim worked on projects in the fields of automated business systems analysis and design as well as information retrieval theory and technique, taught undergraduate writing courses, and concentrated on modernist British and American literature. After finishing his degree in Information Science, he joined the staff of Humanities Tennessee and has been there since.

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