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Rhett Talks Series Begins Tonight

15-minute lectures on just about anything (interesting)


The BU faculty includes Nobel Prize winners, poet laureates, and MacArthur Foundation genius award winners, as well as hundreds of captivating speakers on topics from ancient Maya texts to the likelihood of intelligent life in outer space. In an effort to share this wealth of knowledge, the University is launching Rhett Talks, a monthlong series of supershort lectures, modeled on the TEDxTalks, starting tonight at 7 p.m. in the Rich Hall Cinema Room.

Rhett Talks organizer Daryl Healea (STH’01, SED’10), Residence Life associate director for student and staff development and coordinator of the Faculty-in-Residence program, says each lecture will feature three faculty members who will each make a 10-to-15 minute presentation. Food and drinks will be served and a question-and-answer period will follow.

Tonight’s lineup features Virginia Sapiro, dean of Arts & Sciences and a professor of political science, Lawford Anderson, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of earth and environment, and Thomas Cottle, a School of Education professor of education. The program is sponsored by the Faculty-in-Residence Program, with assistance from the Dean of Students Office and Residence Life.

Among future presentations are the legacy of Steve Jobs, delivered by Tyrone Porter, a College of Engineering associate professor of mechanical engineering and of biomedical engineering; the myth of the Freshman 15, by Joan Salge-Blake (SAR’84), a Sargent College clinical associate professor of health sciences; and how the United States became mired in the Middle East, led by Andrew Bacevich, a CAS professor of international relations.

The Rhett Talks series was inspired last January by a challenge from Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore and University Provost Jean Morrison to improve the University’s intellectual climate, Healea says. He surveyed 280 RAs, asking about their favorite and most dynamic teachers, and then added to that list recent winners of the Metcalf Award, the University’s highest teaching award. He and Elmore (SED’87) selected the speakers and left it up to them to come up with a topic, with the only directive that their talk should be “provocative and interesting.”

Sapiro’s talk is titled So you think you treat people as individuals, not as categories or stereotypes, eh? She will draw from her research interest in social and political cognition. She hopes her message will offer some “crucial lessons for people who are about to expand their network of social contacts and interactions and experiences as dramatically as happens in college.”

The talk is “about how it is not possible for us to function in society by seeing people completely as individuals and not through categories or stereotypes,” Sapiro says. “The question is how to manage our own perceptions to be open to learning about the world and other people and to engage in ethical, respectful, and constructive human interactions.”

Anderson, who studies the evolution of the Earth’s crust, hopes his talk opens students to the idea that there are interesting and rewarding jobs to be had in energy, in areas ranging from education to law, engineering to technology. “I tell the English majors in my classes to write their next novel about life amongst the wind farms, and they will have a following,” he says. “I’m not trying to convert students into scientists or engineers, but we need people making educated decisions no matter what they become. And areas like green energy, including wind and solar, geothermal, biomass, fuel cells, and tidal, are growing.”

In his talk, Witness to the Story, Cottle will address the necessity that our stories have witnesses—people who confirm the narratives, and in ethical terms, discover that they have taken responsibility for us. As we tell the stories of our lives, we need someone to hear them—a teacher, a mother, a father, a friend, Cottle says. Through this telling, both listener and storyteller evolve and are transformed.

“Social media in a way is an abbreviated version of this,” he says. “People have to constantly be in touch, send a tweet. It’s a mini-version of what I’m talking about; we are social beings, we are relationships.”

“We have very talented and dedicated faculty, and we are excited by the presenters and their topics,” Healea says. “This series will be the staging ground for relationships with students and faculty. It’s all about helping students interact with faculty so that they can grow as individuals.”

The Rhett Talks series begins tonight, September 9, and continues September 17, 24, and 30. Tonight’s lecture will be held in the Rich Hall Cinema Room, 277 Babcock St., at 7 p.m. Find the other dates and locations here. All lectures are free and open to the public.

Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

7 Comments on Rhett Talks Series Begins Tonight

  • Karen on 09.09.2013 at 8:21 am

    It would be great to have the talks available online in video and/or audio format for those who aren’t able to make it at the times they’re given.

  • Zvi Bodie on 09.09.2013 at 8:22 am

    Will video recordings of these talks be posted at BU’s Youtube website?

  • Amy M Laskowski on 09.09.2013 at 9:39 am

    Hi Zvi and Karen,
    I’m working on finding out if there are any plans to record the lectures, and I’ll post here as soon as I find out.

  • Amy M Laskowski on 09.09.2013 at 9:45 am

    I heard the plan is to film each talk, but this is pending each individual presenter’s approval. Videos will be posted to the Rhett Talks website (http://www.bu.edu/Rhett-talks) via BUniverse.

  • Jill on 09.09.2013 at 12:37 pm

    Another vote for making these available online! Sounds like a great series.

  • Jasmine on 09.09.2013 at 6:21 pm

    Will the revolution be televised?

    I’m studying abroad in Paris and I’d like to watch these talks from here!

  • Residence Life/Residential Education on 09.30.2013 at 3:00 pm

    Videos from the first 3 Rhett Talks events have been posted to http://www.bu.edu/Rhett-Talks Videos for the 4th Rhett Talk (September 30th) will be posted there as soon as the final productin and edits are made. Enjoy!

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