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Preview/Review (Sept. 29 to Oct. 13)

Reviews and previews of some fun and informative U events and lectures occurring through Oct. 13

By Adam Overland

President Eric Kaler

September 27, 2011

University events and lectures preview/review is a periodic column (about every two weeks) highlighting events and lectures recently past and soon-to-come on the UMTC campus. Faculty and staff are invited to contribute. Review submissions should be no more than 500 words, previews 200 or fewer. Both are subject to review by the Brief editor.

President Kaler Inauguration, Sept. 22, Ted Mann.

There is perhaps no better way to inaugurate the first Preview/Review column for this academic year than by highlighting a few choice words from President Eric Kaler’s inaugural speech. It was a good one, to be sure, complete with standing ovations, raised eyebrow, and inspiration.

If Kaler had an overarching theme, it was this: We have work to do. Faculty, staff, students, alumni, business and legislative leaders, and citizens of Minnesota—everyone who cares about the prosperity of the state and the people of Minnesota, has work to do.

Kaler highlighted students: Ifrah Esse was one. She came to Minnesota from Somalia when she was 11. She could neither read nor write Somali, and didn’t know a word of English. She graduated from the U in 2008. She remembers being inspired by her professors to think in new ways. Three of her older siblings also graduated from the U, including a brother who recently graduated from our Medical School. A dozen years removed from a refugee camp, Ifrah says the U has become an Esse family tradition.

Kaler called out excellence at the coordinate campuses: Crookston, known for its applied research and online learning innovations; Rochester, with its joint programs using Mayo Clinic and IBM facilities; Morris, a unique public liberal arts college and model of sustainability; and Duluth, home to the nation’s only large lakes observatory.

Kaler also had messages for faculty and staff: reduce bureaucracy, focus on shared values, and pick up the pace.

“In every aspect of University operations, we need to question what we do. We need to know if it has the intended outcome, or if we could do it better, or not at all. There is a real cost to slowness, to long meetings, excessive committee deliberations, and endless email chains.”

To faculty, Kaler said this: Only you can ensure that the intellectual mission of this University is at the highest level. “Your work drives this University. But if your research is stale, if your classroom is boring, if your community engagement is ineffective, you must re-invent yourself. Or, frankly, step aside. As you expect me to deliver on my job, I expect you to deliver on yours.”

Kaler also emphasized that philanthropy will play an absolutely pivotal role in building on the foundation of public investment. He directly appealed to alumni around the world to give back, and in a surprise announcement, led by example: by establishing the Kaler Family Scholarship Fund to support four undergraduate students per year.

The U is the state’s only research university, and as such requires support. Kaler said that if the state does not invest in the U, if the U doesn’t’ attract and retain the best scientists, doesn’t recruit and support the best young investigators, we absolutely will not discover new things. “Instead, we will wither as a University. We will decline as a state,” he said.

Lastly, Kaler emphasized diversity and advocacy.

On diversity: “Any great team, organization, or University, must actively pursue diversity,” Kaler said. I can think of no community, no challenge, no classroom that is not enhanced by diversity. It sparks our creativity, and it enables a richer and, frankly, more interesting life.”

On advocacy: “Each of us must step up to the plate and advocate tirelessly for this great University. Everyday I walk into my office and ask myself, ‘What am I doing to increase the pride in this University system? What am I doing today to improve our communities? What am I doing to fulfill the University’s potential, its promise?’ I urge you to ask the same questions of yourself.”

“We have much work to do. Let’s go do it together.”

A video of the inauguration ceremony and the full text of President Kaler’s inaugural speech is online.

--Review by Adam Overland

Previews are the editor’s choice, selected for variety, uniqueness, oddness, impact, and whimsy. Submit your events to Events that feature U faculty and staff are preferred. Unless otherwise noted, all events are free.

CSE Public Lecture: Cleaner, Greener, Cheaper. Sept. 29, 7–9 p.m., 150 Tate Laboratory of Physics. fossil_fuel-small 300Registration is required. University of Minnesota alumnus and biotechnology industry leader Patrick Gruber will share his views on how to connect the ethanol industry's infrastructure and agricultural supply chain to the petrochemical industry’s infrastructure of existing refineries and pipelines. He will share his vision of how biorefineries deliver low carbon solutions, provide renewed economic prosperity to rural areas, and contribute to energy independence from fossil fuels.

Geography Coffee Hour: "Using Photography to Explore Domestic Space, Everyday Life and Culture: An Arts-based Approach," with the U’s Dona Schwartz. Sept. 30, 3:15–5 p.m., 445 Blegen Hall. Dona Schwartz 165Dona SchwartzDona Schwartz, associate professor in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication, was just named a finalist for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. She pays attention to details you and I might miss, and captures them in a flash with a large-format camera. And she has done so for decades, in numerous books that show us the ordinariness of our daily lives, and begging us to ask of ourselves, “Isn’t this extraordinary?” This coffee hour will no doubt be as stimulating as Schwartz’s imagery. For more on Schwartz, read the feature “Stopping time.”

Three Cups of Controversy. Oct. 1, 9–11 a.m., Continuing Education and Conference Center, St. Paul. Cost: $50. In this, the first of a new series of Saturday morning seminars from the College of Continuing Education's LearningLife program, grab a cup of coffee and grapple with the allegations of fabrication and financial impropriety swirling around Three Cups of Tea, a book by Minnesota native Greg Mortenson that has sold a staggering 4 million copies. Required reading for U.S. service personnel bound for Afghanistan as well as incoming freshmen on college campuses nationwide, it has proven equally popular with members of the Pentagon as with neighborhood book clubs.

Join instructor Sharon Schmickle and Regents Professor Madelon Sprengnether as they engage in a lively discussion of the controversy surrounding Three Cups of Tea. Do memoir writers share the same responsibilities to truth and objectivity as historians and journalists? Are these accusations "an unjustified attack," as the author claims and do they miss the more basic truths of his inspirational book? Are misdeeds ever justified when done in support of noble goals? Tuition includes refreshments.

Sharon Louden Public Lecture. Oct. 3, 12:15–1:15 a.m., Regis Center for Art. New York-based artist Sharon Louden has been commissioned to create an installation for the re-opening of the Weisman Art Museum. While here, Louden will give a public lecture and visit the studios of the four student assistants who worked with her on the installation: a work including more than 225,000 pieces of aluminum strips installed in a 2,000-square-foot space with 21 foot ceilings. That promises to be something to see.

2011 Silha Lecture: Mark Stephens, attorney for Julian Assange. Oct. 4, 7–9 p.m., Coffman Union. The The Times of London called him “one of the best advocates for freedom of expression.” In one of the most controversial examples thereof, Stephens has represented WikiLeaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange since 2010. Stephens is the head of the International and Media department at the London-based law firm Finers Stephens Innocent. He has argued many high profile cases in Great Britain since the 1980s.

IonE Frontiers in the Environment Wednesday lectures: “Wind & Solar on the Power Grid: Emergence of Mainstream Renewable Electricity.” Oct. 5, noon–1 p.m. R380 IonE seminar room, VoTech Bldg., St. Paul campus or via UMConnect. Electric power systems are working to integrate wind and solar as full-fledged power plants. With projections of huge growth, concerns about the variability and uncertainty of wind and solar energy are being addressed with new proposals from the power grid operators. Some new approaches are very promising, others are shortsighted, and the choices will impact the future size and success of renewable electricity in North America. Mark Ahlstrom, chief executive officer of Windlogics, will discuss some surprisingly dynamic and exciting developments for integrating large amounts of wind and solar energy.

The Institute on the Environment’s weekly Wednesday lecture series’ upcoming lectures include “Entrepreneurship and Environment…,” “Helping Forests Thrive…,” “Harnessing Sustainability and the Green Economy…,” and more.

John Beardsley Lecture, Oct. 6, 5:30–8:30 p.m., Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey Center. Cost: $25 students; $50 others. In this wide-ranging, future-oriented lecture, Michael Chorost will share through his own remarkable experience (cochlear implants rescued him from deafness in 2001) and his vision for how technology will change human communications in unimagined, revolutionary ways.

Cochlear implants taught Chorost how profoundly the human body can be changed by electronics, and led him to write two books, Rebuilt and World Wide Mind. He’ll discuss how existing technologies such as Twitter and functional magnetic resonance imaging presage new forms of communication akin to telepathy. Then he’ll discuss the truly radical possibilities offered by new technologies such as optogenetics. Technology alone, however, is never enough for genuine communication: he’ll talk about how important it is to remain connected to the human body and our fellow human beings.

Fall Art Tour. Oct. 8, 1–5 p.m., Katherine E. Nash Gallery, Regis Center for Art. Free buses will shuttle you around between ten local college and university art galleries, in this the eighth annual Fall Art Tour. The curators and gallery directors from the College Art Gallery Collaborative invite you to this year's free “neighborhood” gallery crawl including exhibition receptions, refreshments, music, and more. Participating galleries include those of Augsburg, Bethel, the College of Visual Arts, Concordia, Hamline, Macalester, Northwestern, St. Catherine, and St. Thomas.

CEHD Reads Panel Discussion: Engaging Diverse Communities Through Sport. Oct. 10, 10:10 a.m.–noon. McNamara Alumni Center. The Department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning and the College of Education and Human Development are building a year of education and events around the shared question: Can one person make a difference?

As part of this process, the college community is joining first-year students in reading Outcasts United, by Warren St. John. In the book, St. John expands a story that began as a 2007 New York Times article about the Fugees, a soccer program for boys from families of refugees from war-torn nations who were resettled in Clarkston, Georgia.

Participants will include: Na'im Madyun, moderator (U assistant professor in psychology); Susie Miller (U kinesiology faculty member, founder of adaptive hockey league); Jo Ann Buysse (lecturer in sport sociology in Kinesiology); Janice Hilliard (National Basketball Association vice president, Player Development, Community and Player Programs); and Peter Yang (sports coordinator for several years for the Lao Family Foundation).

Ada Comstock Distinguished Women Scholars Lecture and Award: “Uncovering the Past, Charting the Future: the Rise of Women in Science,” featuring U professor Sally Gregory Kolhstedt. Oct. 12, 4–6 p.m., Cowles Auditorium, Humphrey Center. Studying the history of science combines Sally Gregory Kohlstedt’s long-standing interest in science and math with her fascination for the detective work of uncovering the past. In this lecture, she will pose questions that persist about what women’s engagement in science over the past century has meant and what it signals about the future. Why are there unexplained differences in participation rates among the sciences and engineering fields? Has feminism in any way changed science and science practice? Historical experiences provide some tantalizing clues.

"My Letter to the World: Narrating Human Rights." Oct. 10, with events throughout the day, Coffman Union Theater. This daylong series of talks and panel discussions on the personal narrative voice and human rights features three Regents Professors: Patricia Hampl (English), Kathryn Sikkink (Political Science), and Elaine Tyler May (American Studies). CLA Winton Chair and novelist Nuruddin Farah is also a panelist. Others include prominent critics and writers in the field from Kingston University and the John Smith Memorial Trust, both in London.

The day finishes off with the evening speaker, Philip Gourevitch, presented through the Esther Freier Endowed Lectures in Literature. Gourevitch won a National Book Critics Circle Award for his stunning book about the Rwandan Genocide, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families. His latest book is The Ballad of Abu Ghraib, written in collaboration with filmmaker Errol Morris.

What Do We Think the Book is Now? 2000 Students Weigh In: A presentation by Catherine Prendergast. Bigbook 165Oct. 13, 4–5 p.m. 125 Nolte. The book will probably never be dead, but perhaps, like matter, only change form. How it is doing so in higher education is the subject of this talk. Part of the Institute for Advanced Studies recurring “Thursdays at Four” series, this lecture reports on more than 2000 surveys of students assigned an e-textbook in a major university first-year composition course that previously had assigned a print textbook. The surveys, given to students during two critical years of exponential growth in digital publishing, testify to changing notions of authorship, ownership, the experience of reading, and the definition of the book itself. Although it is indisputable that we are now—and will be for the foreseeable future—reading increasingly from digital sources, what is less clear is how we adapt to the shift away from interactions with the familiar and durable media of paper and print. Catherine Prendergast is professor of English and director of Undergraduate Rhetoric Programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Find more Twin Cities events using the U's events calendar.