Resources for:

    Lecture Series

    Lecture Series

    2014-2015 College of Letters and Sciences Contemporary Issues Lecture Series


    FALL 2014

    Adam Braun
    "The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change"
    Monday, October 6, 2014
    7 p.m. Young Auditorium
    Adam Braun ( is a New York Times bestselling author and the Founder of Pencils of Promise, an award-winning organization that has broken ground on more than 200 schools around the world. In recent years he has been named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 List, Wired Magazine's "50 People Who Are Changing the World," and was selected as one of the World Economic Forum's first ten Global Shapers. He has also been a featured speaker at The White House, Google Zeitgeist and Clinton Global Initiative.


    Katie Spotz
    "Global Thirst: The Fight for Clean Drinking Water Around The World"

    Monday, November 10, 2014
    7 p.m. Young Auditorium
    In 2010, Katie Spotz ( set a world record for her 70-day row across the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for providing access to clean drinking. She raised more than $150,000 for safe water projects in Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Kenya. Subsequently, she started "Schools for Water" to challenge ten American schools to help ten schools in Kenya. She is also an ambassador for H2O for Life a nonprofit organization that supports schools-based water projects in the developing world and was honored in 2010 by Glamour Magazine as one of their "Women of the Year".

    Luis Urrea
    College of Letters and Sciences Campus & Community Read "Into the Beautiful North"
    Monday, December 1, 2014
    7 p.m. Young Auditorium
    Luis Alberto Urrea (, 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, is an acclaimed author who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph. A national best-seller, Into the Beautiful North, earned a citation of excellence from the American Library Association Rainbow's Project and has been selected by many cities and colleges for One Book community read programs. Urrea taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard and is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.


    SPRING 2015

    Mireya Mayor
    "The Importance of Everything: The Interconnectedness of Wildlife, Humankind, and Our Shared Habitat in Protecting the Planet"
    February 16, 2015

    7 p.m. Young Auditorium

    Mireya Mayor ( is a Fulbright scholar and National Science Foundation Fellow who divides her time between research in Madagascar and appearing as a correspondent on the National Geographic Ultimate Explorer television series. Mayor studies rare primates in the wild throughout the world and works closely with local populations on species conservation. In 2000, her work led to the discovery of a new species of mouse lemur in Madagascar and subsequently, the declaration of its habitat as a national park and the establishment of a $50 million conservation trust fund.


    Adisa Banjoko
    "Promoting Youth Empowerment and Non-Violence through Hip Hop, Chess and Martial Arts"
    Monday, March 9, 2015
    7 p.m. Young Auditorium

    Adisa Banjoko ( is an activist and educator who founded the Hip-Hop Chess Federation, a non-profit organization reaching 50,000 youths across the country annually that combines music, chess and martial arts to help young people promote nonviolence in their communities. Before creating Hip-Hop Chess Federation, Banjoko was a pioneer Hip-Hop journalist and an author of two books, Lyrical Swords Vol. 1 and 2. The Federation has been featured on Good Morning America, and in Rolling Stone, Forbes, and Black Enterprise.


    Ellen Gustafson
    "A New Understanding of Hunger, Obesity and the Food System"
    Monday, April 20, 2015

    7 p.m. Young Auditorium

    Ellen Gustafson ( is a sustainable food system activist, author, innovator and social entrepreneur. Her first book, We the Eaters: If We Change Dinner, We Can Change the World, was published in May 2014. She is the Co-Founder of Food Tank: the Food Think Tank. Before the launch of Food Tank, she founded the 30 Project, a campaign that has helped to change the conversation about the global food system by connecting hunger and obesity. She is also the creator of the Change Dinner campaign and HealthClass2.0, which are helping individuals change the food system at dinner tables and in schools. Gustafson was also a US Spokesperson for the UN World Food Program.

    All events are free and open to the public. Contact Susan Johnson ( for further information.  For a full pdf of the events, please click here.


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