What is the point of this seminar series?
From a pragmatic view, the purpose is to aid us in the design of an undergraduate course that aims to bridge the science and arts disciplines. In this respect, we thought that examining the various global issues that humanity faces today would enable us to both thematically focus the material, as well as provide an excellent avenue for students to see the merits and pitfalls of interdisciplinary thought.
From an idealistic view, we feel that there is a lot of value in bringing in individuals, who are not only experts in their chosen field (where the chosen field has wide ranging effects on all of humanity), but are also individuals who have the ability to inspire action and/or critical thinking through their educational message.
Sounds ambitious. How are you going to do this?
It is ambitious, but the intentions are no less pertinent or benevolent. We have been gratifyingly surprised by the amazing support we’ve had from various (primarily campus) groups that represent different disciplines, different parts of the community, different agendas even. This support is crucial as it allows us to create a network that not only provides an expertise “web”, but also a mechanism that increases our chances of securing prominent speakers. By the word “mechanism” we also elude to logistics such as budget, venue, and promotion. The project seems to be generating some wonderful steam, and really, this is simply because it is collaborative in nature.
On our end, we are currently composed of a core team consisting of two Faculty members and five undergraduate/graduate students who are enthused to get this thing to work. If you can believe it, we actually had just over 200 students apply for these positions, so the interest in such an initiative is certainly evident. More importantly, we see no reason why the same enthusiasm and attention level shouldn’t be translated to the seminars themselves.
And what exactly are the speakers going to do?
In short the speakers will do what they do best – engage their audience in a manner they are comfortable with. We’re really quite flexible and open to challenges of various presentation styles. On our end, we would make sure that we accommodate as many students as possible for each talk (for instance, we use the UBC Chan Centre, a beautiful venue on campus that can seat up to 1300 individuals if need be). We would also try our best to act as gracious hosts so that movement within the UBC environment can reflect purpose (i.e. should the speaker have certain people they would like to meet), or at the very least make the experience as smooth and as enjoyable as possible.
Is that really all that the speakers need to do?
Well, yes and no. It depends on how amenable the speakers are to our requests. For instance, we would relish an opportunity for a smaller group of students to interact with these individuals, perhaps a more intimate Q and A period, perhaps lunch, dinner, etc, where these lucky participants would later be asked to provide commentary on their experience, or compose an essay piece that touches upon the subject. We would love an opportunity to conduct an interview, possibly via email before the seminar itself. The option of audio and/or video taping the talk would also be great. Permission to reprint pertinent pieces by the speaker, requests to compose a Haiku, etc, etc. Anything really that can help us build a reference resource, that also condones a sense of tradition with the series as a whole.
In that respect, our own team will be busy preparing written content made available to our audience members, so that one can read essays that preview, support or review the talk. Here we should note that any and all material produced and collected would ultimately be housed in a website that will function as our literature and media repository. We have very high hopes for the website in that it will achieve a certain degree of online clout – the sort that can create a means of continued material submissions pertaining to our topic of global issues.
In the end, the web offering also nicely brings our project full circle in providing us an organized document where we can collect our thoughts in designing the syllabus for the Arts/Science course.
Anything else to add?
We should reiterate the reality that as an academic non-commercial venture, we do have to consider budget logistics . One of our mandates is to ensure that the seminar is free for the audience. Nevertheless, we hope that some interest has been piqued, and feel that we’re well on our way to make this inaugural year special. Please don’t hesitate to ask if there are any questions, and thanks for taking the time to read this.