Wright State University’s Presidential Lecture Series began in 2005 with a lecture given by award-winning journalist and civil rights activist Roger Wilkins.
The series has continued every year since, with lectures given by such luminaries as Dr. Oliver Sacks, poet Maya Angelou, actor Danny Glover and writer and activist Angela Davis. The upcoming January 31 lecture will be given by journalist author Charlayne Hunter-Gault.
The Presidential Lecture series was the brainchild of former University President Kim Goldenberg. Its purpose is to advance human justice and promote the university’s commitment to creating a diverse community and learning environment.
Lectures are co-hosted by various departments in the university. For instance, the Office of Disability Services hosted a lecture by Richard Pimentel, an expert on the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) and the key author of the highly acclaimed and widely used Windmills program, designed to change the attitudes and behavior of supervisors who hire and promote employees with disabilities.
“It’s difficult in an academic community to continually get new and innovative information on a variety of topics,” says Jeffrey Vernooy, director of the Office of Disability Services.
“So the Presidential Lecture Series provides us with that information and brings nationally and internationally known figures to our campus.”
The Presidential Lecture Series benefits more than just the academic community on campus. Valita Wilhoite, assistant director of student activities and past host of one of the lectures, says that one of the best things about the Presidential Lecture Series is that the university has generously stepped forward to make these lectures free and open to the public. Anyone may attend the lectures, and the events always draw a crowd.
Once a year, a Presidential Lecture Series speaker appears in conjunction with the University’s Honors Institute Symposium. The Honors institute is a multi-track learning experience that includes a provocative community event. The Symposium is that community event, beginning with a keynote address that doubles as a Presidential Lecture, which is open to the public.
The symposium requires advance registration, and includes breakout sessions in the morning and afternoon and a luncheon address by a second speaker. The Symposium speaker this year is Wright State alumna and creative entrepreneur Monaqui Porter.
The theme of the 2011 Honors Institute is “Intersections of Memory.” Past institutes have been built around themes such as “China,” “Sustainability and the Environment” and “Poverty and Society.”
The Honors Institute began in 2006, with the theme “The Brain.” The Honors Institute and the Presidential Lecture Series came together to provide students with a varied, interdisciplinary learning experience, says Susan Carrafiello, director of the honors program.
UH 400 classes and the associated service-learning projects provide classroom and community service elements to students participating in the Honors Institute, while the Symposium and Presidential Lecture Series is a valuable experience in a conference-type setting.
“These speakers interact one-on-one with our students and provide them invaluable insights on the annual theme and unforgettable memories of the event,” says Carrafiello.
“The wonderful collaboration between the Presidential Lecture Series and the Honors Institute has been a tremendous benefit to WSU students and the larger community.”