Sept. 2, 2010

Fall lectures lineup runs from hilarious to sobering

by Anne Krapfl

Environmentalists, journalists and funny people are among those who will visit campus this fall as part of the university lectures lineup. Lectures program events typically are held in one of the Memorial Union's main floor ballrooms, and are open to the public at no charge. The lectures program works with a wide range of university offices, departments and organizations to fund and host these events.

The entire lectures schedule is online and receives frequent updates. Here are a few highlights from this fall:

A funny September

The Sklar Brothers (11 p.m. Sept. 10, Great Hall, MU) and Reggie Watts (8 p.m., Sept. 18, Stephens) bring their comedy shows to Iowa State this month. Twins Jason and Randy Sklar are veterans of cable networks (ESPN's SportsCenter, Comedy Central Presents, HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm), network programs (Grey's Anatomy, Becker, and Conan O'Brien and Craig Kilborn's shows), radio (guest hosting on Jim Rome's sports talk show) and stand-up comedy.

Free-form comedian/musician Reggie Watts, who recently toured with O'Brien, is Iowa State's annual fall comedy opener and the closing event of Engineers' Week on campus. His material ranges from the history of Google and the Internet to absurd monologues performed in various accents and voices. He creates music on the spot using only his voice and a looping machine.

Journalists speak up

CNN TV correspondent and business roundtable host and Iowa State alumna Christine Romans (1993, journalism) returns to campus for the second time in two years, this time to deliver a seminar in the "Technology, Globalization and Culture" series in the College of Engineering (6 p.m., Oct. 6, Howe auditorium). Romans has a new book this fall, Smart is the New Rich: If You Can't Afford It, Put It Down. Her talk will focus on the "new normal" in consumer values.

Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot, who received the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his column "Potomac Watch," will talk about the future of opinion journalism Sept. 21 (8 p.m., Stephens). Gigot is a frequent guest on television programs such as Meet the Press, and for eight years was Mark Shields' weekly partner on PBS's NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.

An opinion journalist of another kind, cartoon strip creator Nicole Hollander will recall 30 years of what she calls "graphic misbehavior" during her Sept. 9 talk (8 p.m., Sun Room, MU). Hollander's syndicated cartoon strip, Sylvia, appears in more than 80 newspapers. She also has published two books (Female Problems and My Cat's Not Fat, He's Just Big Boned), and a collection of essays, Tales of Graceful Aging from the Planet Denial.

Sustainability series

The lectures program and the university's Live Green initiative will co-sponsor four lectures this fall. Biofuels Digest editor and publisher Jim Lane will give an update on biofuels Sept. 23 (7 p.m., Benton Auditorium, Scheman). Lane also is chairman of the American Biofuels Council.

Michael Nelson and Kathleen Dean Moore, editors of a new book, Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, will lead a town meeting on the same topic Sept. 29 (7 p.m., Sun Room, MU). Moore is on the philosophy faculty at Oregon State University and has written or edited nine other books. Nelson has coauthored or edited three other books in the area of environmental philosophy and is a faculty member at Michigan State University.

Author, former New Yorker magazine staff writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben will talk about sustaining life on a "tough new planet," the topic of his latest book, published in April. His talk is Oct. 14 (8 p.m., Great Hall, MU). McKibben's campaign is organizing an international day of climate action for Oct. 24.

And Bette Otto-Bliesner of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, uses computer-based models to investigate and report on climate variability over the last million years. She will talk about what could happen with climate change during her Oct. 21 lecture (8 p.m., Sun Room, MU). Otto-Bliesner was a lead author for the intergovernmental report on climate change that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore.

Here are a few others you might enter in your personal calendar:

  • Literary journalist and travel writer Pico Iyer will give a Sept. 16 (8 p.m., Great Hall, MU) talk titled "Global Souls: Citizens in the Future Tense." Iyer's most recent book (2008) is the bestseller, The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, based in part on conversations with the Buddhist monk spanning 33 years.
  • Jeff Ma, a member of the mid-1990s MIT blackjack team expertly trained in card counting, was the basis for the main character in the 2002 book, Bringing Down the House, and the 2008 film, 21. His sports media company, Citizen Sports, uses numbers and metrics to help businesses build their brand and retain customers. Ma's talk, "Playing the Odds to Win Big in Business," is Nov. 3 (8 p.m., Great Hall, MU).
  • Anne Mulcahy, former CEO (2001-09) of the Xerox Corp., is board chair of Save the Children, a humanitarian organization working to improve children's lives around the world. Mulcahy's Nov. 17 (7:30 p.m., Sun Room, MU) leadership talk will focus on how leaders develop followers and her belief that successful leaders are authentic.