Jan. 6, 2011

History, literature, comedy, politics, the environment have their days in spring lectures lineup

by Anne Krapfl

The linguist who created the alien language in Avatar, the CEO who markets Fat Tire beer and a pair of insiders from past Israel-Palestine peace talks are among those who will visit campus this semester for public lectures. Their talks are part of the university's Lectures Program lineup. Events in this series are free of charge and typically begin at 8 p.m. in a Memorial Union ballroom, unless noted.

The schedule receives regular updates during the semester and can be checked online at www.lectures.iastate.edu. Here are a few dates you might want to consider for your calendar:

Inventing the Na'vi language

Thursday, Feb. 3, MU Great Hall: Linguist Paul Frommer, by day a professor of clinical management communication in the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business, was hired to create the language spoken by the inhabitants of the fictional moon Pandora in James Cameron's 2009 blockbuster Avatar. He also created the Martian language for the Disney film, John Carter of Mars, shot in 2010 and scheduled for release in summer 2012. He will talk about the process of developing a new language.

Seeking life on Mars

Thursday, Feb. 10, MU Great Hall: The University of Arizona's Peter Smith was the principal investigator for the $420 million Phoenix Mars Mission (May-October 2008), part of NASA's search for life in our solar system. Smith participated in other NASA space missions. For example, in 1997, it was Smith's camera on NASA's Sojourner Rover that captured images of Mars relayed back to Earth. He currently is a senior research scientist at Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. He will talk about the search for life on Mars.

Sitting in at Woolworth's

Tuesday, Feb. 15, MU Sun Room: Joseph McNeil, one of the "Greensboro Four," will share that group's story. On Feb. 1, 1960, four black freshmen at North Carolina A&T State University, frustrated with segregation in the South, sat down at the "whites only" lunch counter in the Greensboro Woolworth's and asked to be served. They were refused. They promised to return every day until they were served -- and they did. The movement spread to lunch counters in 54 cities until on July 25, 1960, the Woolworth company agreed to integrate its lunch counters.

Analyzing options for Palestine and Israel

Wednesday, Feb. 16, MU Great Hall: Two lawyers who worked for their states' prime ministers will analyze current approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and offer insights on possible actions the parties may take during the coming year. Israeli Gilead Sher was chief of staff and policy coordinator for former Israel prime minister Ehud Barak, and co-chief negotiator for the Camp David summit in July 2000 and the subsequent Taba summit in January 2001. Sher co-chairs Blue White Future, a nonpartisan movement to promote the two-state-for-two-people solution.

Palestinian Ghaith al-Omari led the international relations department in the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (2005-07). al-Omari was a legal and policy adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team before and during the Camp David and Taba summits. He serves as advocacy director at the American Task Force on Palestine in Washington, D.C.

Former Ames resident and state senator (1973-82) John Murray will moderate their discussion. Since 2002, Murray has served as external adviser to the Negotiations Support Unit, an international organization of legal and policy experts that assists the Palestinian Liberation Organization with issues related to a permanent status for Israel and Palestine.

Sustainability symposium

Evening lectures on Feb. 21 and 22 are scheduled in conjunction with the university's third annual symposium on sustainability. The lectures are open to the public.

Creating 'green' ports

Monday, Feb. 21, MU Great Hall: Jerome Ringo is a senior executive with Green Port, a private company that focuses on establishing sustainable "green" ports around the world. He has had a lengthy career in top environmental organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation and the Apollo Alliance. For the first 20-plus years of his career, Ringo worked in Louisiana's petrochemical industry, where he observed the impact of pollution on the local communities, primarily poor and minority. He will talk about diverse participation in the environmental movement.

Brewing Fat Tire beer

Tuesday, Feb. 22, MU Sun Room: Kim Jordan is CEO and, with her husband, co-founder of Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing, the country's third-largest craft brewer well known for its Fat Tire beer label. New Belgium also is recognized for its environmental commitment and progressive business practices, which include diverting 99 percent of brewery waste from the landfill and producing electricity from solar and wind power as well as methane harvested from its wastewater treatment plant. She will talk about business innovation and the environment.

Telling Atanasoff's story

Thursday, March 3, MU Sun Room: Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former English department faculty member (1981-97) Jane Smiley returns to campus to talk about her latest book, The Man Who Invented the Computer, published last year. It's a biography of John Atanasoff, the Iowa State physics professor credited with inventing the first digital electronic computer in the late 1930s. Smiley received the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for A Thousand Acres. She was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001.

Talking politics and leadership

Thursday, March 31 (7:30 p.m.), MU Sun Room: Public television's Gwen Ifill is moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent for The PBS Newshour. She covered six presidential campaigns and moderated the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008. Before joining PBS, she was a political correspondent for NBC News and covered the White House and politics for The New York Times. She is the Catt Center's spring 2011 Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics, and will talk about leadership and politics.

DIY projects á la Amy Sedaris

Monday, April 11, MU Great Hall: Actress and comedienne Amy Sedaris will stop on campus as part of a book tour. Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People has been in stores since November. The comic look at do-it-yourself projects is intended to help fans through dire economic times. Sedaris perhaps is best known for her role as Jerri Blank in Comedy Central's cult hit Strangers with Candy, of which she was a co-writer.