Spring 2016 Speaker Biographies
Chris Impey is University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy at University of Arizona, and the author of New York Times Editor’s Choice Book, Beyond: Our Future in Space (W.W. Norton 2015), as well as Humble before the Void (Templeton 2014), Dreams of Other Worlds: The Amazing Story of Unmanned Space Exploration (with Holly Henry, Princeton 2013) and many other popular books and textbooks, including How it Ends: From You to the Universe (W.W. Norton 2011), Frontiers of Astrobiology (co-edited with Jonathan Lunine and José Funes, Cambridge 2012), How It Began: A Time-Traveler’s Guide to the Universe (W.W. Norton 2013), Encountering Life in the Universe: Ethical Foundations and Social Implications of Astrobiology (co-edited with Anna H. Spitz and William Stoeger), and The Living Cosmos: Our Search for Life in the Universe (Cambridge 2007, updated edition 2013).
The New York Times Sunday Book Review called Beyond “an expansive and enlightening overview of space travel’s past, present and possible future,” adding that “Impey is not only a skilled scientist who studies active galactic nuclei, he’s also an adept and prolific communicator, who packs his prose with wonderful anecdotes and weird factoids. In particular, Impey knows the value of strong characters in storytelling,” no surprise for someone who has also recently published his first novel, Shadow World, through Amazon Kindle. Moreover, the Chicago Tribune wrote that Beyond “invites readers to renew their sense of wonder” and is “inspired equally by science fiction and academic rigor, but all of it is grounded in existing theory and technology. Whether describing a 3-D-printed moon base, futuristic spaceships propelled with resplendent solar sails or the cry of the first baby born off Earth, Impey takes the reader along on a journey to the limits of humanity's wildest dreams, and beyond.”
Impey’s previous book, Humble before the Void: A Western Astronomer, his Journey East, and a Remarkable Encounter Between Western Science and Tibetan Buddhism, featuring a foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, tells the fascinating intercultural and science-meets-religion tale of how Impey (with his son along for the experience) traveled to Dharamsala, India, to teach cosmology to Tibetan monks, as the astronomy faculty leader for the Science for Monks program.
Dr. Impey’s research interests in observational cosmology, gravitational lensing, and the evolution and structure of galaxies have been supported by $20 million in grants from NASA and the National Science Foundation, he has published 170 refereed scientific papers and 65 conference proceedings, and he has had 24 projects given time on astronomy's premier research facility, the Hubble Space Telescope. Impey is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and in 2014, Chris was appointed as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor with the award of $1 million for improving undergraduate education.
In addition to serving as Vice President of the American Astronomical Society, where he was on the Executive Council and the Astronomy Education Board,Impey has also been a National Science Foundation Distinguished Teaching Scholar, a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar, and the Carnegie Council on Teaching's Arizona Professor of the Year, and he was a co-chair of the Education and Public Outreach Study Group for the Astronomy Decadal Survey of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2009, he was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
As a professor, Chris Impey has taught astronomy to more 5,000 students and won 11 teaching awards at the University of Arizona. He has pioneered curriculum development in astrobiology, and was the principal investigator on a major four-year grant from the Templeton Foundation to explore issues at the interface of science and religion. He gives about a dozen public talks per year, and has been a Harlow Shapley Lecturer for the American Astronomical Society for 10 years. Working with planetary scientist Bill Hartmann, his two co-authored introductory textbooks have sold more than 100,000 copies. He is the creator of the Teach Astronomy website, which supports non-science majors, and he has taught parts of his classes in the 3-D virtual world Second Life. He has taught a free massive open online class (MOOC) through Udemy with over 8000 enrolled and has an Internet startup called The Web of Music. His web design and curriculum projects have been supported by both NASA and the National Science Foundation.
Cathy Cohen is the David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science and the College at the University of Chicago, where she is also the Deputy Provost for Graduate Education and the former Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. After earning her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1993, Cohen went on to teach at Yale University (1993-2000) before moving to the University of Chicago.
Specializing in American politics, with research interests that include African-American politics, women and politics, lesbian and gay politics, and social movements, Cathy Cohen is the author of Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford University Press 2010), The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics (University of Chicago Press 1999), and the co-editor of Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader (NYU Press 1997, with Kathleen Jones and Joan Tronto). Her articles have been published in numerous journals and edited volumes, including the American Political Science Review, NOMOS, GLQ, Social Text, and the DuBois Review, and she has contributed commentaries to a variety of media outlets such as The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. Cohen serves on a number of national and local advisory boards and is the co-editor (with Frederick Harris) of a book series at Oxford University Press entitled “Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities.”
A dynamic and influential scholar, Cohen has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Robert Wood Johnson Investigator’s Award, the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research Fellowship, and two major research grants from the Ford Foundation for her work as principal investigator of the Black Youth Project and the Mobilization, Change and Political and Civic Engagement Project. In 2014, Cohen received the Kessler Award, given annually by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (City University of New York) to a scholar who has had a significant influence on the field of LGBTQ Studies. In January 2015, Cohen was honored with the University of Chicago’s Inaugural Faculty Diversity Leadership Award.
In addition to her academic work, Cathy Cohen has always been politically active. She was a founding board member and former co-chair of the board of the Audre Lorde Project in NY. She was also on the board of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press as well as CLAGS at CUNY. Cohen was a founding member of Black AIDS Mobilization (BAM!) and one of the core organizers of two international conferences, “Black Nations / Queer Nations?” and “Race, Sex, Power.” Cohen has also served as an active member in organizations such as the Black Radical Congress, African American Women in Defense of Ourselves, and Ella’s Daughters. Currently, Cohen is a Board Member of the Arcus Foundation and a Governing Board member of the University of Chicago’s four charter schools. She is also the founder of a BlackYouthProject.com, a Website devoted to black youth culture and issues.
Michael Waltman is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he specializes in Interpersonal and Organizational Communicationand teaches course on Persuasion, Communication and Social Memory, Theories of Interpersonal Communication, and Hate Speech. Dr. Waltman has his degrees from the University of Arkansas, the University of Kentucky, and Purdue University, where he completed the Ph.D. in 1992.
Michael Waltman’s current research is focused on the social and political uses of hate speech and the essential features of anti-hate discourse, examining the diverse functions of hate speech in multiple contexts and addressing the ways that hate is used to pursue a variety of social and personal goals, including the promotion of hate crime, ethno-violence, and the maintenance of White privilege.
Dr. Waltman’s work has led in recent years to the publication of two major studies, The Communication of Hate(2011, with John Haas) and Hate on the Right: Right-Wing Political Groups and Hate Speech (2014). The Communication of Hate won the Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Titles from the Association for College & Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association, and the Franklyn S. Haiman Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Freedom of Expression.
In addition, Dr. Waltman is the author of dozens of articles and book chapters, has been an Academic Fellow funded by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, received awards for essays and articles, such as the best essay prize for “Deadly Humor: How Racist Cartoons Further the Ideology of Hate and Create a Symbolic Code for Ethnoviolence” from the Journal of Intergroup Relations, and has been featured in number of major media outlets, such as Wired and Time magazine. He has also done radio interviews and dedicated time to community workshops designed to teach tolerance and respect to children.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, columnist, and the #1 international bestselling author of the seminal books, The Shock Doctrine and No Logo. In her new book, This Changes Everything and in powerful new talks, she exposes the myths of the climate debate. It’s “the most momentous and contentious environmental book since Silent Spring” (New York Times). This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climatedebuted at #5 on the New York Times bestseller list, was named to multiple Best of 2014 lists, including the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2014, won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction, and is being translated into over 20 languages. Because of the clarity and power of the message of her book, Klein was invited by Pope Francis to participate in the Vatican’s recent conference on climate change, an experience that she discusses in her New Yorker Magazine article, “A Radical Vatican?”
Klein is also the author of the New York Times and #1 international bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, which is being published in 30 languages and has over a million copies in print. It appeared on multiple ‘best of year’ lists including as a New York Times Critics’ Pick of the Year. Rachel Maddow called The Shock Doctrine, “The only book of the last few years in American publishing that I would describe as a mandatory must-read.” Klein’s first book, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, was also an international bestseller, translated into over 25 languages with more than a million copies in print. The New York Times called it “a movement bible.” In 2011, TIME Magazine named it as one of the Top 100 non-fiction books published since 1923. A collection of her writing, Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate was published in 2002.
The Shock Doctrine was adapted into a short film and feature length documentary. Klein also wrote The Take, an award-winning documentary about Argentina’s occupied factories. She is a contributing editor for Harper’s and reporter for Rolling Stone, and writes a regular column for The Nation and The Guardian that is syndicated internationally by The New York Times Syndicate. In 2004, her reporting from Iraq for Harper’s won the James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. Additionally, her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Globe and Mail, El Pais, L’Espresso, and The New Statesman, among many other publications. Klein is a member of the board of directors for 350.org. She is a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute and a former Miliband Fellow at the London School of Economics. In 2014 she received the International Studies Association’s IPE Outstanding Activist-Scholar award.
Sponsored by the Office of the President, the Department of History, the Department of English and Theater, the Department of Languages, Cultures & Humanities, the Comparative Humanities Program, and the Honors Program.
Doug Brinkley is one of America’s leading and most prolific presidential, cultural and environmental historians, Professor of History and Fellow in the Baker Institute at Rice University, and the New York Times bestselling author of a wide variety of acclaimed books such as, most recently, Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America, as well as The American Heritage History of the United States, Cronkite, Rosa Parks: A Life, Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960, The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress, The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey Beyond the White House, The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey and more.
Rightful Heritage: FDR and the Land of America has already received great praise from many sources, including the Sunday, March 27 New York Times Book Review. Historian Robert Dallek (Boston U) writes that “Douglas Brinkley is America’s most distinguished student of our nation’s environmental history [and] Rightful Heritage is a landmark achievement… the most compelling study of FDR’s extraordinary role in perpetuating our natural treasures… a must read for anyone interested in the environment;’ and journalist Candice Millard (National Geographic) has said that “Rightful Heritage is an irresistibly powerful and beautiful tale of America’s fraught love affair with its land, told by one of our most gifted historians. Brinkley follows FDR on an astonishing journey that, despite war, depression, and political infighting, somehow preserved what is most precious to us.”
Brinkley received his B.A. from The Ohio State University and went on to complete his Ph.D. at Georgetown, before launching into his teaching and writing career, taking special interest in US history, foreign policy, environmental history and civil rights issues. Hailed by none other than Stephen Ambrose as “the best of the new generation of American historians,” Doug Brinkley has lived up to that promise: his books delve deep even as they touch upon a wide and significant cross-section of figures and events of American history, culture and political life. As a measure of his stature, Brinkley was recently chosen to preside over Allegheny College’s 2015 Prize for Civility in Public Life Awards for the selection of the most important moments of civility in US history (the winner: former Montgomery, AL, Police Chief Kevin Murphy taking off his badge and giving it to Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), as an act of contrition for the police department’s treatment of Lewis in 1961).
Praise for Brinkley’s books, which have been chosen as NYT Notable Books of the Year four times, and which have regularly gone on to become best-sellers, is easy to find, so only an example or two need to be cited here. Brinkley’s book about Theodore Roosevelt, Wilderness Warrior, won the National Outdoor Book Award (the most prestigious award of its type) in the History/Biography Category in 2009, being cited as “an impeccably researched and thoroughly engrossing work on the one figure in history who set aside more of America's outdoor heritage than any other.” The New York Times Book Review called it “a vast, inspiring, and enormously entertaining book… large-hearted, full of the vitality of its subject, and a palpable love of the landscapes it describes.” Of his biography of Walter Cronkite, long-time PBS News Hour anchor Robert MacNeil declared in the Washington Post, “For anyone interested in the evolution and power of broadcast news, this book is a tremendous read, minutely documenting TV journalism’s most remarkable phenomenon… As a junior competitor in the profession and later a casual friend of Cronkite’s, I thought I understood the dimensions of his legend — until I read this book… Brinkley’s book brings this man intimately to light, in all his petty maneuvers and all his grandeur. I gobbled up every page.”
In addition to being a prolific historian, Douglas Brinkley is an adventurous American spirit. While a professor at Hofstra University earlier in his career, he taught a six-week experimental class aboard a fully equipped sleeper bus, visiting thirty states and ten national parks. Students read twelve books by great American writers, saw Bob Dylan in Seattle, gambled at a Vegas casino, danced to Bourbon Street jazz in New Orleans, paid homage to Elvis Presley's Graceland and William Faulkner's Rowan Oak, rode the whitewater rapids on the Rio Grande, and even experienced a California earthquake. They visited Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Abraham Lincoln's Springfield, Harry Truman's Independence, and Theodore Roosevelt's North Dakota badlands, and they came away from the course with the unforgettable experience of meeting some of their cultural heroes, including William S. Burroughs and Ken Kesey, who took the gang for a spin in his psychedelic bus. As the AP summarized the book that Brinkley wrote about the course, “If you can’t tour the United States yourself, the next best thing is to go along with Douglas Brinkley aboard The Majic Bus.”
Lourdes Torres is Vincent de Paul Professor and Director of Latin American and Latino Studies at DePaul University, and Editor in chief of the journal, Latino Studies. She is the author of Puerto Rican Discourse:A Sociolinguistic Study of a New York Suburb (Indiana UP 1997), the co-editor of Tortilleras: Hispanic and Latina Lesbian Expression (Temple UP 2003) and Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism (Indiana UP 1991) and is currently working on queer Puerto Rican women’s narratives for a book tentatively titled, Boricuas Representing: Making the Invisible Visible.
Before taking up the mantle of the Latino Studies journal in 2012, Dr. Torres edited the special edition of the National Women’s Studies Association Journal on New Directions in Latina Sexualities Studies. Her essays have appeared in Meridians, MELUS (Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States), Centro Journal, and International Journal of Bilingualism. For many years she served as a board member for Amigas Latinas, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the Chicago based Latina lesbian, bisexual, transgender community.
Lourdes Torres was selected as the 2009-10 Women and Gender Research Initiative Faculty Fellow for her work documenting the history of Latina Lesbian organizing in the Midwest. The project traced the collective efforts of Latina lesbians to represent themselves and to create and occupy public spaces in Chicago from the 1980’s to the present. Her work describes the founding of Llena and Amigas Latinas, two organizations that attempted to bridge the "Latino" and "lesbian" social and political cultures in Chicago, and the organizations’ successful and unsuccessful efforts to negotiate divergent national and ethnic histories, class and linguistic differences, and the diverse political stances of their membership.
Dr. Torres' current project, Boricuas Representing: Making the Invisible Visible, explores representations of Puerto Rican lesbians on the island and stateside in both social science and humanities literature. She examines the construction of lesbians in psychological and sociological texts and juxtaposes this with the depiction of lesbians in a range of literary and filmic texts by Puerto Rican women. This is the first book length project that focuses on Puerto Rican queer women.
Finally, in addition to her ongoing interest in discourses about Latinos in America, Torres has been engaged in a long term project in the field of Spanish sociolinguistics that will offer a comparative analysis of the Spanish language use of some of the Latino communities in Chicago (Mexican, Puerto Rican and MexiRican). This study, a collaborative project with Dr. Kim Potowski (University of Illinois at Chicago), will offer insight into the evolution of Spanish dialects in a contact situation.
Agustín Fuentes is Professor and Chair of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. With a background in Zoology and Anthropology (PhD, University of California, Berkeley), his research delves into the how and why of being human, examining human evolution from several perspectives, and his research sheds light on some of the most common misconceptions about human nature, specifically in the areas of race, sex and aggression. From chasing monkeys in the jungles and cities of Asia, to exploring the lives of our evolutionary ancestors, to examining what people actually do across the globe, Dr. Fuentes has pursued both the big questions and the small details of what makes humans and our closest relatives tick.
Fuentes brings nearly two decades of training and research to bear in his recent book, Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature (University of California Press), described by one reviewer as a "myth-busting toolkit" and a "wonderful device" that not only informs but also "teach[es] readers how to think critically" about popular opinions and conventional wisdom. Fuentes' ongoing research foci include cooperation and bonding in human evolution, ethnoprimatology and multispecies anthropology, evolutionary theory, and public perceptions of, and interdisciplinary approaches to, human nature(s). This work had led to the publication of several other monographs and textbooks, such as Evolution of Human Behavior (Oxford), Biological Anthropology: Concepts and Connections (McGraw Hill), and Core Concepts in Biological Anthropology (McGraw Hill); as well as many collections and co-edited volumes, including Ancestral Landscapes in Human Evolution Culture, Childrearing and Social Wellbeing (Oxford), Ethics in the Field: Contemporary Challenges; Primates in Perspective (Berghahn Press); Monkeys on the Edge: ecology and management of long-tailed macaques and their interface with humans (Cambridge), Centralizing Fieldwork: Critical Perspectives from Primatology, Biological and Social Anthropology (Berghahn), Primates in Perspective (Oxford), Primates in Perspective (Oxford), Primates Face to Face: The Conservation Implications of Human and Nonhuman Primate Interconnections (Cambridge), and the forthcoming Conversations on Human Nature (with Aku Visala).
Recent examples of Fuentes’ numerous peer-reviewed articles include “Human Nature(s): Human Nature at the Crossroad of Conflicting Interests" (2015, Theology and Science), “Human evolution, niche complexity, and the emergence of a distinctively human imagination” (Time and Mind, 2014), “Hyper-cooperation is deep in our evolutionary history and individual perception of belief matters” (2014, Religion, Brain & Behavior), “Humans as Niche Constructors, as Primates, and with Primates: Synergies for Anthropology in the Anthropocene,” (2012, Cambridge Anthropology), “Naturecultural Encounters in Bali: Monkeys, Temples, Tourists, and Ethnoprimatology” (2010, Cultural Anthropology), and “The New Biological Anthropology: Bringing Washburn’s New Physical Anthropology into 2010 and beyond” (2010, Yearbook of Physical Anthropology).
Dr. Fuentes has received many prestigious awards and grants for his research, from the John Templeton Foundation, National Geographic Society, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, as well as for his teaching, including the Joyce Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the Presidential Award from Notre Dame.
Sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of Graduate Education and Research, the College of Education, the Department of Languages, Cultures & Humanities, the Comparative Humanities Program, and the Honors Program
Michael Roth is the 16th president of Wesleyan University. Formerly president of California College of the Arts, Roth is known as a historian, curator and author. A professor in history and the humanities since 1983, Roth was the founding director of the Scripps College Humanities Institute in Claremont, Calif., a center for intellectual exchange across disciplines. He developed a reputation as a leader in the arts community through his accomplishments as associate director of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and his success as President of the California College of the Arts in enhancing that institution’s academic quality, national reputation and financial strength.
Roth describes his scholarly interests as centered on "how people make sense of the past." He has authored six books: Psycho-Analysis as History: Negation and Freedom in Freud (Cornell University Press, 1987, 1995); Knowing and History: Appropriations of Hegel in Twentieth Century France (Cornell, 1988); The Ironist's Cage: Trauma, Memory and the Construction of History (Columbia University Press, 1995), Irresistible Decay: Ruins Reclaimed, with Clare Lyons and Charles Merewether (Getty Research Institute, 1997), Memory, Trauma and History: Essays on Living with the Past (Columbia University Press, 2012) and Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters (Yale University Press, 2014). Irresistible Decay stemmed from the exhibition of the same name that he co-curated for the opening of the Getty Museum. He also curated the blockbuster exhibition Sigmund Freud: Conflict and Culture, which opened at the Library of Congress in 1998 and garnered praise for its balanced and wide-ranging view of Freud's intellectual and cultural heritage. The exhibition traveled internationally in subsequent years. Roth has edited and co-edited numerous journal issues and books, including Looking for Los Angeles: Architecture, Film, Photography and the Urban Landscape and Disturbing Remains: Memory, History, and Crisis in the Twentieth Century (both Getty Research Institute, 2001), and he regularly publishes essays, book reviews, and commentaries in national newspapers, scholarly journals, and The Huffington Post. He continues to teach undergraduate courses, and through Coursera has offered MOOCs, the most recent being “How to Change the World.”
A native of Brooklyn and in the first generation of his family to attend college, Roth entered Wesleyan in the fall of 1975. He designed a university major in "history of psychological theory" and wrote a thesis titled Freud and Revolution, which began the exploration that would become his first book and the basis of the Library of Congress exhibition. He completed his undergraduate studies in three years, graduating with University Honors, summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and went on to earn his doctorate in history at Princeton University in 1984.
Roth began his teaching career in 1983 at Scripps College, becoming Hartley Burr Alexander Professor of the Humanities there in 1989. He was also the director of European Studies at the Claremont Graduate University, where he helped to found the Ph.D. program in Cultural Studies.
In 1994 Roth was invited to participate as a visiting scholar in the Getty Research Institute's year on memory. Two years later, he was asked to lead the scholars and seminars program at the Getty. Roth focused research there around such topics as the history, architecture and arts of Los Angeles, the representation of traumatic events, and the role of the humanities in public culture. He also built partnerships with cultural organizations in the East and South Central sections of the city, as well as with international centers of research.
In 2000 Roth became President of the California College of the Arts and led an effort to revise the school's curriculum to emphasize interdisciplinary work and liberal learning. The school added new academic programs, including undergraduate degrees in community arts, creative writing, visual studies and animation, as well as masters programs in curatorial practice, visual criticism, design, writing and architecture. His legacy there includes the development of the Center for Art and Public Life, which fosters community partnerships in the San Francisco Bay area and models ways in which art can benefit underserved urban neighborhoods and their schools, and the strengthening of the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, which has developed an international reputation for its exhibitions and public programs. In 2006 the San Francisco Chronicle noted that, CCA had evolved into “one of the most progressive arts education institutions in the country.”
Since becoming President of Wesleyan, Roth has increased grant support for its students who receive financial aid and has overseen the launch of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the Shapiro Creative Writing Center, and four new interdisciplinary colleges emphasizing advanced research and cohort building: the College of the Environment, the College of Film and the Moving Image, the College of East Asian Studies and the College of Integrative Sciences.