Skip to main content

Fall 2020 Speaker Biographies

Zek EserZek Eser is an Associate Professor of Finance in the Accounting, Finance and Information Systems Department at Eastern Kentucky University. He was born in Turkey and completed his BBA in Economics at the prestigious Bosphorus University, Istanbul before then earning his Master’s in Economics at Boston College, where his mentor, internationally known economist Joe Peek, persuaded Eser to join him at the University of Kentucky and to accept a position as his Graduate Assistant. Dr. Eser then went on to earn his PhD in Finance at UK.

Those who follow Dr. Eser on Facebook know how thorough, sophisticated and helpful his data analyses of the ongoing pandemic have been, posting hundreds of charts and graphs and often predicting trends and results well in advance with great precision. Eser loves number crunching—and he also loves to teach. In effect, he became a teacher at 8 years old, when he realized that by teaching his friends the concepts he was also trying to learn, he could greatly improve his own comprehension. "While I am teaching, I am learning," he says, an attitude that informs his style and approach to this day.

Dr. Eser uses all kinds of innovative methods to engage and challenge students. He created a Jeopardy game. In it, students choose their categories and compete as contestants. When he asks a student to solve a problem, the student must show the steps he used to arrive at a solution. With an extra twist: students must also declare their confidence level. Being confident and wrong can get you into negative score territory pretty quickly!

Eser’s ingenious games and quirky assignments have another purpose. On the backside, Dr. Eser uses the quantitative data gleaned from the activities to measure how effectively he taught the material. He makes adjustments in his lectures and assignments based on the data.

Finance requires a mathematical mind, and Dr. Eser arranges assignments to maximize mathematical thinking. His students must use Excel programming to calculate solutions. Dr. Eser said, "I want my students to have a realistic view of what will be expected of them when they enter the workforce." Eser continued, "Companies used to have big training budgets and were able to send employees to expensive conferences. After the downturn in 2008, that was no longer the case. Employers want college graduates to come into the workforce ready to analyze complex problems with little or no additional training."

Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, Eser remarked, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

YouTube streaming link:


Sara EggeSara Egge is Assistant Professor of History at Centre College in Danville, KY, where she joined the faculty in 2012, and the author of Woman Suffrage and Citizenship in the Midwest, 1870-1920, published by the University of Iowa Press in 2018.

Dr. Egge’s research interests include gender, ethnicity, and rurality in the American Midwest, historical constructions of political representation and citizenship, and historical intersections of agriculture, food production, hunting, and the environment. At Centre College, she offers courses that focus on late 19th- and early 20th-century American history, gender and women’s history, food history, and environmental history.

Iin 2015, Dr. Egge was named a Centre Scholar, a two-year appointment that recognizes teaching excellence, scholarship, and contributions to the Centre College community. In 2015, she won a grant from the Kentucky Oral History Commission to interview World War II veterans. That same year, she also received an Enduring Questions grant to explore the question “What is a citizen?” from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Sara Egge has a B.A. in History and Spanish and a B.S. in History Education from North Dakota State University. She earned an M.A. in History and a Ph.D. in Agricultural History and Rural Studies from Iowa State University.

YouTube streaming link: 


Steven AlvarezSteven Alvarez is a professor of English and coordinator of the First-Year Writing Program at St. John’s University in New York City, where he has taught since 2017. Alvarez earned his Ph.D. at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Prior to arriving at St. John’s, he was Assistant Professor of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky. He specializes in literacy studies and bilingual education with a focus on Mexican immigrant communities. Dr. Alvarez teaches courses ranging from autobiographical writing, ethnographic methods, visual rhetoric, and “taco literacy,” a course exploring the foodways of Mexican immigrants in the United States.

Dr. Alvarez is the author of Brokering Tareas: Mexican Immigrant Families Translanguaging Homework Literacies (State University of New York Press, 2017) and Community Literacies en Confianza: Learning from Bilingual After-School Programs (National Council of Teachers of English, 2017). Brokering Tareas is an ethnographic study about how learning English transformed family relations and structured educational ambitions within a specific Spanish-dominant urban immigrant mentoring program in New York City. The program cultivated a sense of community and academic participation closely allied to ethnic identity, encouraging a sense of value for bilingualism as a political tool for—and the everyday reality of—immigrant families. Alvarez’ second book, Community Literacies en Confianza, explores two bilingual K-12 after-school programs and how to connect educators with communities in meaningful and reciprocal ways. This community literacy research builds on his research in New York City with research in Kentucky and explores the ways teachers can build relationships with emergent bilingual communities outside of school settings.

Steven Alvarez is also the author of three books of poetry, one of which, The Codex Mojaodicus, was the winner of the 2016 Fence Modern Poets Prize.

YouTube streaming link:


Morgan Marietta

Morgan Marietta is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, where he studies the political consequences of belief, the psychology and rhetoric of ideology, constitutional politics, and facts and lies in politics, and teaches Introduction to American Politics, Political Psychology, Constitutional Law, and the Supreme Court Seminar.

Dr. Marietta is the author of four books, including The Politics of Sacred Rhetoric: Absolutist Appeals and Political Influence, A Citizen’s Guide to American Ideology, and A Citizen’s Guide to the Constitution and the Supreme Court, and numerous articles on politics and psychology. His newest book (with David Barker), One Nation, Two Realities: Dueling Facts in American Democracy (Oxford University Press 2019), discusses the causes and consequences of dueling fact perceptions in American political discourse. He is the co-editor (with David Klein) of the annual SCOTUS series on the major decisions of the Supreme Court and the author (with David Barker) of the “Inconvenient Facts” blog with Psychology Today.

Marietta has received numerous awards and honors for his teaching and service, including the Political Science Teaching Excellence Award (2019, 2015), Inspirational Faculty Advising (2014) and the Excellence in Teaching Award for the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (2013).

YouTube streaming link:


The Braver Angels Story: In December 2016, 10 Trump supporters and 11 Clinton supporters gathered in South Lebanon, Ohio, in what became the first Better Angels Red/Blue Workshop. The goal? To see if we could respectfully disagree and find any common ground.

The results were remarkable. We liked each other. We wanted to know more about each other. We wanted to keep on meeting. We wanted to help start workshops in communities all across America! Those reds and blues invited their friends to another workshop and helped to found the first Better Angels Alliance, now BraverAngels.Org.

Braver Angels Mission: Braver Angels is a national citizens’ movement to reduce political polarization in the United States by bringing liberals and conservatives together to understand each other beyond stereotypes, forming red/blue community alliances, teaching practical skills for communicating across political differences, and making a strong public argument for depolarization.

We unite red and blue Americans in a working alliance to Depolarize America. Instead of asking people to change their minds about key issues, we give all Americans a chance to better understand each other, to absorb the values and experiences that inform our political philosophies, and to ultimately recognize our common humanity.

Ciaran O'ConnorCiaran O'Connor serves as Chief Marketing Officer for Braver Angels. He previously served on the Obama 2012 and Clinton 2016 presidential campaigns as a communications staffer, and worked as a marketing consultant for corporate, political, and non-profit clients. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

John Wood, Jr.John Wood, Jr. is Director of Media Development and a national leader for Braver Angels, a former nominee for congress, former Vice-Chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles County, and author of the upcoming book, Transcending Politics: Perspectives for a Divided Nation. As a writer and speaker, Wood’s work has focused on race, religion, public policy, social commentary, the intersection of politics and science and political and moral philosophy. His writings have been featured in Quillette, Areo Magazine, Arc Digital, Braver Angels Media, The Washington Times Communities, Carolyn DupontReflections (a journal of the Yale School of Divinity), and Black Is Online.

Carolyn Dupont is Professor of History at Eastern Kentucky University, where she specializes in American History, the History of the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s History. She is the author of the historical monograph, Mississippi Praying: White Religion and the Quest for Black Equality, published in 2013 with New York University Press. She is a co-organizer of EKU’s annual Herstory Conference, has been a candidate for KY public office and is the Kentucky State Coordinator of Better Angels.


YouTube streaming link: 

David TreuerBestselling author David Treuer is an Ojibwe Indian from Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, two Minnesota Book Awards, and fellowships from the NEH, Bush Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. His new book, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, was a 2019 finalist for both the National Book Award and Carnegie Medal. It has been critically praised in many venues, including NPR and the New York Times, which concludes, “Treuer’s powerful book suggests the need for soul-searching about the meanings of American history and the stories we tell ourselves about this nation’s past.” He divides his time between his home on the Leech Lake Reservation and Los Angeles, where he is a Professor of English at USC.

The son of Robert Treuer, an Austrian Jew and Holocaust survivor and Margaret Seelye Treuer, a tribal court judge, David Treuer grew up on Leech Lake Reservation. After graduating from high school he attended Princeton University, where he wrote two senior theses—one in anthropology and one in creative writing—and where he worked with Toni Morrison, Paul Muldoon and Joanna Scott. Treuer graduated in 1992 and published his first novel, Little, in 1995. He received his PhD in anthropology and published his second novel, The Hiawatha, in 1999. His third novel, The Translation of Dr. Apelles, and a book of criticism, Native American Fiction: A User's Manual, appeared in 2006. The Translation of Dr. Apelles was named a Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post, Time Out and City Pages. He published his first major work of nonfiction, Rez Life, in 2012. His next novel, Prudence, was published by Riverhead Books in 2015. His essays and stories have appeared in Granta, Harper’s, Esquire, TriQuarterly, The Washington Post, Lucky Peach, The New York Times, The LA Times, Orion and

YouTube streaming link:


Open /*deleted href=#openmobile*/