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Spring 2020 Speaker Biographies

Giles Gallery

Sponsored by the Department of Art and Design, the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences and the Honors Program 

Each year, the Fred Parker Giles Gallery at Eastern Kentucky University, in conjunction with the Chautauqua Lecture Series and the Department of Art and Design, mounts a National Juried Art Exhibition focused on that year’s theme. The exhibition is organized by Giles Gallery curator, Esther Randall, who selects the juror and manages the submission process. Entrants are required to submit an artist’s statement that expresses their sense of their work’s connection to the series theme. Jurors typically select 50-70 works in all media as finalists for the exhibition and award merit prizes and monetary awards for the top three (or more) entries. In addition, a special theme award is conferred by the curator in collaboration with the lecture series coordinator.

The juror for the 2019-20 "Balance and Resilience" exhibition is Garry Bibbs of the University of Kentucky. Bibbs is Associate Professor with an expertise in sculpture and printmaking at SA/VS, and he is head of the Sculpture Area in Art Studio area. Graduated with a B.S. degree with honors in Arts Studio from Kentucky State University, Prof. Bibbs took his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Kentucky, and received in 1986 a  Ford Postdoctoral Fellowship to study art at the Chicago Art Institute.  He has taught and created art at the University of Kentucky for the last 24 years.  He has completed over 35 public art commissions throughout the eastern regional states. Several in Kentucky include  the Frankfort KY New Transportation Building, the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, the University of Kentucky Allied Health Professions and Sciences, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, the Urban League of greater Chattanooga office Building, and the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center. He has received numerous prestigious art awards such as the Ford Postdoctoral Fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences, the Al Smith award in Sculpture, an Outstanding Kentucky artist award and the NEA Southern Arts Federation Award for Outstanding Printmaker. 

For operating hours, see the Giles Gallery homepage:

Garry Bibbs

Garry Bibbs


Toyin Falola

Sponsored by the Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, the Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work, the Office of Diversit, the African/African American Studies Program and the Honors Program

Dr. Toyin Falola is the Jacob and Frances Sanger Mossiker Chair Professor in the Humanities and a Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

He is a Fellow of the Historical Society of Nigerian Academy of Letters. He has received various awards and honors, including the Jean Holloway Award for Teaching Excellence, the Texas Exes Teaching Award, and the Ibn Khaldun Distinguished Award for Research Excellence, and the Distinguished Fellow, Ibadan Cultural Group.

Toyin Falola is the author of numerous books, including Key Events in African History: A Reference Guide and Nationalism and African Intellectuals, and dozens of edited collections, including Tradition and Change in Africa and African Writers and Readers. He is co-editor of the Journal of African Economic History, Series Editor of The Cambria African Studies Series, Series Editor of Rochester Studies in African History and the Diaspora, and the Series Editor of the Culture and Customs of Africa by Greenwood Press.

For his singular and distinguished contribution to the study of Africa, his students and colleagues have presented him with three Festschriften—two edited by Adebayo Oyebade, The Transformation of Nigeria: Essays in Honor of Toyin Falola, and The Foundation of Nigeria: Essays in Honor of Toyin Falola; and one edited by Akin Ogundiran, Pre-Colonial Nigeria: Essays in Honor of Toyin Falola. His award-wining memoir, A Mouth Sweeter than Salt, is published by the University of Michigan Press.


Steven M. WiseSponsored by the Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies and the Honors Program

Steven M. Wise is founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP and the subject of the HBO Films documentary, Unlocking the Cage. He has practiced animal protection law for 30 years throughout the US and is the author of four books: Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for Animals; Drawing the Line – Science and the Case for Animal Rights; Though the Heavens May Fall – The Landmark Trial That Led to the End of Human Slavery; and An American Trilogy – Death, Slavery, and Dominion Along the Banks of the Cape Fear River. He holds a J.D. from Boston University Law School and a B.S. in Chemistry from the College of William and Mary. Watch Steve's TED Talk on nonhuman animal rights here and follow him on Twitter here.


Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Sponsored by the Department of Communication, the Appalachian Studies Program, the Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work and the Honors Program

Elaine McMillion Sheldon is an Academy Award-nominated and Emmy and Peabody Award-winning documentary filmmaker and non-fiction storyteller based in Appalachia. She is the director of two Netflix Original Documentaries—Heroin(e) and Recovery Boys—that explore America's opioid crisis. Heroin(e) was nominated for a 2018 Academy Award and won the 2018 Emmy Award for Outstanding Short Documentary.

In 2013, she released Hollow, an interactive documentary that examines the future of rural America through the eyes and voices of West Virginians. Hollow received a Peabody, Emmy nomination and 3rd Prize in the World Press Photo Multimedia Awards.

Sheldon has appeared on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Anthony Bourdain's CNN Show Parts Unknown and Meet The Press with Chuck Todd. She was recently named a 2018 USA Fellow by United States Artists, one of the "25 New Faces of Independent Film" by Filmmaker Magazine and one of "50 People Changing The South" by Southern Living Magazine. In 2016, Chicken & Egg Pictures awarded her with the inaugural "Breakthrough Filmmaker" award.

She's a founding member of All Y'all Southern Documentary Collective. She has been commissioned by Netflix, Frontline PBS, The Center for Investigative Reporting, The New York Times Op-Docs, TEDWomen, Field of Vision, and The Bitter Southerner.
She lives in Charleston, West Virginia with her husband and filmmaker, Curren Sheldon


Matthew Pianalto

Sponsored by the Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences and the Honors Program

Matthew Pianalto is Professor of Philosophy at EKU, where he teaches introductory ethics, philosophy, Animal Ethics, and Environmental Ethics, as well as Honors Rhetoric and topical seminars such as “Sound and Sense: How Music Means” with the Honors Program. He is the author of the philosophical monograph, On Patience, published by Lexington Books in 2016, plus 20 articles and essays. His essay on “Moral Courage and Facing Others” was selected as the winner of the inaugural Robert Papazian Annual Essay Prize on Themes from Ethics and Political Philosophy by the International Journal of Philosophical Studies in 2012. His piece on “Ethics Beyond Sentience” was included in The Chautauqua Journal Vol. 1 (2016). Pianalto was recognized as an EKU Critical Thinking Teacher of the Year in 2015. He is currently working on a book chapter about Ludwig Wittgenstein and animal ethics and plans to do more writing about the philosophy of music. A dedicated old-time musician, he plays the banjo and has performed locally as a solo act and with string bands. He released an album, Down Creek, in 2018.


Sara Egge

Sponsored by the Women and Gender Studies Program, the Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, the Department of Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work, the Department of Government and the Honors Program

Sara 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.


Morgan Marietta

Sponsored by the Department of Government, the Department of Psychology, the Department of Communication and the Honors Program

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), Political Science Teaching Excellence Award (2015), Inspirational Faculty Advising (2014) and the Excellence in Teaching Award for the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences (2013).


Jennifer FreySponsored by the Department of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies and the Honors Program

Jennifer Frey teaches philosophy at the University of South Carolina, specializing in virtue ethics and action theory. Prior to joining the faculty at South Carolina, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago and a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department. Frey earned a B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies with a Classics minor at Indiana University and and completed her PhD in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, where she worked under the direction of Michael Thompson and John McDowell.

Dr. Frey’s research lies at the intersection of philosophy of action, ethics, and meta-ethics. She is the co-editor (with Candace Vogler) of the book, Self-Transcendence and Virtue, published by Routledge in 2018. She writes for The Virtue Blog and hosts a popular philosophy and literature podcast called “Sacred and Profane Love.”

She has broader research interests in the history of ethics, especially in the medieval and early modern periods. The philosophers who have most positively influenced her work are the three A’s: Aristotle, Aquinas and Anscombe. She admits in spite of better judgment that she is also obsessed with Kant.


Sponsored by the Department of Government, the Department of Communication and the Honors Program

The Better 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.

Better Angels Mission: Better 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 Better 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 Better 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, Better Angels Media, The Washington Times Communities, Reflections (a journal of the Yale School of Divinity), and Black Is Online.

Carolyn DupontCarolyn Dupont is Associate 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.



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