Jefferson Humanities & Health Programs

Jefferson Humanities Forum

Announcing the 2023-2024 Forum Theme: Futures

Each academic year, Jefferson Humanities & Health explores a thought-provoking theme from a wide range of perspectives, fostering learning, reflection and action in response to our institutional mission of improving lives. During 2023-2024, the Jefferson Humanities Forum hosts multidisciplinary scholars and creative practitioners to investigate the theme of Futures. Join us for programs that explore visions for a more equitable world and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the healers, creators and builders of today and tomorrow.

Nnedi Okorafor

Africanfuturism Defined

Keynote Lecture | Tuesday, September 12, 4-5 p.m. | DEC Forum, Lawrence N. Field DEC Center, East Falls Campus

Free and open to all. 

Q&A with the Author | Wednesday, September 13, 12-1 p.m. | Bluemle Life Science Building, Room 105, Center City Campus

Open to Jefferson students, faculty and staff. Lunch provided while supplies last.

Nnedi Okorafor is an international award-winning New York Times-bestselling novelist of science fiction and fantasy for children, young adults, and adults. Born in the United States to Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi is known for drawing from African cultures to create captivating stories with unforgettable characters and evocative settings. Her writing explores African history, myth, folklore, and politics, which she weaves together to create bold and ambitious fantastical adventures that examine technology and survival. Her latest novel, Noor (Penguin Random House, 2021), is a rumination on biotechnology, destiny, and humanity set in a near-future Nigeria, and was hailed as “a searing techno-magical indictment of capitalism from one of the strongest voices in fiction” by Kirkus Reviews. Her early novel Shadow Speaker, which will be re-issued in September 2023, unfolds in a future Republic of Niger in an era of tainted technology and mysterious mysticism, and follows a young woman out to avenge her politician father’s death. In addition to her novels, Nnedi is the author of Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected (2019, Simon & Schuster/TED), an autobiographical account of her powerful journey from star athlete to sudden paralysis to creative awakening; the Africanfuturist comic series Laguardia (winner of the Hugo and Eisner Award); and comics for Marvel, including Black Panther: Long Live the KingWakanda Forever featuring the Dora Milaje and the Shuri series. Her novel Who Fears Death will be adapted into a television series by author George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) and HBO. Nnedi holds a PhD in Literature, as well as master’s degrees in journalism and literature, and lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with her daughter Anyaugo. 

Forum Scholar: Willow DiPasquale, D. Litt, Adjunct Instructor, Writing Program, College of Humanities and Sciences

Contextual resources provided by Professor DiPasquale:

  • "A Beginner’s Guide to Science Fiction,” New York Public Library
  • “Why Science Fiction Matters,” Vox
  • “Your Guide to Africanfuturist Science Fiction,” Tor
  • “Afrofuturism, Africanfuturism, and the Language of Black Speculative Literature,” Los Angeles Review of Books
  • “Must-Read Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism Books,” Penguin Random House
  • Le Guin, Ursula K. “Prophets and Mirrors: Science Fiction as a way of Seeing.” The Living Light, Fall 1970, pp. 111-121.  
  • Roberts, Adam. Science Fiction. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2006. 
  • Africanfuturism: An Anthology, edited by Wole Talabi, BrittlePaper, 2020. 

Nnedi Okorafor’s visit is co-presented by Jefferson Humanities & Health and the Philadelphia University Honors Institute at Thomas Jefferson University.

Stanley Andrisse

The System Is Why There Are Not More Like Me

Monday, October 2, 5-6:30PM, Kanbar Campus Center, East Falls Campus, 4201 Henry Avenue. Open to the Jefferson community. Registration not required.

Tuesday, October 3, 12-1PM, Eakins Lounge, Jefferson Alumni Hall, Center City, 1020 Locust Street. Free and open to all. Lunch provided while supplies last.

"Talent is distributed evenly, but access and opportunity are not. And I’m going to do everything in my power to change that."

In his early twenties, Stanley Andrisse was sentenced to ten years in a maximum-security prison for drug trafficking. In prison, despite poor structure, policies, institutionalized thinking and behaviors, he maintained his humanity and worked towards growth. Now a scientist and assistant professor at Howard University College of Medicine, Dr. Andrisse shares how he was one of many exceptional people in prison—where talent is distributed evenly, but access and opportunity are not. Science and academia are uniquely positioned to help change this narrative. Dr. Andrisse’s organization, From Prison to Professionals (P2P), has successfully implemented an innovative approach intersecting the worlds of research, education, and incarceration by creating a ground-breaking prison-to-college-and-STEM pipeline. 

Stanley Andrisse, PhD, MBA, is an endocrinologist scientist and assistant professor at Howard University College of Medicine researching type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. He is visiting faculty at Georgetown University Medical Center and has held a visiting faculty position at Imperial College London and an adjunct professorship at Johns Hopkins Medicine after completing his postdoctoral training. Dr. Andrisse completed his PhD at Saint Louis University and his MBA and bachelor’s degree at Lindenwood University, where he played three years of collegiate football. 

Forum Scholar: Guangzhi Huang, PhD, Director of Interdisciplinary Studies, Assistant Professor, College of Humanities and Sciences

Contextual resources from Professor Huang:

  • Stanley Andrisse, “I went from prison to professor – here’s why criminal records should not be used to keep people out of college,” The Conversation, Aug 16, 2018
  • Yuki Noguchi, “To Be Young, A Doctor And Black: Overcoming Racial Barriers In Medical Training,” NPR, July 1, 2020. 
  • Emily Vaughn, “What's Behind The Research Funding Gap For Black Scientists?,” NPR, October 18, 2019.
  • John Tierney, “Prison and the Poverty Trap,” New York Times, Feb 18, 2013.
  • Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, The New Press, 2010

These events are co-presented by Jefferson Humanities & Health and the Jefferson College of Humanities & Sciences as part of their Dietrich V. Asten Lecture Series, an endowed series established to sponsor lectures in the humanities, sciences, government and the arts.

Nita Farahany

Your Right to Mental Privacy in the Age of Brain-sensing Tech

Wednesday, November 8, 12-1 p.m., Connelly Auditorium, Dorrance H. Hamilton Building, 1001 Locust Street 

This event is free and open to all. Lunch provided while supplies last.

Join us for the Carlin Foundation Annual Lecture on Healthcare Innovation, presented by the Jefferson Humanities Forum.

Neurotechnology, or devices that let you track your own brain activity, could help you deeply understand your health. But without privacy protections, your innermost thoughts, emotions and desires could be at risk of exploitation, says neurotech and AI ethicist Nita Farahany. She details some of the field's promising potential uses – like tracking and treating diseases from depression to epilepsy – and shares concerns about who collects our brain data and how they plan to use it, ultimately calling for the legal recognition of "cognitive liberty" as we connect our brains and minds to technology.

Nita Farahany is the Robinson O. Everett Distinguished Professor of Law & Philosophy and Founding Director of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society. She is a widely published scholar on the ethics of emerging technologies, including the book The Battle for Your Brain: Defending Your Right to Think Freely in the Age of Neurotechnology. President Obama appointed Nita to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, where she served for seven years. She currently serves on the National Advisory Council for the National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke, as an elected member of the American Law Institute and on the Global Future Council on Frontier Risks for the World Economic Forum, among others. Nita is a co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences and is on the Board of Advisors for Scientific American

Forum Scholar: Richard W. Hass, PhD, Associate Professor, Program Director, PhD in Population Health Science, Program Director, MS in Health Data Science, College of Population Health

Contextual Resources from Professor Hass:

  • "Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence,", October 30, 2023.
  • Gui Xue, "The Neural Representations Underlying Human Episodic Memory," Science Direct, June 2018.
  • Tatum Hunter, "Ask Help Desk: No, your phone isn’t listening to your conversations. Seriously.", Washington Post, November 12, 2021.
  • Matthew Stewart, "The Limitations of Machine Learning," Towards Data Science, July 29, 2019.
  • Alex Heath, "This is Meta’s AR / VR hardware roadmap through 2027," The Verge, February 28, 2023.

About the Carlin Foundation Annual Lecture on Healthcare Innovation

The purpose of the Carlin Foundation Annual Lecture on Healthcare Innovation to stimulate innovation in medicine and medical care delivery by exposing students and other attendees to notable speakers and ideas. The Foundation encourages the selection of speakers who will challenge participants to think creatively and innovatively about the difficulties and opportunities facing healthcare, looking, in particular, to experts and industries outside of healthcare.

Jaipreet Virdi

Deaf Futurity

Monday, February 5, 12-1PM, Eakins Lounge, Jefferson Alumni Hall, 1020 Locust Street

This event is free and open to all. Lunch provided while supplies last.

How does being disabled change the way people view the world and the things they create? Tracing innovations by deaf people and questioning the marketing of hearing devices, Dr. Virdi offers a historical approach for rethinking the role of technology for disabled living. Through historical and contemporary perspectives, she invites alternative approaches for remaking crip worlds, one in which disabled people, and the disabled gaze, are centered first and foremost.

Dr. Jaipreet Virdi is an award-winning historian whose research focuses on the ways medicine and technology impact the lived experiences of disabled people. Her first book, Hearing Happiness: Deafness Cures in History (University of Chicago Press, 2020) raises pivotal questions about deafness in American society and the endless quest for a cure. Born in Kuwait to Sikh parents, Virdi lost her hearing at age four to bacterial meningitis. A product of “mainstreamed” education, Virdi learned to lipread and rely on her hearing aids. Her new research project historicizes how disabled people tinkered with their prostheses and perceived their devices to be prosthetic extensions of themselves that were crucial for their self-crafting of normalcy. She is currently an Associate Professor at the Department of History at the University of Delaware where she teaches courses on disability histories, the history of medicine, and health activism.

Moderator: Benedicta Olonilua, Class of 2026, Sidney Kimmel Medical College.

Access: This talk will be ASL interpreted.

Contextual Resources by Dr. Jaipreet Virdi:

Laurie Santos

A Conversation with Laurie Santos

Monday, February 26, 12-1PM, Atrium, Jefferson Alumni Hall, 1020 Locust Street

This event is open to Jefferson students, faculty and staff Lunch provided while supplies last.

Laurie Santos is the Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon Professor of Psychology and former Head of Silliman College at Yale University.

In addition to her work on the evolutionary origins of human cognition, Laurie is an expert on the science of happiness and the ways in which our minds lie to us about what makes us happy. Her Yale course, Psychology and the Good Life, teaches students how the science of psychology can provide important hints about how to make wiser choices and live a life that’s happier and more fulfilling. The class became Yale’s most popular course in over 300 years, with almost one out of four students enrolled. Her course has been featured in the New York TimesNBC Nightly NewsThe Today ShowGQ MagazineSlate and O! Magazine. The online version of the class—The Science of Well-Being on—has attracted more than 4 million learners from around the world. A winner of numerous awards both for her science and teaching, she was recently voted as one of Popular Science Magazine’s “Brilliant 10” young minds and was named in Time Magazine as a “Leading Campus Celebrity.” Her podcast, The Happiness Lab, is a top-3 Apple podcast which has attracted 85+ million downloads since its launch.

Forum Archive

Alice Sheppard

Alice Sheppard. Photo by Beverlie Lord.

Moving Architecture: Architecting Movement

Tuesday, February 21

In this talk, disabled dancer and choreographer Alice Sheppard considers the dynamic relationships of movement, architecture, and public space. Sheppard learned her craft partly in a dance studio, and partly on the street interacting with people and the built environment. She quickly learned that architecture and movement fed each other in challenging ways, especially when it came to her lived experience as a Black disabled queer woman. Carving through the walls of so-called accessible buildings and contouring around the movements of well-established dance forms, Sheppard surfaces her joy in disabled movement and pleasure in the unexpected architectures of body, building, and space. 

ALICE SHEPPARD (she/her/hers) is an internationally recognized dancer, choreographer, and founder of the disability arts ensemble Kinetic Light. She studied ballet and modern dance with Kitty Lunn and started her career performing with Infinity Dance Theater and AXIS Dance Company. In 2016, Alice founded Kinetic Light, a disability arts ensemble featuring herself, Laurel Lawson, Michael Maag, and Wired artist Jerron Herman. Working in the disciplines of art, technology, design, and dance, Kinetic Light creates, performs, and teaches at the nexus of access, queerness, disability, dance, and race. In the company’s work, intersectional disability is an aesthetic, a culture, and an essential element of artistry. In addition to performance and choreography, Sheppard is a consultant and speaker who has lectured on topics related to disability arts, race, design, and dance. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, academic journals, and the anthology Disability Visibility, edited by Alice Wong. She is delighted to have been recognized with a Bessie and as United States Artists, Creative Capital grantee, and Disability Futures Fellow.

Moderator: Elizabeth Guffey, PhD, Professor of Art History, Purchase College, State University of New York.

This event is co-presented by Jefferson Humanities & Health and the Jefferson College of Architecture and the Built Environment.

Britt Wray

Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis

Tuesday, January 31

Britt Wray’s hopeful new talk demonstrates the emotional and existential effects of living in a warming world—and how we can get through them together. Although anxieties surrounding the climate crisis can cause us to burn out, give up, and question deeply personal decisions like whether to have children, working through these anxieties can unlock a deep capacity to care for and act on climate issues.

We need to look at the climate crisis as a whole—not just the political or technological issues, but the mental health consequences as well. These effects can be severe, even leading people affected by climate events to experience PTSD and a loss of identity. To combat this, Britt presents practical tips and strategies for healthily and productively dealing with our emotions, living with climate trauma, and strengthening our communities so we can combat climate change together.

Science storyteller Britt Wray, PhD, is the author of the books Generation Dread: Finding Purpose in an Age of Climate Crisis (2022, Knopf-Random House) and Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics and Risks of De-Extinction (published in 2017 by Greystone Books in partnership with The David Suzuki Institute). She has been a contributing host on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s national science TV show The Nature of Things, co-host of the BBC podcast Tomorrow’s World and guest host of Canada’s national radio show CBC Quirks and Quarks. Over the last decade, Wray has produced narrative science documentaries for outlets such as BBC Radio 4, CBC Radio 1, NPR, and Love and Radio. Wray holds degrees in biology and media arts as well as a PhD in Science Communication (with a focus on synthetic biology) from the University of Copenhagen. Wray was a 2019 TED Resident, a 2019 Logan Nonfiction Fellow at the Carey Institute for Global Good, and has been a Visiting Scholar at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Institute for Journalism. She is currently a Human and Planetary Health Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University in the Center for Innovation in Global Health, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Forum Scholar: Tom Schrand, Ph.D, Associate Dean for General Education, Professor of History, College of Humanities and Sciences.

Contextual resources provided by Professor Schrand:

  • Sarah Jaquette Ray, "Climate Anxiety Is an Overwhelmingly White Phenomenon," Scientific American, March 21, 2021.
  • Olufemi O. Taiwo and Beba Cibralic, "The Case for Climate Reparations," Foreign Policy, October 10, 2020.
  • David Wallace-Wells, "Beyond Catastrophe: A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View," The New York Times, Oct. 26, 2022.
  • Margaret Renkl, "What to Do With Spring's Wild Joy in a Burning World," The New York Times, March 7, 2022.

This event is co-presented by Jefferson Humanities & Health and the Jefferson College of Humanities & Sciences as part of their Dietrich V. Asten Lecture Series, an endowed series established to sponsor lectures in the humanities, sciences, government and the arts.   

Rushika Fernandopulle

Repairing Healthcare

Thursday, October 27

Join us for the inaugural Carlin Foundation Annual Lecture on Healthcare Innovation, presented by the Jefferson Humanities Forum.

What does it take to transform values of health equity and patient-centered care into industry-changing business models?

Rushika Fernandopulle, MD, MPP, is a physician who has spent decades improving the quality of healthcare delivered to patients. He is Chief Innovation Officer at One Medical, a membership-based primary care practice on a mission to make getting quality care more affordable, accessible, and enjoyable for all. He was co-founder and CEO of Iora Health, a value-based care primary care group based in Boston MA that delivered better quality, lower costs and improved satisfaction for both patients and teammates. Rushika joined One Medical as part of the One Medical acquisition of Iora in 2021. Rushika was the first Executive Director of the Harvard Interfaculty Program for Health Systems Improvement, and Managing Director of the Clinical Initiatives Center at the Advisory Board Company. He is a member of the Albert Schweitzer, Ashoka, Aspen, and Salzburg Global Fellowships. He serves on the staff at the Massachusetts General Hospital, on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, and on the boards of Families USA and the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Care. He earned his AB, MD, and MPP from Harvard University, and completed his clinical training at the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Moderator: Marc-David Munk, MD, MPH, MHCM, Sidney Kimmel Medical College Class of 2003, is President of Steward Health Care Middle East, the Dubai-based affiliate of Dallas-headquartered Steward Health Care, and Co-Founder of the Carlin Foundation. 

About the Carlin Foundation Annual Lecture on Healthcare Innovation

The purpose of the Carlin Foundation Annual Lecture on Healthcare Innovation to stimulate innovation in medicine and medical care delivery by exposing students and other attendees to notable speakers and ideas. The Foundation encourages the selection of speakers who will challenge participants to think creatively and innovatively about the difficulties and opportunities facing healthcare, looking, in particular, to experts and industries outside of healthcare.

Loretta J. Ross

Calling in the Calling Out Culture

Monday, September 19

We are facing a tumultuous future that requires a unified and strategic approach to human rights. To create this future, we must weave our strengths together and use our differences as a platform for modeling a positive future built on justice and the politics of love. We need to make a commitment to recognize and support each other by calling people in rather than calling them out. 

Loretta J. Ross is an award-winning, nationally-recognized expert on racism and racial justice, women's rights, and human rights. Her work emphasizes the intersectionality of social justice issues and how intersectionality can fuel transformation. Ross is a visiting associate professor at Smith College (Northampton, MA) in the Program for the Study of Women and Gender. She was a co-founder and the National Coordinator, from 2005 to 2012, of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. 

Ross has co-written three books on reproductive justice: Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organize for Reproductive Justice; Reproductive Justice: An Introduction; and Radical Reproductive Justice: Foundations, Theory, Practice, Critique. Her latest book, Calling In the Calling Out Culture, is forthcoming in 2022 from publisher Simon & Schuster. 

Forum Scholar: Karima Bouchenafa, MA, Assistant Director, Philadelphia University Honors Institute at Thomas Jefferson University.

Amie Shao

Expecting More: Designing for Birth 

Monday, March 21

Amie Shao is a Principal with MASS Design Group, where she oversees research focusing on health infrastructure planning, design, and evaluation. Amie also leads the MASS.Made team in interior design, including space planning, testing and fabrication, and furniture design for office and healthcare spaces. Her work is aimed at engaging and empowering stakeholders in the design process; creating human-centered environments that are functional, adaptable, and mission-driven; supporting and substantiating the impact of design on health, social, and environmental outcomes; and and translating research into guidelines that can be used to advocate for policy change.

Currently, Amie is supporting the firm’s COVID-19 research and leading Maternal Health projects with IHI and PATH in Africa and South Asia. Blending human-centered design practices with evidence-based research, Amie has collaborated with Ariadne Labs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to investigate the Impact of Design on Clinical Care in Childbirth, worked with the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to design for the spatial needs of children with Cerebral Palsy, and coordinated the production of National Health Infrastructure Standards for the Liberian Ministry of Health.

Forum Scholar: Christopher Harnish, MArch, Associate Professor, College of Architecture and the Built Environment

Co-presented with the College of Architecture and the Built Environment.

Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Monday, February 28

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, which has earned Kimmerer wide acclaim. Her first book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing, and her other work has appeared in Orion, Whole Terrain, and numerous scientific journals. She tours widely and has been featured on NPR’s On Being with Krista Tippett and in 2015 addressed the general assembly of the United Nations on the topic of “Healing Our Relationship with Nature.” Kimmerer lives in Syracuse, New York, where she is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability.

Forum Scholar: Anne Bower, PhD, Professor of Biology, College of Life Sciences, Thomas Jefferson University

Co-presented with the Jefferson College of Life Sciences

Antonio Lazcano

A Conversation on the Origins of Life

Wednesday, December 8

Where, when and how did life on Earth begin? Join us for a conversation with Antonio Lazcano, PhD, that looks back on his more than 35 years of research into the origin and early evolution of life, and surveys recent developments in the field. Dr. Lazcano will be in conversation with Isidore Rigoutsos, PhD, Richard W. Hevner Professor in Computational Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University. 

Dr. Lazcano is a Mexican biology researcher and professor of the School of Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City. He pursued his undergraduate and graduate studies at UNAM, where he focused on the study of prebiotic evolution and the emergence of life. Dr. Lazcano's professional work has taken him internationally—he has been professor-in-residence or visiting scientist in France, Spain, Cuba, Switzerland, Russia, and the United States. He has written several books in Spanish, including the bestseller, The Origin of Life (1984). Dr. Lazcano has also been a member of several advisory and review boards of scientific organizations, such as the NASA Astrobiology Institute. He served as president of the International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life (ISSOL) for two terms, and is the first Latin American scientist to occupy this position. Dr. Lazcano is committed to promoting scientific journalism, teaching, and the study of the origins of life all over the globe.

Forum Scholar: Isidore Rigoutsos, PhD, Richard W. Hevner Professor in Computational Medicine, Thomas Jefferson University. 

Contextual resources provided by Dr. Lazcano:

Akhil Reed Amar

Three Slices of Jefferson: 1776, 1801, & 1826

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

In-person at the Kanbar Performance Center, East Falls (Open to Jefferson students, faculty, and staff.)
Livestream on Zoom (Open to Jefferson and the public.)

Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, joins the Jefferson Humanities Forum to explore three critical moments in the life of Thomas Jefferson, based on excerpts from his new book The Words That Made Us: America’s Constitutional Conversation, 1760-1840. Professor Amar teaches constitutional law in both Yale College and Yale Law School. After graduating from Yale College, summa cum laude, in 1980 and from Yale Law School in 1984, and clerking for then Judge (now Justice) Stephen Breyer, Amar joined the Yale faculty in 1985 at the age of 26. He is the author of more than a hundred law review articles and several books, most notably The Bill of Rights (1998, winner of the Yale University Press Governors’ Award), America’s Constitution (2005, winner of the ABA’s Silver Gavel Award), America’s Unwritten Constitution (2012, named one of the year’s 100 best nonfiction books by The Washington Post), and The Constitution Today (2016, named one of the year’s top ten nonfiction books by Time magazine).

Forum Scholar: Evan Laine, JD, MA, Director, Associate Professor, Law & Society Program, College of Humanities & Sciences and Faculty Director, Arlen Specter Center.

This event is co-sponsored by Jefferson Humanities & Health and the College of Humanities & Sciences as part of their Dietrich V. Asten Lecture Series.

Explore the contextual resources below, compiled by Forum Scholar Professor Evan Laine.

Yaa Gyasi

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Yaa Gyasi is the author of Homegoing, one of the most celebrated debuts of 2016. A riveting, kaleidoscopic novel, Homegoing is a story of race, history, ancestry, love, and time that traces the descendants of two sisters torn apart in eighteenth-century Africa across three hundred years in Ghana and America. Her follow-up novel, Transcendent Kingdom, is a raw and intimate novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama that layers themes of loss, mental illness, and representation in STEM fields—challenging our notions of who or what a scientist is, and how they might look or think. Born in Ghana and raised in Huntsville, Alabama, Gyasi is a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and lives in Berkeley, California. She is the winner of the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award for Best First Novel, and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize.

Forum Scholar: Marcella McCoy-Deh, PhD, Associate Professor, College of Humanities and Sciences, Director, Philadelphia University Honors Institute at Thomas Jefferson University.

Co-presented with the Philadelphia University Honors Institute at Thomas Jefferson University.

Explore the contextual resources below, compiled by Forum Scholar Dr. Marcella McCoy-Deh. Further reading can be found in the Humanities & Health Canvas course, on the Forum Scholar Resources page.

During 2020-2021, the Jefferson Humanities Forum speaker series will bring a handful of multidisciplinary scholars and thinkers to investigate the theme Creativity, as it relates to:

  • Breaking with past paradigms and reinterpreting established problems and histories
  • Imagining and working toward more just and equitable futures
  • Developing new ways to build relationships, connections and provide care 
  • Achieving cross-disciplinary thinking and practice through collaboration 
  • Cultivating creative process in the face of difficulty and failure 

Scroll down to see who joined us in the 2020-2021 season.

Dave Isay

The History of StoryCorps & the Power of Listening

Wednesday, September 16, 2020, 12-1 p.m.
Online via Zoom

The Jefferson Humanities Forum presents Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps and one of the most trusted and respected broadcasters working today. The recipient of six Peabody Awards, a MacArthur Fellow, and the $1 Million TED prize, Isay taps into the heart and soul of the human experience through his work as an author, documentarian and founder of StoryCorps. Since its inception in 2003, StoryCorps has given nearly half a million Americans the chance to record interviews about their lives, pass wisdom from one generation to the next, and leave a legacy for the future. It is the largest single collection of human voices ever gathered. Weekly, millions of listeners experience these stories on NPR’s Morning Edition. Dave has numerous books lauded as best-sellers by The New York Times, including Listening is an Act of Love, Ties That Bind: Stories of Love and Gratitude from the First Ten Years of StoryCorps, and Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work. 

Developed in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, StoryCorps Connect is a first-of-its kind platform that enables you to record a StoryCorps interview with a loved one remotely using video conference technology.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

A Conversation on Racial Equity, Health, and Reframing the Legacy of Slavery

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Jefferson Humanities Forum and the Enterprise Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement present 2017 MacArthur Fellow and 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner, investigative journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones. Hannah-Jones created and spearheaded The 1619 Project, a multimedia initiative through The New York Times Magazine that explores slavery’s omnipresent and foundational legacy in American life. Her extensive reporting for The New York Times and other publications reveals how public policy establishes, and maintains, racial segregation in housing and schools. With The 1619 Project, and her work more broadly, Hannah-Jones seeks to reframe historical narratives that overlook the contributions of Black Americans and disregard the present-day impact of structural racism. Her introductory essay for the project earned her this year’s Pulitzer Prize for commentary. In 2015, Hannah-Jones co-founded The Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting with the goal of increasing the number of reporters and editors of color.

For this event, Ms. Hannah-Jones will be in conversation with Traci R. Trice, MD, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Student Diversity Programs, Office of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives, Sidney Kimmel Medical College. 

Stephon Alexander

The Jazz of Physics

Wednesday, November 11, 2020
Online via Zoom

The Jefferson Humanities Forum presents Stephon Alexander, theoretical physicist, musician, and author. In his critically acclaimed book The Jazz of Physics: The Secret Link Between Music and the Structure of the Universe, Alexander parses his twin passions to explore the ways in which jazz music mirrors elements of modern physics, such as quantum mechanics, general relativity, and the physics of the early universe. A lifelong music-lover and professional touring jazz musician, Alexander is interested in how innovations in physics have been and can be inspired by the "improvisational logic" exemplified in jazz performance and practice. Using analogous thinking, Alexander has enhanced not only his physics research, but also his relationship to music and understanding of improvisation, both musically and structurally. Alexander currently serves as Professor of Physics at Brown University and President of the National Society of Black Physicists (NSPB) and is a vocal advocate for the importance of research, mentoring, and employment opportunities for people of color pursuing a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) field.

Julia Watson

Design by Radical Indigenism

Monday, February 22, 2021, 

Landscape designer and educator Julia Watson has conducted extensive research on indigenous ecological knowledges and innovations to reimagine technology towards a sustainable, climate-resilient design future. Her bestselling book, Lo-TEK: Design by Radical Indigenism, a global exploration of nature-based technology spanning 18 countries, has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, Architectural Digest, and more. Regularly teaching at Harvard and Columbia University, Watson’s studio work involves landscape and urban design, along with public speaking and consulting with brands on sustainability. In her studio, she collaborates with a horticulturist as Watson Salembier, with a focus on rewilding, and has just completed the summer gardens for Rockefeller Center using a native plant palette inspired by the American meadow. Watson’s writing has been published widely and she has co-authored A Spiritual Guide to Bali’s UNESCO World Heritage. She’s a 2020 TED speaker, and a fellow of Summit REALITY, Pop!tech, & The Christensen Fund. Born in Australia, she regularly treks across the globe.

For this event, Watson will be in conversation with Christopher Harnish, MArch, Associate Professor, College of Architecture and the Built Environment.

This event is co-sponsored by Jefferson Humanities & Health and the Jefferson College of Architecture & the Built Environment.

Michael Chabon

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Novelist, short story author, and screenwriter Michael Chabon joins the Jefferson Humanities Forum to discuss the relationship between creativity, writing, memoir, fiction, and family. Chabon is the author of numerous bestselling and award-receiving books, including his 2016 novel Moonglow, a fictionalized chronicle of his grandfather’s life, and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. His works often explore themes of fatherhood, nostalgia, and Jewish identity. Off the page, Chabon has lectured widely on topics including the art and craft of writing and the tradition of Jewish fiction. Most recently, he co-wrote the Netflix mini-series Unbelievable, and helped develop the script for Star Trek: Picard, for which he is also an executive producer.

This event is co-sponsored by Jefferson Humanities & Health and the College of Humanities & Sciences as part of their Dietrich V. Asten Lecture Series.

During 2019-2020, the Jefferson Humanities Forum investigated the theme Memory, focusing on:  

  • Dementia and the neuroscience of memory
  • Memory and its presence or erasure in the built environment
  • Memoir and writing from memory
  • Genealogy, genetics and social justice

Tia Powell

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Tia Powell, MD, joins the Jefferson Humanities Forum to discuss her new book, Dementia Reimagined: Building a Life of Joy and Dignity from Beginning to End. Dr. Powell is the Director of the Montefiore Einstein Center for Bioethics and Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. She is a leading voice in bioethics education, end of life care and public policy. Dr. Powell applies her personal, clinical and academic experience to Dementia Reimagined, exploring the untold history of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Combining medicine and memoir, she helps us to understand how—by valuing care as much as cure—we can keep life with dementia meaningful and joyful. 

Deirdre Cooper Owens in Conversation with Elissa Blount Moorhead and Bradford Young

Friday, October 25, 2019

Deirdre Cooper Owens, PhD is the Linda and Charles Wilson Professor in the History of Medicine and Director of the Humanities in Medicine Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She also serves as the Director of the Program in African American History at the Library Company of Philadelphia. A popular public speaker, she has published articles, essays and book chapters on a number of issues that concern African American experiences and reproductive justice. Following a talk about her research, Professor Cooper Owens will engage in a conversation with Elissa Blount Moorhead and Bradford Young, the creators of Back and Song. Produced by Philadelphia Contemporary and Thomas Jefferson University, Back and Song is a film and art installation that reflects on the complex connections between health, wellness and the Black experience in America.

During 2018-2019, the Jefferson Humanities Forum investigated the theme Fusion, focusing on:  

  • Collaborations across disciplines resulting in new knowledge, methods and ways of knowing
  • Creative thinking at the intersection of broadly different fields and industries
  • Unexpected combinations of technique, style and perspective

Jonathan Metzl: Dying of Whiteness

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Jonathan Metzl is the Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry, and the Director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, at Vanderbilt University. He received his MD from the University of Missouri and a PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan. A 2008 Guggenheim fellow, Metzl’s books include The Protest Psychosis, Prozac on the Couch, and Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland (Basic Books, 2019). Learn More.

Co-sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives.

Vijay Gupta: The Medicine of Music

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Vijay Gupta is a violinist whose interest in neurobiology and mental health issues has made him a world-renowned advocate for the regenerative power of music. Gupta joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2007 at age 19, after completing a master’s degree in violin performance from the Yale School of Music. As a 2011 TED Senior Fellow, Gupta founded Street Symphony, a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging underserved communities experiencing mental illness, homelessness and incarceration in Los Angeles through musical performance and dialogue. Learn More.

Kerry Brodie: Food Fight - Equality, Opportunity and the Pursuit of Independence

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Kerry Brodie is founder and executive director of Emma’s Torch, a New York-based non-profit providing culinary training for refugees as a path to employment that affirms their cultural heritage and cuisine. Brodie began cooking at age five, under the watchful eyes of her grandmother. She is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education, where she won the Wusthof Award for Leadership, and holds degrees in Government from Johns Hopkins University and Near Eastern Studies from Princeton University. Learn More.

Alan Lightman: The Physicist as Novelist

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Alan Lightman, who worked for many years as a theoretical physicist, is the author of six novels, including the international best seller Einstein’s Dreams, as well as The Diagnosis, a finalist for the National Book Award. In 2018, he published two new books: Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine, about science, religion, and their different ways of knowing the world, and In Praise of Wasting Time. He is also the founder of the Harpswell Foundation, an organization devoted to the advancement of women in Southeast Asia. Learn More.

Anne Basting: Aging, Dementia & the Cultural Cure

Friday, October 19, 2018
Hamilton Building, Room 505, 1001 Locust Street

Anne Basting is a theater artist and educator demonstrating the potential of storytelling and creative expression to improve the lives of elders experiencing cognitive impairment. Across a variety of platforms, including collaborative public performance and academic research, Basting has developed an alternative concept of aging that focuses on its possibilities as well as its challenges. Basting is Professor of Theater in the Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, founder and president of TimeSlips Creative Storytelling, and a 2016 MacArthur Fellow.  Learn More

Willie Baronet: Signs of Humanity

Thursday, September 20, 2018
Hamilton 4th Floor Lobby

Willie Baronet is an award-winning graphic designer and Stan Richards Professor in Creative Advertising at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. Since 1993, Baronet has been buying and collecting signs from people soliciting support on the street as a response to his own discomfort witnessing poverty. In 2014, Baronet and three filmmakers drove across the U.S., interviewing more than 100 people on the streets and purchasing over 280 signs while producing the documentary film, Signs of Humanity. Learn More

Co-sponsored by the Jefferson College of Population Health