Thomas Jefferson University

Humanities Forum

2020-2021: Creativity

Each academic year, Jefferson Humanities & Health explores a thought-provoking theme from a wide range of perspectives, inviting reflection and action around how we improve lives. 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 

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.

AAMC Call for Submissions: Stories and Poems During These Critical Times

The AAMC, in partnership with StoryCorps and the NEA, is seeking oral and 55-word stories for collaborative listening and story sharing that explore the lived experiences of our diverse constituents. Through a mix of media and forms—visual imagery, poetry, and storytelling—the AAMC is seeking a diverse range of voices and perspectives to honor and chronicle our community at this unprecedented time. Submit your 55-word story or poem here. Learn more about conducting a StoryCorps oral interview here.

Nikole Hannah-Jones

Nikole Hannah-Jones

A Conversation on Racial Equity, Health, and Reframing the Legacy of Slavery
Wednesday, October 14, 2020, 12-1 p.m.
Online via Zoom

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, 12-1 p.m.
Online via Zoom, register at

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 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.

Note: Recordings of both the 9/16 Dave Isay and 10/14 Nikole Hannah-Jones lectures are housed in the Jefferson Humanities & Health Canvas course. To access these recordings, you may self-enroll in the Jefferson Humanities & Health organization on Canvas, or email Humanities Program Coordinator Matilda Ostow, and visit the Event Recordings module.

2019-2020: Memory

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.

2018-2019: Fusion

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 HumanityLEARN MORE

Co-sponsored by the Jefferson College of Population Health