Section: News

Kenyon sees increase in less-famous speakers

By Maya Lowenstein

The numerous, usually intellectual, speakers who come to Kenyon may lack the star power of speakers in days of yore. Anthony Masinton is giving a talk today on “Visualizing the Past in Virtual and Other Digital Realities.” Masinton’s contributions to digital visualization may be valuable, but he’s not a conventional headliner.

Several alumni say Kenyon tended to bring a few big-name speakers in the past, whereas nowadays it brings more, less-famous speakers. Jonathan Tazewell ’84 fondly recalled speeches and visits from prominent leaders such as Maya Angelou, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Tazewell speculates that the reason why famous speakers such as these have stopped coming to campus as frequently is because “the cost of famous people on the lecture circuit has increased.”

Coordinator of the biology seminar series and Professor of Biology Joan Slonczewski spoke about the process of bringing in speakers and the importance of the department’s seminar series. This semester the department invited Doctors Without Borders physician Dr. Michael Newman. Next semester, it is “bringing an AIDS research physician and alumna who works in pediatrics,” Slonczewski said. When asked about the advantages of bringing a variety of lesser-known speakers to Kenyon, Slonczewski said “the most important benefit is for students to see that what they are studying relates to the real world and future careers.” Slonczewski claims Kenyon is “very supportive” in bringing in speakers, but that the biology department has “modest funds.”

Director of the Gund Gallery Natalie Marsh discussed the value of the Feast Exhibition and stated that it has the “opportunity to create links between students and guests.” Marsh also defended the benefits of keeping guests on campus for more than just an overnight: “It is really effective when visiting artists or scholars come and stay a week with us,” she said.

Lee Mingwei, an artist from Taiwan, visited Kenyon on Aug. 28 to speak as well as to continue The Dining Project, an artistic work of Mingwei’s which consists of meticulously cooking a meal and serving it to guests to bond through conversation and food. According to Marsh, “his visit went so well that he invited a number of students to work as his interns this summer while he installs his show at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) In New York City.” These guests “do us a lot of good,” according to Marsh. “They are very important for us to meet because they will lead to opportunities after Kenyon that are just unmatched.” On the other hand, Marsh does agree that Kenyon should work on “collaborating and pooling resources so that we can bring in one great speaker instead of five good ones.”

Less-well-known speakers may lack that “wow” factor, but according to Slonczewski and Marsh, it is still important to bring in speakers that provide opportunities beyond Kenyon.

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