Auburn’s Critical Conversations Speaker Series announces spring speakers

Published: November 21, 2017
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Following the launch of Auburn University’s Critical Conversations Speaker Series this fall, the university has announced the slate of distinguished scholars and thought leaders who will visit the campus in spring 2018.

Representing diverse perspectives on topics that include free speech, women, diversity in STEM and intellectual diversity, the spring slate will kick off with Robert Shibley, executive director of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE, on Feb. 13. Additional speakers include Reshma Saujani, author and founder and CEO of Girls Who Code; Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars; and New York Times columnist and best-selling author Frank Bruni.

“Given the success of the fall series, we are excited to add these important voices to the conversation,” said Taffye Benson Clayton, Auburn University vice president and associate provost for inclusion and diversity. “While the primary goal of the series is to highlight the value of diverse discourse, the spring slate offers differing perspectives that provide an important balance to our fall speakers.”

Designed to foster a campus dialogue surrounding issues of free speech and intellectual and civil discourse, the series has engaged more than 2,000 members of the campus community since its kick off in early fall. In its first semester, the series welcomed prominent scholars Cornel West and Robert George, and thought leaders Howard Ross, Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Bush Hager and Derald Wing Sue.

Building on the momentum of the series, the Office of Inclusion and Diversity has encouraged Auburn faculty, staff and students to initiate their own critical conversations by promoting open discussion sessions and offering coffee vouchers. As part of the unit’s broader inclusion and diversity efforts, the conversations have explored topics such as unconscious bias, gender differences in society, microagressions and cultural barriers.

“From the beginning, our goal has been to create a signature speaker series that advances campus education and increases engagement around topics of diversity and inclusion science,” said Benson Clayton. “To see so many members of our campus embrace these opportunities for dialogue demonstrates the true impact of the series.”

The fall series will conclude Nov. 28 with political strategist Donna Brazile and veteran journalist Ann Compton. Scheduled for 5 p.m. in the Student Center ballroom, Brazile and Compton will participate in a moderated discussion on the topic of “Diverse Perspectives, Civil Discourse, and a Healthy Democracy.” The event is open to the public. Doors will open at 3 p.m.; attendees should arrive early as seating is limited. The event will be livestreamed on the Critical Conversations website.

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 29,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn's commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact. Auburn's mission to educate, discover and collaborate drives its expanding impact on the world.