The Miami University Lecture Series plans to return to a fully in-person season for the 2021-2022 school year after holding virtual lectures last year due to COVID-19.
This year, lectures will once again be held in Hall Auditorium. Lana Kay Rosenberg, chair of the Lecture Series committee and associate professor of sports leadership and management, said the committee is also planning on hosting other events, such as a seminar and a dinner with the speakers, like it has in previous years.
The series, however, may still look a little different than normal.
“We’re trying to go back to what had been a more normal way we had done things before COVID,” Rosenberg said. “We’re trying so hard to do that, and yet, COVID hovers over us in many different ways.”
Rosenberg said seating may be spaced out in the auditorium, so people can distance themselves from each other, among other non-finalized changes. She also hopes to block out the last two rows of seats for camera equipment to livestream the event.
“[It’s] not as much for students, although that could be true, but last year, we had so many alumni that were able to participate that could not participate otherwise,” she said. “They loved it.”
John Tchernev, assistant professor of strategic communication and member of the Lecture Series committee, said it has been difficult to plan because COVID is so unpredictable.
“Even now, things are a little bit up in the air in terms of the exact details of what might happen,” Tchernev said. “Things might change any minute basically, and you never know what’s going to happen.”
The series is planned by the Lecture Series committee, made up of three faculty members, two staff members and six students. They work together to decide what speakers to bring and also to plan and promote the events.
Tchernev said the series aims to bring in diverse speakers to discuss different topics that students might be interested in.
“This year we have four different speakers who are doing completely different topics,” Tchernev said. “And I think they’re all going to be pretty exciting.”
In October, broadcast journalist JuJu Chang will speak about racism against Asian Americans, and Jeopardy’s Ken Jennings is scheduled to talk about knowledge and learning in November.
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Next semester’s speakers include Gregory Maguire, author of the book that inspired the musical “Wicked,” and actor Sean Astin, who will talk about the importance of mental health.
Astin was originally scheduled to come to Miami in the spring of 2020, but the lecture was canceled after Miami went online.
“We have known for a few years at Miami University, and other places as well, that students’ mental health is going downhill for a lot of different reasons, and we know for a fact that it hasn’t gotten a lot better – it’s certainly gotten a lot worse,” Rosenberg said. “So we knew that for sure we wanted to invite Sean Astin back to talk on mental health topics.”
Tchernev said when choosing speakers, the committee tries to find people who will be both appealing to students and also have something informative to say. After the controversy surrounding the Dan Harmon lecture scheduled for last semester, he said the committee has been more careful with its selections.
“We’ve been extra careful in terms of trying to screen people for their background and making sure they’re not someone people are going to be offended by,” Tchernev said.
The Lecture Series is free for all students to attend, as long as they reserve a ticket. According to the Lecture Series website, tickets will become available the Wednesday before each lecture.
Rosenberg encourages all students to attend.
“Take advantage of all the free things that are open to you,” Rosenberg said. “Don’t wait for something to be required or extra credit. See that something’s coming where there might be a little bit of interest.”
Rosenberg said she is most excited for the return of the seminars, where a group of students get to meet the speaker and ask them questions.
“I have found that the most exciting part of everything for me is the seminar,” Rosenberg said. “The students that come to the seminars that we’ve had over the years are bright and articulate and knowledgeable and just dynamos.”
Tchernev said he is mainly looking forward to being back in person.
“I’m excited to see hopefully everything happen back in person … I’m looking forward to seeing the students get to meet some of the speakers, and I think it’s going to be a pretty successful season.”