People say not to meet your heroes, but Miami University students did, however, with a visit from author, entrepreneur, scientist and TikTok icon Hank Green.
Speaking about science in the digital age, life on the internet and bridging political partisanship, Green was the first guest of Miami’s 2022-2023 University Lecture Series.
Green and his brother, John, started the YouTube channel “Vlogbrothers” in 2007 and soon after received funding from Google and YouTube to start two educational channels: “CrashCourse” and “SciShow.” Now, they are both New York Times bestselling authors.
Ann Haley MacKenzie, associate professor of teacher education, moderated the lecture. She described Green’s journey into internet fame as going “from sig figs to an icon.”
Tickets for the event went on sale at 8 a.m. on Sept. 28 and sold out in minutes. Vivian Dao, a first-year mechanical engineering major, woke up early to get tickets.
“I kept refreshing the [ticketing] website over and over again, praying for a ticket,” Dao said.
These sentiments were echoed by twins Madeleine and Grace Ames, sophomores both majoring in microbiology and medical lab science. They were unable to secure tickets and arrived at the event an hour early to ask for overflow seating, which they were granted.
“I wish it had been in a bigger auditorium — so many people didn’t get tickets,” Madeleine said.
For the students that were able to acquire tickets, the lecture was an hour full of laughter and learning. When Green walked onto the Hall Auditorium stage Oct. 3, he was greeted with a full minute of applause from the audience.
Green explained that the path to starting “CrashCourse” and “SciShow” was paved by funds from YouTube for creators of educational content.
He and his brother are committed to giving back to their community on and off the platform, through initiatives such as their “Project for Awesome.” They also donate half of the proceeds from “Vlogbrothers,” on which they still actively post, through grants for other educational creators who do not have the funding they need.
Green spoke with The Miami Student before his lecture and elaborated on this process.
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“It’s pretty impossible to not be leveraging my success for future cool, interesting things that I'm excited about,” Green said, “but I also have to be leveraging it for things that are about more than just me.”
During the interview, Green said cooperation over science during the COVID-19 pandemic can help bridge partisan gaps.
“You can definitely build a career driving people to sides, but I don’t want to,” Green said.
At the end of the lecture, he responded to questions from about 10 students ranging from what food he would bring to Thanksgiving (“mashed potatoes”) to what it was like writing a piece for a Star Wars anthology (“very cool”).
As the event wrapped up, students were able to head to a reception afterward in pavilions A and B at Armstrong Student Center for more individual interactions with Green.
But, even as he has become more famous, Green hasn’t strayed from his interest in science and spreading education. In a TikTok for The Miami Student, Green described CrashCourse as “the most important work I’ve ever done.”
With Green sharing plans to re-record the CrashCourse Biology series that helped launch the brothers into internet fame, it seems this work will continue for generations to come.
The next guest in the lecture series will be celebrity chef Carla Hall on Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m.