University of Vermont

The Honors College

Plenary Lectures Faculty

FALL 2014

The Honors College's plenary lecture series, an integral part of the first-year course, "The Pursuit of Knowledge," invites the campus community to consider along with the students questions similar to those being posed in the course. Lectures are by distinguished members of the UVM community as well as nationally recognized writers and artists from outside UVM.

Plenary Lectures are scheduled on select Thursdays throughout the semester from 5:30-6:45 pm in Billings Lecture Hall. Members of the University community as well as the broader Burlington community are always welcome to attend.

Chris Danforth, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics
University of Vermont

Lecture: September 11, 2014
Topic: "Measuring Happiness: Social Media as Laboratory"
Chris Danforth

Chris Danforth is an Associate Professor at UVM in the department of Mathematics and Statistics. Lots of scientists and engineers will tell you that as children, they loved taking apart old computers, radios, TVs or other appliances, and then putting them back together. Not Chris, "I was always interested in how things worked," he says. "I demolished some televisions and computer monitors in order to figure out why they functioned. But I wasn't really interested in putting them back together. I was into art, and I would use pieces of the monitors to make sculptures."

Danforth's father is a Materials Science and Engineering professor at Rutgers and his mother is a retired professional modern dancer, so he comes by his interest in creative science honestly. "I was sure that I wanted to be a scientist, and decided early on that applied math would be the right avenue because it provided the opportunity to work in all fields of science 'under the hood.' There were times when I thought that maybe I would like to be a guitarist or tennis player, but I knew that if I wanted to start a family and have a career, I should stick with math."

So he "stuck with math" and received his B.S with honors in Mathematics and Physics from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, in 2001, and earned his Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics and Scientific Computation from the University of Maryland in 2006.

Bill Falls, Professor of Psychology
University of Vermont

Lecture: September 25, 2014
Topic:"Formulating Scientific Questions"
William Falls

Falls is an Associate Professor of Psychology and has been the recipient of grants from the National Institute of Mental Health. Falls' research is focused on examining the neurobiology of learning, memory and emotion. He uses Pavlovian fear conditioning procedures to examine the neural systems involved in the acquisition, expression and inhibition of conditioned fear and has been recently conducting research examining the mechanism through which physical exercise reduces anxiety and improves learning and memory. Anxiety disorders, such as specific phobias and PTSD, may reflect pathological fear responses acquired through Pavlovian conditioning. Individuals with these disorders exhibit exaggerated fear and anxiety in certain situations. Falls examines these neural systems to better understand the etiology of these disorders and to develop new and more effective treatments for reducing fear and anxiety.

Recent publications include: Waddell, J. Dunnett, C. & Falls, W.A. (2004). C57BL/6J and DBA/2J mice differ in extinction and renewal of extinguished fear. Behavioural Brain Research 154(2):567-76 .

Jaworski DM. Boone J. Caterina J. Soloway P. Falls WA. (2005). Prepulse inhibition and fear-potentiated startle are altered in tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-2 (TIMP-2) knockout mice. Brain Research. 1051, 81-9.

Heldt, S.A. & Falls, W.A. (2006). The Effects of Posttraining Lesions of the Auditory Thalamus and Cortex on the Inhibition of Fear Conditioned to an Auditory Stimulus.

European Journal of Neuroscience.


Prof. Falls' Website

Michael Arnowitt, Pianist

Lecture: October 23, 2014
Topic: "The Music of 1911" (a recital/lecture)
Michael Arnowitt

Michael Arnowitt is one of the most creative and imaginative pianists in today's classical music world. He is best known for the beauty, clarity and elegance of his musical ideas, for his abilities to find new articulations and colors from the piano, for his talents in constructing innovative and thought-provoking programs, and for his natural and warm on-stage manner with audiences of all ages.

Michael Arnowitt's life and music is the subject of an award-winning documentary by the American filmmaker Susan Bettmann, Beyond Eighty-Eight Keys (2004). The documentary, filmed in both the United States and Europe, contains footage of concert performances, educational talks, and interviews. The film has been broadcast twice on public television and has been shown at a variety of film festivals and venues including the Rode Pomp, an arts center in Gent, Belgium and the Anthology, a theater in New York City's East Village.

Arnowitt has appeared at festivals and concert series devoted to contemporary music in the northeastern United States, and has performed piano solo new music programs in Belgium and Holland. Together with the percussionist Beverley Johnston, he developed a duo program of music by composers from around the world, which they have performed in Canada and the United States.

Michael Pollan, Author, "Cooked"

Lecture: October 30, 2014
Topic: TBD
Michael Pollan

For the past twenty-five years, Michael Pollan has been writing books and articles about the places where nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the built environment. He is the author of "Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation" (2013) and of four New York Times bestsellers: "Food Rules: An Eater's Manual" (2010); "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" (2008); "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals" (2006) and "The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World" (2001). The "Omnivore's Dilemma" was named one of the ten best books of 2006 by both the New York Times and the Washington Post. It also won the California Book Award, the Northern California Book Award, the James Beard Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. A young readers edition called "The Omnivore's Dilemma": the Secrets Behind What You Eat was published in 2009. In 2011, Pollan published a illustrated version of Food Rules with beautiful new paintings by Maira Kalman. The Botany of Desire received the Borders Original Voices Award for the best non-fiction work of 2001, and was recognized as a best book of the year by the American Booksellers Association and PBS premiered a two-hour special documentary based on The Botany of Desire in fall 2009. Pollan is also the author of A Place of My Own (1997) and Second Nature (1991).

Robert Macauley, Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine, University of Vermont

Lecture: November 6, 2014
Topic: "ICU: Introduction to Clinical Uncertainty"
Robert Macauley

Robert Macauley is Medical Director of Clinical Ethics at Fletcher Allen Health Care, and Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He received his B.A. from Wheaton College and M.D. from Yale. Following residency training in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins, he was a pediatric hospitalist in Connecticut and Director of Pediatrics at Kuluva Hospital in Uganda, before coming to UVM in 2002. He also holds a Master of Studies in Philosophical Theology from Oxford University, and Masters of Divinity and of Sacred Theology from Yale Divinity School.

Dr. Macauley's work focuses on clinical ethics, pediatric palliative care, and spirituality. He directs the Clinical Ethics Consultation Service at Fletcher Allen Health Care as well as the ethics curriculum at the UVM College of Medicine, for which he received the Golden Apple Teaching Award. He has published articles on topics ranging from civil disobedience in the practice of medicine to the role of surrogate decision-making following a suicide attempt, in journals such as the Hastings Center Report and the Journal of Clinical Ethics.

Dr. Macauley also directs the Pediatric Advanced Care Team at Vermont Children's Hospital, and is one of less than a hundred pediatricians nationally to also be board-certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. An ordained Episcopal priest, Dr. Macauley directs the "Spirituality in Patient Care" initiative at the College of Medicine, for which he received the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health Award for Curricular Development.

Alison Bechdel, American cartoonist:"Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic""

Lecture: November 13, 2014
Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel's comic strip "Dykes To Watch Out For" has become a countercultural institution among lesbians and discerning non-lesbians all over the planet. And her more recent, darkly humorous graphic memoirs about her family have forged an unlikely intimacy with an even wider range of readers.

Bechdel self-syndicated Dykes to Watch Out For for twenty-five years, from 1983 to 2008. The award-winning generational chronicle has been called 'one of the pre-eminent oeuvres in the comics genre, period.' (Ms. magazine)

In 2006 she published Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. Time magazine named it the Best Book of 2006, describing the tightly architected investigation into her closeted bisexual father's suicide 'a masterpiece about two people who live in the same house but different worlds, and their mysterious debts to each other.' Fun Home was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. It has been adapted into a musical by the playwright Lisa Kron and the composer Jeanine Tesori. It opened Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in September 2013 and ran through several extensions. A Broadway transfer is being planned for 2015, but has not been finalized.

Last modified August 20 2014 11:55 AM