Guest lecturers bring varied perspectives


Kellogg Writers Series

The Allen & Helen Kellogg Writers Series, coordinated by the Department of English, brings writers of distinction to campus for classroom discussions and free public readings. The most recent visitor in the series, Jennifer Percy is author of the acclaimed new book Demon Camp: A Soldier’s Exorcism (Scribner). Percy is a Pushcart Prize winner and graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop who has been featured on National Public Radio and the BBC’s World News and feted by numerous publications and reviewers.

Mississippi native R. Flowers Rivera, a poet who has been published widely in leading journals, read and discussed her work as part of the writers series. Rivera has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, among other honors. She published her debut collection of poems, Troubling Accents (Xavier Review Press), in July 2013, and she has completed a second manuscript of revisionist mythology poems titled Heathen.

Poet Jason McCall is the author of Dear Hero (winner of the 2012 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize), Silver (Main Street Rag), I Can Explain (Finishing Line Press) and Mother, Less Child (winner of the 2013 Paper Nautilus Vella Chapbook Prize). McCall shared the stage with Sandy Florian, who writes from a Latina perspective. Florian is a critic and the author of five books and one chapbook. Her latest book, Boxing the Compass, is published by Noemi Press in collaboration with Letras Latinas.

The nonfiction and criticism of Roxanne Gay have appeared in such publications as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and leading anthologies. She blogs for Salon and The Nation and has two books coming next year: her first novel, An Untamed State (Grove Atlantic), and an essay collection, Bad Feminist (Harper Perennial).

nikkig300hiresOne of the year’s best-known visitors made perhaps the quietest visit, as her arrival coincided with a snowstorm. Nikki Giovanni (pictured) is a world-renowned poet, writer, commentator, activist, and educator, recognized for her commitment to civil rights and equality. She published her first book of poetry, Black Feeling Black Talk, in 1968. She was recently named one of Oprah Winfrey’s twenty-five “Living Legends.”

‘The Ground on Which We Stand’

Writer Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts, author of the acclaimed Harlem Is Nowhere, spoke in September at UIndy as part of the Sutphin Lectures in the Humanities series. Rhodes-Pitts is a Harvard graduate and Fulbright Scholar. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Harper’s, Vogue, Transition, Essence, and others. Her lecture, “The Ground on Which We Stand: Stepping Up in the Age of ‘Stand Your Ground,’” took its title from a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh: “My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.”

Racism in the church

Duke University theologian Willie James Jennings explored the impact of race issues on the Christian church during a UIndy appearance in April. His lecture was titled, “How to Overcome the Disease of Racism in Christianity.” Jennings is an associate professor of Theology and Black Church Studies at the Duke Divinity School, where he earned his doctoral degree. His book The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, published by Yale University Press, won a 2011 American Academy of Religion award for best book and is becoming a standard text in colleges, seminaries, and universities.

‘Apprentice’ winner offers advice

Businessman, reality TV star, and motivational speaker Bill Rancic offered tips on personal branding and career development in an exclusive appearance March 18 for the campus community, presented by the UIndy chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Rancic first rose to fame in 2004 as the winner of the first season of NBC’s “The Apprentice.” He and his wife confront career and family issues in the E! reality series “Giuliana and Bill,” now in its sixth season. He speaks to organizations around the world and appears frequently on TV talk and news shows to discuss business and entrepreneurship.

 ‘Cosmos’ host Neil deGrasse Tyson to speak October 22

Here is a departure from the year-in-review format, in the form of advance notice: Internationally known astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of the “Cosmos” science television series, will deliver a public presentation October 22 at UIndy. Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, will speak at 7 p.m. in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall of the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center. The appearance is part of UIndy’s Blanche E. Penrod Lecture Series. Details on seating will be released as available. “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey” is a high-tech reboot of the groundbreaking 1980 PBS series that demystified deep science for general audiences and made host Carl Sagan a pop icon.