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September 29, 2008
By Jane Tors
Hosting renowned speakers and engaging events is part of the history and culture of the University campus. However, President Milton Glick, the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN) and many others are ready to turn it up … and more than just one notch.
Glick describes his vision as creating a “sticky” campus, with activities and programming that keep students engaged, foster learning experiences outside the classroom and ultimately contribute to improved retention rates.
With planned appearances by a presidential candidate, a former commander of U.S. Central Command and one of the world’s most noted literary figures, you might say that this fall the campus is getting stickier.
Inciting intelligent discussion
John Abizaid, the longest-serving leader of U.S. Central Command (CentCom) and former top commander for the wars and counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, is the kind of speaker that students Casey Stiteler and Sundance Bauman hoped to feature in ASUN's Nevada Speaker Series. Wednesday evening, as part of the series, the retired four-star general and expert in Middle Eastern affairs will give a presentation and take questions in the Joe Crowley Student Union Ballroom.
“We wanted to bring high level, international speakers that would talk about issues that touch all students,” said Stiteler, concert chairperson for Flipside Productions, the promotion and programming arm of ASUN. “We are looking to incite intelligent discussion. We want students and the community to keep an eye on the Nevada Speakers Series.”
“We want to appeal to all sides of the political views,” added Bauman, planner for the Nevada Speakers Series. “Most politically charged groups have an agenda; we don’t have an agenda. We want to encourage discussion.”
As an example of the series’ success, Stiteler and Bauman point to the “Lost Boys of Sudan” event held Sept. 10 at Crowley Student Union. The event featured Daniel Mabior, a “lost boy” who walked 90 days to safety in Kenya in the mid-1980s to avoid the conflict in Sudan. The event was attended by more than 230. The Flipside team is hoping for even bigger audiences with future events.
Bauman and Stiteler are quick to acknowledge the support of the Northern Nevada International Center, a co-sponsor for the Lost Boys of Sudan event and the upcoming Abizaid appearance. The center was instrumental in securing both events.
“If a group or student wants to work with us, we want to make it happen,” said Stiteler. “The more the merrier.”
From imagination to the stage
It was 15 years ago when Emma Sepulveda, professor of foreign languages and literatures and director of the Latino Research Center, first began to pursue the possibility of bringing Isabel Allende to campus. Allende is an internationally acclaimed author and journalist; however, Allende keeps speaking appearances to a minimum.
“She is in high, high demand,” said Sepulveda. “She only takes three or four invitations a year. We were competing with other campuses and venues around the world.”
Sepulveda and her cohorts with the Latino Research Center persisted, and Allende agreed. She will present “Stories and Dreams: An Evening with Isabel Allende” Oct. 9 in the student union ballroom.
“I think she will be one of the most incredible speakers we will have on campus,” said Sepulveda. “Many of our students have studied her through history, anthropology, political science and literature.
“For students to be able to see and hear someone who has only been in their imagination will be a life-changing experience,” Sepulveda said.
That’s a sentiment that will undoubtedly apply for many students when they have the opportunity to see and hear U.S. Sen. and presidential candidate Barack Obama on Sept. 30. The Obama ‘08 campaign has announced that Obama’s visit to Reno will include a rally on the University’s Quad.
It will be the candidate’s second campus appearance. Obama and his wife Michelle spoke before about 2,000 people in the Virginia Street Gym on Jan. 18.
“We are pleased to be the site for this appearance and we continue to extend an open invitation for presidential candidates of all parties to visit our campus,” President Glick said. “Events like this contribute to a more informed electorate and certainly contribute to an engaging and educational atmosphere for our students.”
When it comes to appearances by those representing political issues or candidates themselves, Bauman said: “Everyone is looking to be heard and we are ready to listen.”
Upcoming “marquee” events
When Forrest Sawyer met with students and faculty on Sept. 25, the veteran television journalist unofficially kicked off a series of impressive campus events.
Sawyer, who has worked for ABC, CBS and MSNBC and anchored ABC magazine programs “Day One” and “Turning Point,” was guest speaker at the University’s 27th annual Foundation Banquet at John Ascuaga’s Nugget that same night. He readily agreed to an afternoon question-and-answer session in the student union’s Theatre.
Here is a sampling of the events coming up next:
Jane Tors is special assistant to the president for media relations.