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Key Conversations with Phi Beta Kappa
26 minutes | May 16, 2022
Professor Ed Ayers on Teaching a Morally Engaging History
The Civil War historian talks about combining intellectual, cultural, social, and economic history to truly grasp the U.S.’s past, especially events that took place in the South. He shares with Fred how he helps make free, nonpartisan, educational resources for teaching lively history lessons.
25 minutes | Apr 18, 2022
Editor Bob Wilson Celebrates A Career of Literary Journalism
The retiring editor of The American Scholar magazine reflects on decades producing literary journalism, why he always supported women writers, and the role of journalists in turbulent times.
31 minutes | Mar 22, 2022
2021 Lebowitz Award Winners on How We Perceive Our Selves
The Lebowitz Award is presented each year to a pair of outstanding philosophers who hold contrasting views on a topic of current interest in the field. The 2021 winners, New York University's Ned Block and Johns Hopkins University's Ian Phillips, speak with Fred about how they approach philosophy of mind – specifically, our powers of perception and how that affects our consciousness.
24 minutes | Feb 24, 2022
Professor Joan Waugh Debunks the “Easy Stereotypes of History”
The UCLA scholar tries to understand the past on its own terms, while interrogating how we memorialize it. She speaks with Fred about the memory wars that have outlived the Civil War, the politics of Reconstruction that gave us Confederate monuments, and what we can learn from Gettysburg by visiting the place.
25 minutes | Jan 27, 2022
Princeton’s Doug Massey Unpacks U.S. Migration and Housing Segregation
The multidisciplinary scholar’s wide-ranging interests led him to demography and population research early on. He speaks with Fred about what people generally misunderstand about immigration into the U.S., how border enforcement has backfired, and why racial segregation and housing discrimination persist around the country.
44 minutes | Dec 22, 2021
2021 Book Awards Keynote Roundtable
The Phi Beta Kappa Book Awards are presented annually to three outstanding scholarly books published in the United States. The 2021 winners are Jenn Shapland for My Autobiography of Carson McCullers; Sarah Stewart Johnson for The Sirens of Mars: Searching for Life on Another World; and Alice Baumgartner for South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War. During the ceremony, the authors shared their thought process that sparked their ideas, found commonality in courage, and reflected on the moments that spurred them on to pursue the work we honored.
23 minutes | Nov 25, 2021
How Biophysicist Karen Fleming Explores the Rules of Life, Evolution, and Disease
The biophysicist has been running a discovery research lab for two decades at Johns Hopkins. She speaks with Fred about the randomness underlying all molecular processes, computer models that enable the integration of multiple scientific disciplines, and what she sees as compelling strategies for a more inclusive STEM pipeline. This interview was recorded remotely.
26 minutes | Oct 29, 2021
Bro Adams Knows What the Humanities Can Do Beyond Campuses
William "Bro" Adams, the former head of the National Endowment of the Humanities, and President of Colby College and Bucknell University brought the humanities with him through his professional journey. While doing so he challenged colleges to rethink the impact liberal arts and sciences had on students, and the role they could play in the broader general public. In this episode, he shares how the meaningful life and the productive life can coexist and how they can both be served in higher education.
25 minutes | Sep 24, 2021
Yale’s Tracey Meares Deconstructs Our Relationship with the Police
She’s a nationally recognized expert on policing. She speaks with Fred about the need to reimagine public safety and reform, the distinct American policing experience in a global context, and what it’s like trying to convince her law school students that criminal procedure is actually about constitutional law. This interview was recorded remotely.
24 minutes | Aug 27, 2021
Anthropologist Elizabeth Cullen Dunn on Why Geography Is a Way of Thinking
She has spent years studying displaced people living in refugee camps around the world. And has sometimes even been claimed by residents thanks to her ability to acclimate with her research subjects. Here, Cullen Dunn explains why geography is a way of thinking, how we can reconsider the role of charity in resettlement efforts, and what the digital revolution has to do with forced migration.
24 minutes | Jul 30, 2021
Biophysicist Martin Gruebele on the Future of Scientific Discovery
He studies a broad range of fundamental problems in chemical and biological physics, and thinks deeply about the course of scientific inquiry. And finds fascinating ways to explain things to Fred in this episode, like what Zebrafish and chemical reactions in the Ozone layer can teach us about collaboration, and why more policymakers and scientists should be talking to one another.
25 minutes | Jun 25, 2021
Philosopher Susan Wolf on Meaningfulness as a Dimension of a Good Life
The moral philosopher ponders why being happy and acting morally may not be enough to satisfy us. She believes we need a vocabulary of meaning in public discourse, and suggests we strive for vitality––not joy––in the face of uncertainty and suffering. This interview was recorded remotely.
24 minutes | May 28, 2021
Paul Robbins on How to Save Biodiversity in the Planet
His research focuses on human interactions with nature and the politics of natural resource management. The professor and dean at the University of Wisconsin speaks with Fred about how the natural environment affects everything from racial and social justice to the population bust. And he reveals what coffee, frogs and workers can teach us about the survival of wildlife and humans. This interview was recorded remotely.
25 minutes | Apr 30, 2021
Lebowitz Award Winners on How We Reason in Moments of Transformation
The Lebowitz Award is presented each year to a pair of outstanding philosophers who hold contrasting views on a topic of current interest in the field. The 2020 winners, University of Chicago’s Agnes Callard and Yale’s Laurie Paul, speak with Fred about their differing approaches to understanding and explaining what principles and mechanisms guide decision making when people face significant decisions.
27 minutes | Mar 26, 2021
Roger Guenveur Smith Makes the Sublime and the Profane Artful
The writer, actor and director creates characters that resonate in the moment and speak compellingly to the day's dilemmas. From his collaboration with Spike Lee, to his portrayal of Frederick Douglas, Otto Frank and Rodney King, he unfolds fascinating stories that span his prolific career, like his unlikely decision to audition for the Yale School of Drama.
25 minutes | Feb 26, 2021
Genetics Researcher Janet Westpheling on Inspiring the Next Generation of Scientists
She knew early on she wanted to be a scientist. Today, her research at the intersection of academic and industrial microbiology addresses some of the most pressing energy issues of our time. The University of Georgia professor speaks with Fred about her upbringing, her work at The Center for Bioenergy Innovation, and her role as an educator and champion of scientific inquiry inside and outside of the lab.
26 minutes | Jan 29, 2021
Poet Evie Shockley on Why Poems Are an Analysis Genre
The Rutgers professor, who left a career in law to pursue literature, speaks with Fred about the role of poetry in social justice, documenting and analyzing our lived experiences through poems, and why, contrary to popular belief, poems are one of the most accessible mediums of expression. And she reads two of her own.
37 minutes | Jan 1, 2021
2020 Book Awards Keynote Roundtable
The Phi Beta Kappa Book Awards are presented annually to three outstanding scholarly books published in the United States. The 2020 winners are Leah Price for What We Talk about When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading; Sarah Parcak for Archaeology From Space: How the Future Shapes the Past; and Sarah Seo for Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom. During the ceremony, the authors shared their thought process that sparked their ideas, marveled at how much our quotidian experiences tell us about the human condition, and reflected on the individuals who spurred them on to pursue the work we honored.
27 minutes | Nov 27, 2020
Former Obama Advisor Joseph Aldy on How Climate Change Policies Can Bolster the Economy Post COVID-19
Former Special Assistant to President Obama for Energy and Environment, Professor Joseph Aldy is an expert in thinking creatively about how climate change-friendly policies can bolster the economy in times of crisis. He reflects on lessons from 2009, and looks ahead at how we can build an American economy that is more resilient to risk in a post COVID-19 era.
28 minutes | Oct 30, 2020
Political Scientist Corey Brettschneider on Why We Should Distrust Our Presidents
Brown University’s Corey Brettschneider has spent years studying constitutional law and the purpose and limits of the presidency. As the 2020 election draws near, he speaks with Fred about the likelihood of bringing back constraints to the most powerful office in the land, why the words in the oath of office matter, and what our current political climate reveals about civil liberties, civil rights and the constitutional powers of the three branches of government.
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