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May 14, 2007
Contact: Deborah Baum
(401) 863-2476

Commencement Forums: A Featured Events Special Edition

Commencement Forums are academic colloquia by faculty, alumni, students and distinguished guests. All forums will be held on Saturday, May 26, 2007, and are free and open to the public. Seating is limited. For more information, see

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9 a.m. MacMillan Hall 115
How the Genome and Computer Have Changed the Biomedical Sciences

David Botstein, the Anthony B. Evnin Professor of Genomics and director of the Lewis-Sigler Institute of Integrative Genomics, Princeton University, will deliver the Joan and Frank Rothman Lecture. Botstein is a geneticist, educator and pioneer in integrating multiple diverse disciplines into the study of biology. His work established the ground rules for human genetic mapping and laid the foundation for the human genome project. Botstein is considered a founder of the field of functional genomics, which permits analysis of the expression of many genes simultaneously, a key both to understanding how organisms respond to their environment and to our understanding of cancer and other complex diseases. This forum will be held in W. Duncan MacMillan Hall, Room 115.

9 a.m. Salomon Center 101
The Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice:
Retrospect andProspect

In 2003, President Ruth J. Simmons appointed a Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice to investigate Brown’s historical relationship to slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, and, more broadly, to organize public programs that would help people reflect on the meaning and significance of that history in the present. The committee issued its final report last October; President Simmons and the Brown Corporation issued a response to the committee’s recommendations in January. The committee’s chair, James T. Campbell, associate professor of American civilization, Africana studies, and history, will discuss the steering committee’s methods, findings, and recommendations, as well as the report’s local and national significance. This forum takes place in Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 101.

9 a.m. Salomon Center 001
Vision and Brain: Is the World a Hallucination?

What we see is often dramatically different from physical reality. But rather than being mere curiosities, the distortions and errors we experience reveal the clever computations our brains use to process visual information. Michael A. Paradiso, professor of neuroscience, will discuss how vision scientists at Brown are using a variety of approaches to expose how the brain rapidly and flexibly makes inferences about a complex and changeable world. Research in the biological sciences is complemented by behavioral, perceptual, and computational studies of vision. This forum will be held in Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 001.

9 a.m. MacMillan Hall 117
Perspectives on Iraq

Join former Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee ’75 and award-winning documentary filmmaker Deborah Scranton ’84 for a multifaceted discussion on the war in Iraq. Chafee, the only Republican senator to vote against the war, later conducted a fact-finding mission in Iraq and has continued to analyze U.S. policy in the area as part of his current appointment as distinguished visiting fellow at Brown’s Watson Institute for International Studies. Scranton, also a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute, gave video cameras to U.S. soldiers in Iraq to glean their “boots-on-the-ground” perspective for her documentary The War Tapes. This forum, sponsored by the Watson Institute for International Studies, will be held in W. Duncan MacMillan Hall, Room 117.

9 a.m. List Art Center 120
Color Me Cool: Comic Books and Graphic Novels in the U.S.

When the first issue of Superman sold 900,000 copies in 1939, publishers had found a new staple – superheroes – and a growing youth market. Morality panics that attempted to link comics to juvenile delinquency in the 1950s, however, temporarily zapped the life from the genre. The alternative comix of the 1960s and ’70s revitalized comics with edgier stories and iconoclastic writers. Today, the best comics are as poignant as great works of literature, as Art Spiegelman’s Maus, a serialized tale of the Holocaust, made patently clear. Recently, The New York Times Magazine has played its own part in bringing comics into the mainstream. Led by Ralph E. Rodriguez, associate professor of American civilization and associate professor in the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, this forum will explore the history of comics and their stylistic intricacies. The forum will be held in List Art Center, Room 120.

9 a.m. Smith-Buonanno Hall 106
Brown Goes to the Poorhouse: Dexter Asylum and Today’s Athletic Complex

Fifty years ago this summer Brown purchased the last remaining farm on College Hill – 39 acres – for use as a new athletic facility. Constructed by the town of Providence following an 1824 bequest by Ebenezer Knight Dexter, the Dexter Asylum served until 1957 as a rural institution for the care of the elderly poor and mentally ill. Today, the high stone wall surrounding Aldrich-Dexter Field is the only vestige of the old poor farm. University Curator Robert P. Emlen will describe the history of the Dexter Asylum and its development as the Wendell R. Erickson Athletic Complex. This forum will be held in Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106.

10:30 a.m. MacMillan Hall 117
Adaptation and Change in the Wake of Katrina

Three New Orleans-based college presidents will discuss how their universities reacted, adapted, and underwent profound changes throughout their recovery from Hurricane Katrina. They will also look more broadly at how Katrina affected the other institutions that they are connected to or dependent upon. John Logan, professor of sociology, will moderate the panel, featuring Scott S. Cowen, president, Tulane University; Norman C. Francis, president, Xavier University of Louisiana; and Marvalene Hughes, president, Dillard University. This forum takes place in W. Duncan MacMillan Hall, Room 117.

10:30 a.m. List Art Center 120
Mass Media in Transition: How Digital Technology and the Search for Content are Transforming the Industry

Nothing has ever disrupted “traditional” media, information, and entertainment as much as the digital explosion. Video content can now be produced and accessed over the Internet quickly and inexpensively. By late 2006, almost 7 billion Internet searches took place per month in the United States. An average of 9 million people are logged into music file-sharing services, illegally swapping or sharing an estimated 20 billion songs. How are technology, user-generated content, and other forces changing the media? How can major media companies adapt to this new environment? With many voices of authority and many challengers, who controls the message, and who hears it? Sponsored by the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women and moderated by Amy Finn Binder ’77, CEO and founder, RF|Binder Partners, this forum features Scott Meyer ’91, president and CEO, About Inc., and Lauren Zalaznick ’84, president, Bravo Television Network. The forum will take place in List Art Center, Room 120.

10:30 a.m. Salomon Center 001
Arts Education and the Transformation of a City

Providence has been heralded during the last decade as among the most livable cities in the country. The city’s vibrant arts scene in particular has been credited with bringing about significant positive change. Directors of four nationally recognized arts organizations discuss the Providence renaissance with Mayor David N. Cicilline ’83, with a focus on the role of the arts in transforming the lives of urban youth. Panelists include Tyler Denmead ’98, founder and executive director, New Urban Arts; Donald King ’93, founder and artistic director, Providence Black Repertory Company; Jason McGill ’02, associate director, Everett Dance Theatre; and Sebastian Ruth ’97, founder and director, Community Musicworks. The discussion will be moderated by Roger Nozaki ’89 MAT, director, Swearer Center for Public Service. Sponsored by the Office of Alumni Relations, this forum will be held in Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 001.

10:30 a.m. Salomon Center 101
Inside Heroes: One Show, Three Perspectives

In its first season, NBC’s hour-long drama Heroes has garnered significant critical acclaim and audience following. Three alumni – an executive, a cinematographer, and an actor – share their professional perspectives on what it takes to work and succeed in Hollywood and why Heroes is a television hit. This forum, sponsored by the Office of Alumni Relations, features Bruce Evans ’87, vice president, current series, NBC Entertainment; Nate Goodman ’84, director of photography, Heroes, NBC; and Masi Oka ’97, actor (Hiro Nakamura), Heroes. They will speak in Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 101.

10:30 a.m. MacMillan Hall 115
Portrait of a Surgeon:
One Woman’s Journey Through the World of Medicine

Nora Burgess ’74, ’77 M.D., delivers the Ruth B. Sauber Distinguished Alumni Lecture. Burgess specializes in adult cardiac surgery and is currently assistant physician-in-chief and medical chief financial officer at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco. She was one of the first 20 women to be certified by the American Thoracic Surgery Board and the first physician in her HMO to be a CFO. This forum will be held in W. Duncan MacMillan Hall, Room 115.

10:30 a.m. Sayles Hall
WBRU to ESPN: Two GOOD Four-Letter Words and a 30-Year Journey

In May 1977, Chris Berman ’77 ended his stint as sports director of Brown’s FM radio station and graduated with a degree in history. In 1979, he began a new job with a fledgling cable TV organization. The rest, as they say, is history – both broadcasting and sports history. Berman will recount memories, observations, and lessons learned from two fascinating worlds, and he will also answer questions from the audience. This forum will be held in Sayles Hall.

10:30 a.m. Grant Recital Hall
Studies in Movement: New Technologies for Interactive Performance

Studies in Movement, Butch Rovan’s new multimedia chamber opera, pays homage to the French physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey (1830-1904). Marey invented methods to track the beating heart; developed a rapid-fire camera to capture birds in flight; and photographed human locomotion, breaking down the multiple discrete gestures that compose an act of walking, jumping, or speaking. His findings contributed to modern aviation and the modern film industry, ultimately transforming modern vision. In this forum, Joseph “Butch” Rovan, composer and associate professor of music, will present a broad picture of Marey himself and conclude with an overview of the custom technologies created for the performance and samples from the work in progress. Sponsored by The Cogut Center for Humanities, this forum will be held in Grant Recital Hall.

1 p.m. John Hay Library Lownes Room
From Gas Pipes to Web sites: Seventy Years of Brown Radio

Join alumni from WBRU and BSR, current student managers of both stations, and a radio historian to view an exhibit about Brown radio and discuss what has made broadcasting at Brown unique. The panel will trace Brown radio history from the dorm-room broadcasts in 1936 to the modern-day stations of WBRU and BSR, which reach hundreds of thousands of listeners and are staffed by more than 100 students. The exhibit grew out of an undergraduate Group Independent Study Project last fall. An audio documentary featuring interviews with radio alumni will be available at the forum and online at Panelists include Susan Smulyan, associate professor of American civilization; Rita Cidre ’07, former general manager, WBRU; Jason Sigal ’07, general manager, BSR; Amanda Murray, graduate student in public humanities and curator of the Radio at Brown exhibit; and Paul McCarthy ’01, producer, Radio at Brown audio documentary. This forum will be held in John Hay Library, Lownes Room.

1 p.m. Sayles Hall
From Brown to Grey’s Anatomy: A Conversation with Kate Burton ’79

Kate Burton ’79 will discuss her journey as a working actress, from her undergraduate days at Brown to the Yale School of Drama to Broadway and to Hollywood. This forum will be held in Sayles Hall.

1 p.m. Salomon Center 001
Virtual JFK: Vietnam, If Kennedy Had Lived

James Blight, janet Lang, and Koji Masutani ’05, all affiliated with Brown’s Watson Institute, are collaborating on a project called Virtual JFK: Vietnam, If Kennedy Had Lived. The project addresses the question, “What would President John F. Kennedy have done regarding the conflict in Vietnam if he had not been assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and had been re-elected in November 1964?” This is the most debated what-if in the history of U.S. foreign policy. The resulting film is purely historical, but the resonance with America’s predicament in Iraq is powerful. Blight and Lang will lead this forum, sponsored by The Watson Institute for International Studies, in Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 001.

1 p.m. MacMillan Hall 115
Taking Progeria from Obscurity to the Cutting Edge: A Parent-Scientist’s Perspective on Saving Children with a Premature Aging Disease

Most biomedical researchers work with the hope of saving human lives one day. Leslie Gordon, M.D., is working to save her son, Sam, and children like him who suffer from Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome – a rare, fatal genetic condition characterized by accelerated aging in children. Gordon, a Brown-trained pediatrician, has pioneered research on this disorder, identifying the gene that causes it and helping to develop the first possible drug treatment. Gordon’s presentation is the Charles O. Cooke, M.D., Distinguished Visiting Lecture. It will be held in W. Duncan MacMillan Hall, Room 115.

1 p.m. MacMillan Hall 117
Can We Understand the Brain?
And, If We Can, How Would It Affect Our Understanding of Ourselves?

Leon N. Cooper, professor of physics and neuroscience, delivers the Maurice and Yetta Glicksman Lecture. He will discuss the question, “How does experimental and theoretical work on the cellular and molecular basis of learning and memory storage affect our understanding of ourselves?” This forum will take place in W. Duncan MacMillan Hall, Room 117.

1 p.m. Salomon Center 101
Racial Stigma, Mass Incarceration, and American Values

Glenn C. Loury, professor of economics, will begin with a historical, political, and sociological study of the role race has played, and continues to play, in the post-1970 transformation of America’s punishment policies, arguing that backlash against the “disorder” of the 1960s has become subtly and powerfully “raced.” He will then examine the ethics of punishment in a divided society, elaborating a social scientific and an ethical critique of the politics of personal responsibility that emerged out of the culture wars of the 1980s. This forum will be held in Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 101.

1 p.m. List Art Center 120
Identity Soundtracks: Race and American Popular Music

Popular culture is a complex place where cross-racial conversation happens. In this forum, Tricia Rose ’93 Ph.D., professor of Africana studies, will discuss key problems in this meaningful and complex space. This forum will take place in List Art Center, Room 120.

1 p.m. John Nicholas Brown Center
The Sixties Without Apology

The SDS Comic Show, a student-created exhibit at the Carriage House Gallery of the John Nicholas Brown Center, will be open from 1 to 4 pm on Saturday, May 26. In this forum, Paul Buhle, lecturer in American civilization and history, will explore the origin and development of the exhibit in his class “The Sixties Without Apology” and the effort to create a graphic representation of 1960s social movements. Buhle was the founder of Radical America, the SDS journal, and is the editor of several nonfiction comic art volumes, including a forthcoming adaptation of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History and comic biographies of Emma Goldman, Che Guevara, and Isadora Duncan. This forum will be held at the John Nicholas Brown Center, 357 Benefit St.

3:30 p.m. MacMillan Hall 115
Alumni Voices: Taking Responsibility for Global Change

On both a local and a global scale, Brown alumni are working to improve the state of our planet environmentally and socio-economically. This panel discussion will highlight the efforts of several alumni in the public and private sectors to ensure a sustainable global environment for generations to come. Moderated by Steven Hamburg, professor of environmental studies, panelists are Steve Glenn ’87, CEO and founder, Living Homes; Mary Lou Jepsen ’87, founding CTO, One Laptop Per Child; and Chad Nelson ’92, environmental director, Surfrider Foundation. This forum, sponsored by the Office of Alumni Relations, will be held in W. Duncan MacMillan Hall, Room 115.

3:30 p.m. MacMillan Hall 117
Beyond the Scoreboard: The Psychology of Winning

How do athletes sustain their focus? How do coaches inspire victory? What messages and lessons can you use to teach yourself and your children? Moderated by Mike Noonan, men’s soccer head coach, the discussion includes panelists Sara Carver-Milne, head coach, gymnastics, and sport psychologist Sean McCann ’82. They will discuss these questions and others surrounding the concept of winning and building a winning attitude, both on the field and in life. This forum, sponsored by the Office of Alumni Relations, will take place in W. Duncan MacMillan Hall, Room 117.