Pre-College Programs
Students Attending Seminars

Speaker Series

Co-Curricular Events and Activities

Each summer, Brown faculty are invited to talk about important issues unfolding on the world stage today. You are invited to join these provocative and engaging discussions that promote critical thinking and debate from multiple perspectives.

The Summer 2016 Distinguished Speakers will be announced soon.

Past speakers have included:

Ainissa Ramirez '90

Ainissa Ramirez '90 is a science evangelist who is passionate about getting the general public excited about science. Before taking on this call, she was an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science at Yale University. Technology Review, the magazine of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), named her as one of the world’s 100 Top Young Innovators for her contributions to transforming technology. She has been profiled in The New York Times, Discover Magazine, Fortune Magazine, CNN, ESPN, The Hartford Courant and numerous scientific magazines (Scientific American, R&D Magazine, Materials Today, and Chemical & Engineering News). Dr. Ramirez received her training in materials science and engineering from Brown University (Sc.B.) and Stanford University (Ph.D.). A staunch advocate for improving the public’s understanding of science, her talk at TED on the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education generated widespread enthusiasm. At Yale, she was the director of the award-winning science lecture series for children called Science Saturdays and hosts two popular-science video series called Material Marvels and Science Xplained. Ramirez speaks nationally on the importance of making science fun and has served as a science advisor to the American Film Institute, WGBH/NOVA, and several science museums. She has written as a science correspondent for Time magazine’s Washington D.C. bureau. Currently, she is writing a book, entitled Save Our Science for TED Books on the importance of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. She is also co-authoring a popular book (with Allen St. John) on the science behind football called Newton’s Football for Random House.

Jonathan Ebinger '84

Jonathan Ebinger is an experienced Washington based news producer and editor who for nine years worked for ABC News Nightline. Later, while with ESPN, he launched the weekly investigative program "Outside the Lines," and led the show's production team.Since 2001, Ebinger has also been part of production teams for the BBC, CNBC, PBS, and The National Geographic Channel. He has worked on extended projects as an editor for National Public Radio, as well as with the special events unit at ABC News. Ebinger has been honored with eight Emmy Awards, including six national news Emmys with "Nightline" (ABC News), one national news Emmy for "Inside Base Camp" (National Geographic Channel), and one local Emmy for "World Talk" (WETA-PBS). He also received a Dupont-Columbia Award for "Nightline" Special Programs (1995-1996). Since 2008, he has lectured across Germany on American news coverage of domestic politics, from the coverage of the 2008 Presidential primary campaigns on through the transition, initial days, and ensuing years of the Obama Administration. He has also been a guest or feature lecturer on a range of media and journalism topics at Universities from Rhode Island to Alaska, including a few places in between. Follow him on Twitter at @jonathanebinger

Charles E. Cobb, Jr.

Charles E. Cobb, Jr., Visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University, is a distinguished journalist and former member of National Geographic Magazine's editorial staff. He currently is Senior Writer and Diplomatic Correspondent for, the leading online provider of news from and about Africa. From 1962–1967 he served as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Mississippi. He began his journalism career in 1974 as a reporter for WHUR Radio in Washington, D.C. In 1976 he joined the staff of National Public Radio as a foreign affairs reporter, bringing to that network its first regular coverage of Africa. From 1985–1997, Cobb was a National Geographic staff member, traveling the globe to write stories on places from Eritrea to Russia's Kuril Islands. He is also the co-author, with civil rights organizer and educator Robert P. Moses, of Radical Equations, Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project. His latest book published in January 2008 is On the Road to Freedom, a Guided Tour of the Civil Rights Trail. On July 24, 2008 the National Association of Black Journalists honored Cobb’s work by inducting him into their Hall of Fame.

Watch his interview by Scholars Online, part of The Choices Program at Brown University »

Gregory Elliot

Dr. Elliott, professor of Sociology at Brown University, is a social psychologist whose areas of teaching and research address in various ways two fundamental questions of human concern: "Who am I?" and "Where do I fit in?" In his research, he investigates the self-concept, its development in youth and its effects on behavior; issues of self and social integration, including the individual and community, alienation, and civility; and the personal consequences of experiencing the social structure. Gregory C. Elliott received his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in 1977. Previously, he was assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. His research interests focus on the social development of the individual and the problem of integrating the self into society. In particular, he currently researches the concept of mattering (the extent to which one makes a difference in the lives of others) and its motivational impact on behavior. A second area of research involves the causes and consequences of child maltreatment. His methodological expertise includes the General Linear Model, logistic regression, structural equation models, index construction, and issues of reliability and validity in measurement. 

Jon Land

Jon Land is the bestselling author over 25 novels. He graduated from Brown University in 1979 Phi Beta Kappa and Magna cum Laude and continues his association with Brown as an alumni advisor. Jon often bases his novels and scripts on extensive travel and research as well as a twenty-five year career in martial arts. He is an associate member of the US Special Forces and frequently volunteers in schools to help young people learn to enjoy the process of writing. His books include Strong Enough to Die, Strong Justice, and The Seven Sins.

Sharon Swartz

Professor Swartz discovered her love of structural design in the biological world as an undergraduate major in Biology and Anthropology/Sociology at Oberlin College. She went on to receive her doctorate from the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at The University of Chicago for work on the biomechanics of arm swinging in gibbons. She came to Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Engineering at Brown in 1990.

Chinua Achebe

(November 16, 1930 – March 2,1 2013) The late Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe was known the world over for having played a seminal role in the founding and development of African literature. He was most well known for the groundbreaking 1958 novel Things Fall Apart, a novel still considered to be required reading the world over.

Tom Coburn

Thomas Coburn began his college career (at Princeton) as a math/physics major and concluded it in 1965 with a major in religious studies. The latter emphasized the study of Judaism and Christianity, but his post-graduate horizons were broadened by a year of teaching in the Arab world. He is currently President Emeritus of Naropa University and a Visiting Scholar at Brown University.

Karl Jacoby

Karl Jacoby received his A.B. in 1987 from Brown University, and his Ph.D. in American history in 1997 from Yale University. After a year as a visiting assistant professor at Oberlin College, he returned to Brown as an assistant professor of history in 1999. He was promoted to an associate professor with tenure in 2003.

Katherine Chon

As a senior at Brown University in 2001, Chon was shocked to hear fellow classmate Derek Ellerman talking about present-day human trafficking (forcing someone to perform a service against their will). At Ellerman's urging, she searched online and found a newspaper clipping about six Korean women who had been rented for sex just down the street from her home in Providence, Rhode Island. "It hit hard when I read they were about my age and from my native country," Chon says. When she found few resources for victims, she and Ellerman created a business plan--which won second place and a $12,500 prize in Brown's annual entrepreneurship contest--for a Web site that would offer fast, hands-on help. By 2003, they had established an office in Washington, DC. "We wanted to build a community-based response where social change was coming from the ground up instead of strictly top down," Chon says. When a victim calls in, Chon and volunteers leap into action, tracking down police, lawyers, and the victim's family.

Roland Laird

Roland spoke about the graphic novel format and its rise in popularity. Roland Laird is a critically acclaimed author with a passion for his culture and his community. In October 2008, at the height of the U.S. financial crisis, Roland left his position as a VP of Technology at a wholly-owned subsidiary of a Global Fortune 100 company to grow his near 20-year-old side business Posro Media into the country's leading convergent entertainment company specializing in African American culture. A graduate of Brown University, Roland co-founded the NY Chapter of Brown University's Inman Page Black Alumni Council and its affiliate the Ethel Tremaine Robinson Foundation. Roland co-authored with his wife Taneshia Still I Rise: A Graphic History of African Americans, a critically acclaimed work with an impressive scope: the entire history of Black America, told in an accessible 216 page graphic-novel form. Originally published in 1997, it was recently updated and now extends from the arrival of the first Africans in 1619 right through to Senator Barack Obama's groundbreaking presidential campaign.

Read a review of Mr. Laird's new book in the Brown Alumni Magazine »

Dan Smith

Daniel Jordan Smith joined the Department of Anthropology at Brown University in July 2001. He received an AB in Sociology from Harvard University (1983), an MPH from Johns Hopkins University (1989) and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Emory University (1999). Since arriving at Brown he has completed several research projects with grants awarded by Wenner-Gren, NSF and NIH, with a major focus in the HIV epidemic in Nigeria. In 2004 he was named the Stanley J. Bernstein Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences. Since 2006 he has been Associate Director of the Population Studies and Training Center. His first book, A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria, was published by Princeton University Press in 2007. Smith is the recipient of the 2007–9, William C. McGloughlin Award for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences. In July 2007 he was promoted to Associate Professor of Anthropology with tenure.