2012 Commencement & Reunion Forums

This series of academic colloquia, led by faculty, alumni, and distinguished guests, is an integral part of this festive weekend — creating an ongoing educational link with the University. Explore the breadth of experience and knowledge of the Brown community as members share their expertise on topics of widespread interest.

Alumni Reunion Forums: 11:00 am and 3:30 pm
Commencement Forums: 9:30 am, 11:00 am, and 1:00 pm
Medical School Forums: 9:30 am, 11:00 am, and 3:00 pm


9:30 AM

Commencement Forum — From 1912 to 2012: Celebrating One Hundred Years of Exchange between Brown and China

Ruby Shang '71, Asia regional director, Clinton Foundation; member of President's Advisory Council; noted choreographer

This panel explores Brown's historical connection to the remarkable flow of Chinese students over the last hundred years and explores the future relationship between Greater China and the University. Featuring alums across the decades as well as an excerpt from a newly released documentary about Chinese students at Brown.

Metcalf Research Laboratory, Friedman Auditorium, Room 101

Commencement Forum — Teaching and Learning with Art and Artifact

Sarah Ganz Blyth, director of education, RISD Museum of Art • Elizabeth Hoover, visiting assistant professor, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America • Steven Lubar, director, Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology • Emily Stokes-Rees, postdoctoral fellow, Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology

Join curators, museum educators, and faculty from Brown and RISD to learn how the collections of Brown's Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology and the RISD Museum of Art are used in courses and student research. Visit the Haffenreffer Museum's new CultureLab in Manning Hall to see, and touch, for yourself: get your hands on some of the artifacts pertinent to students' work.

List Art Center, Room 120

Medical Forum — How Technology Can Facilitate Successful Aging

The Frank and Joan Rothman Lecture

Joseph F. Coughlin, PhD, director, Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab

Dr. Coughlin was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of “12 pioneers inventing the future of retirement and how we will all live, work and play tomorrow.” Join us for a lively discussion about how the convergence of baby boomer expectations and technology will shape the future of public policy and drive innovation across global industries, including the financial services, transportation, foods, insurance, health, IT, telecommunications, and retail sectors.

Sidney E. Frank Hall for Life Sciences, Nathan Marcuvitz Auditorium, Room 220


11:00 AM

Alumni Reunion Forum — What's Coming Next: The Fast Paced World of Tech & Social Media

Laura Lee '97, director, content partnerships, Google/You-Tube • Alexander Kleinberg '97, head of platform partnerships, Asia-Pacific/Japan, Facebook • Don Stanford '72, '77 ScM, chief innovation officer, GTECH • Mary Lou Jepsen '87, '97 PhD, CEO and founder, Pixel Qi • Mike Plotz '02, senior software engineer, Zynga, Inc.

Seven years ago, Facebook didn't exist – today, it has nearly one billion users. Eight years worth of video are uploaded to YouTube every day. Apple has sold more than 55 million iPads since first selling in April 2010. Hear from alumni in the industry to learn where we are right now — and where we are heading in the future.

Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 001

Commencement Forum — A Thermometer in the Sky: An Innovative Way to Monitor the Climate and Weather

Graduate School Horace Mann Medalist Forum

Chao-Han Liu, '65 PhD, vice president, Academia Sinica; president emeritus of Taiwan's National Central University

Dr. Liu is a radio scientist with expertise in solar terrestrial physics and global change research. He will describe a new technique that has led to improvements in weather forecasting in the past six years, drawing on his experience in developing a satellite mission in Taiwan. He will also address related advances in climate-monitoring capabilities.

MacMillan Hall, Starr Auditorium, Room 117

Commencement Forum — Brown-India Initiative: Key Themes and Objectives

Ashutosh Varshney, Sol Goldman Professor of International Studies and the Social Sciences; director, Brown-India Initiative • Patrick Heller, Professor of Sociology; Steering Committee member of the Brown-India Initiative

Brown has recently established an ambitious India Initiative. Why have we done it? What do we aim to achieve, and how?

MacMillan Hall, Room 115

Commencement Forum — Brown Women: Breaking Barriers in the Workplace

Co-sponsored by the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women and the Pembroke Center Associates

Moderator: Leah W. Sprague '66, retired justice, Massachusetts Trial Court • Panelists: Sharon B. Drager, '67 MD, vascular surgeon • Andrea I. Razzaghi '82, assistant director, Planetary Science Division at NASA • The Honorable O. Rogeriee Thompson '73, U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

Last year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Four remarkable Brown women, who broke ground in new careers for women, will share their personal stories and professional milestones. How has the role of women in the workplace changed and how has gender inequality persisted?

List Art Center, Room 120

Commencement Forum — Mythology and Reality

Gene Sharp, political theorist, scholar of nonviolent struggle, candidate for an honorary degree

Dr. Sharp’s academic and professional career — articulating and advancing the cause of nonviolent action for change - spans more than six decades. His close study of Gandhi and dictatorships, as well as his own ideas and writings, have informed nonviolent struggles for freedom around the world. In this forum, he will talk about people power in a world of conflict.

Salomon Center for Teaching, DeCiccio Family Auditorium, Room 101

Commencement Forum — How Do We Educate?

Marilynne Robinson '66, Author, Pulitzer Prize Winner, candidate for an honorary degree

Novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson is a 1966 graduate of Brown University (A.B., English, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa).  She has written three highly acclaimed novels: Housekeeping (1980), Gilead (2004), and Home (2008).  In 2005, Robinson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for Gilead.  Robinson now teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and her forum will focus on education.  Brown University will confer Ms. Robinson with an Honorary Doctorate of Letters during its 244th Commencement this weekend.

Metcalf Research Laboratory, Friedman Auditorium, Room 101

Medical Forum — Bedside to Bench: From a Urea Cycle Disorder to a Protein Folding Machine

Ruth B. Sauber Distinguished Medical Alumni Lecture

Arthur Horwich '73, '75 MD, Sterling Professor of Genetics and Pediatrics, Yale School of Medicine

Join Dr. Horwich, recipient of a 2011 Alpert and Mary Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, for a discussion about the basic nature of protein folding in the cell, as an assisted process, and how its failure in specific instances leads to neurodegeneration or other diseases. Dr. Horwich and his team have advanced the understanding of protein folding and the profound implication that misfolding has on diseases such as Alzheimer's. Their discoveries allow researchers to know more about the transfer of information which can aid in the decision of appropriate therapies. Please join Dr. Horwich, Ruth Sauber and fellow alumni for an informal reception to follow.
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106

1:00 PM

Commencement Forum — Getting Big Stuff Done

Moderator: Mary Lou Jepsen '87 • Speaker: Neal Stephenson

A semi-extemporaneous conversation about how science fiction writers and geeks need to work together to drag the future out of its tiresome dystopian funk.

Salomon Center for Teaching, DeCiccio Family Auditorium, Room 101

Commencement Forum — Education, Music, and Possibility: Community MusicWorks at 15

Sebastian Ruth '97, founder and music educator, Community MusicWorks (CMW), candidate for an honorary degree

For the past 15 years, Community MusicWorks, a nationally recognized organization based in Providence, has been a living experiment in how musicians can impact an urban community through performance, education, and community-building based out of a storefront. The educational goals of Community MusicWorks include creating what American philosopher Maxine Greene calls "openings," where young people, through experiences with the arts, conceive of new possibilities for their lives and futures. CMW founder Sebastian Ruth '97 will present anecdotes from the history of this organization, and discuss the educational experience with CMW alumni Sidney Argueta '13, and Natasha Rosario '16, including a musical performance.

Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Martinos Auditorium, Room 110

Commencement Forum — The Centennial Growth of Higher Education in China: Zhejiang University in Retrospect

Wei Yang PhD '85, President of Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China; candidate for an honorary degree

Wei Yang, a Ph.D. graduate of Brown University, is president of China’s Zhejiang University and an internationally celebrated engineer and materials science researcher, educator, and administrator.  This year, he participated in Brown's "Year of China" lecture series.  President Yang will discuss his experience as an administrator and educator at Zhejiang University.  Brown will confer President Yang with an Honorary Doctorate of Science during its 244th Commencement.

Metcalf Research Laboratory, Friedman Auditorium, Room 101

Commencement Forum — Whistleblowers: The Morality and Consequences of Doing the Right Thing

The Third Annual BAM Commencement Forum

Moderator: Norman Boucher, editor and publisher, Brown Alumni Magazine • Panelists: Eyal Press '92, author of Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times • Jesselyn Radack '92, director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project, former attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, and author of Traitor: The Whistleblower and the "American Taliban"

Would you risk your career to expose wrongdoing in your office? Would you risk your life to refuse to go along with a totalitarian regime? According to journalist and Phi Beta Kappa history concentrator Eyal Press, the most courageous acts of dissent are often carried out by ordinary people with a strong moral compass. In the 2004 cover story "The Woman Who Knew Too Much," the BAM described how ethics lawyer Jesslyn Radack, a Phi Beta Kappa triple concentrator at Brown and a graduate of Yale Law School, lost her job in the justice department after raising objections to the department's interrogation and treatment of the "American Taliban," John Walker Lindh. In the years since that article, Radack has become a lawyer for whistleblowers. Join Press and Radack as they talk about the decision to dissent and the havoc that can follow.

Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 001


3:00 PM

Medical Forum — The Uneven Exchange: Making and Fulfilling Promises in Haiti

The Charles O. Cooke, MD, Distinguished Visiting Lectureship

Patrick J. Moynihan '87, president, The Haitian Project, Inc. (THP)
Nick Carter '13 MD, THP volunteer

Brown University's presence in Haiti is bearing fruit. Deacon Patrick Moynihan '87 is president of The Haitian Project (THP) and leads its Louverture Cleary School (LCS) in its mission to educate some of the nation's poorest (and brightest) junior high and high school students. As part of THP's dedication to serve the general community and to provide advanced medical training for LCS graduates pursuing a medical career, THP reached out to Dr. Edward J. Wing, dean of medicine and biological sciences, and the Alpert Medical School. After seven years of effort, the Medical Exchange program became a reality. 2011 saw the program bear its first fruit when THP brought Nick Carter '13 MD to Haiti as a volunteer. Nick is now working with Haitian doctors and American volunteers at St. Luke Hospital in Tabarre, Haiti, to improve care for the critically ill and for the malnourished. They share a pledge to help strengthen Haiti's medical and educational systems from within.

Alpert Medical School, 222 Richmond Street, Lecture Hall 170


3:30 PM

Alumni Reunion Forum – Start It Up: What It Takes to Successfully “Launch It”

Introducer: Barrett Hazeltine, professor emeritus, School  of Engineering, Brown University • Moderator: Danny  Warshay ’87, president, G-Form • Panelists: Chuck Davis ’82, P’13, venture partner,  Technology Crossover Partners • Abhas Gupta ’02, partner, Mohr Davidow Ventures

As was long ago referenced in a now famous Fast Company  article, something in the water at Brown fosters an uncanny  spirit — and drive for — innovative and entrepreneurial thinking within the corporate and not-for-profit arenas. Join this dynamic discussion among alumni who have launched ideas from their dorm rooms and evolved into serial entrepreneurs, as well as those who facilitate launches as investors, negotiators and team builders. 

Metcalf Research Laboratory, Friedman Auditorium, Room 101