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Distributed May 6, 2004
Contact Mary Jo Curtis

34th annual Commencement Forums
Free and open to the public: 21 forums scheduled for Saturday, May 29

Twenty-one Commencement Forums – among the most popular and accessible elements of Brown University’s Commencement/Reunion Weekend – will be offered all day Saturday, May 29, on the Brown campus. Distinguished guests of the University will discuss topics from ancient Rome to the exploration of Mars, from Einstein’s biggest blunder to the latest issues in computer science. All forums are open to the public without charge.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks will be among the speakers at Brown University’s 34th annual Commencement Forums Saturday, May 29, 2004.

An integral part of the University’s Commencement/Reunion Weekend, the Commencement Forums are an outgrowth of the campus teach-ins of the early 1970s. They offer a window on the intellectual world of Brown, drawing upon the knowledge, talent and expertise of Brown alumni, faculty, parents and special guests to consider timely social, political and personal issues. This year’s speakers will share lessons learned in the arenas of international affairs, history, science and medicine, the arts and entertainment.

Twenty-one forums will be offered, beginning at 9 a.m. and continuing through the afternoon in several locations on campus. Each session will last 60 to 90 minutes and will include time for questions from the audience. All forums are free and open to the public on a space-available basis.

Editors: Times and locations are subject to change. For the latest information, contact the News Service at (401) 863-2476 or visit the Web site ( for updates.

Persons with special needs who plan to attend a forum should contact the University at least 24 hours in advance by calling University Events at (401) 863-2474 during business hours or Brown Department of Public Safety at (401) 863-3322 after business hours.

A schedule of forums follows.

9 a.m.

  • Of Rome and Providence – Has Renaissance Rome influenced Providence’s structural designs and urbanism? Providence planner and Brown trustee Vincent Buonanno discusses his own findings and the architectural parallels between early Yankee building styles and classical European villas and palaces. Lownes Room, John Hay Library, 20 Prospect St.
  • Underground Rhode Island – Paul Buhle, a senior lecturer in American civilization at Brown, will examine the varied works and lives of Rhode Island’s avant-garde artists, from the 1940s until today, from the first interracial jazz club, poetry readings and “art rock,” to the rise of local clubs and the fusion of Brown and RISD artistic curricula, tracing the multi-media history of local creativity. This forum is offered in conjunction with an exhibit of the same title, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Aldridge House, 110 Benevolent St. For more information, call (401) 331-8575. Salomon Center For Teaching (lower level), The College Green
  • Getting Religion: A Look at Religion in Popular Culture – This Pembroke Center Forum will feature alumni Elizabeth A. Castelli, associate professor of religion at Barnard College at
    Columbia University and senior research scholar at New York University’s Center for Religion and Media, and Laura Levitt, associate professor of religion and director of Jewish studies at Temple University. The pair will discuss why ancient Christian figures are being recycled in today’s novels, films and television and examine the growing emphasis on religion in contemporary politics and culture. MacMillan Hall, Room 115, 167 Thayer St.
  • A Discussion with Members of the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice – As an institution whose early benefactors included both slave traders and abolitionists, Brown has an intimate relationship to the history of American slavery. This history gives us, in the president’s words, “a special opportunity and a special obligation” to contribute to an ongoing debate. Members of the University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice (Brenda Allen, associate provost and director of institutional diversity; Ross Cheit, associate professor of political science; Neta C. Crawford, associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and associate professor at the Watson Institute for International Studies; James Patterson, professor emeritus of history; and Kerry Smith, associate professor of history) will discuss the committee’s charge, its work to date and its goals for the year ahead. MacMillan Hall, Room 117, 167 Thayer St.
  • Tiananmen Square at 15: The Pro-Democracy Movement in China – Fifteen years after Tiananmen Square, this event remains a rallying symbol for the pro-democracy movement in China. When the student demonstrations erupted, Xu Wenli – a founder of the China Democracy Party and now a Watson Institute visiting senior fellow – was incarcerated in a Beijing prison, serving the first of two sentences for his political activism. In this forum, Xu will speak about the events surrounding June 4, 1989, and the future of the pro-democracy movement in China. Salomon Center For Teaching (upper level), The College Green

10:15 a.m.

  • Management Fraud and the Speculative Bubble: What Went Wrong in the 90’s and Will History Repeat Itself? – Sponsored by the 50th Reunion Class, a panel of corporate leaders will discuss the rise and fall of the American corporation and survey the recent landscape of corporate governance. Joanna Slesinger Caproni, Manny Gerard, Gerry Burrow and Frank Wezniak, all members of the Class of 1954, will be among the panel members. MacMillan Hall, Room 115, 167 Thayer St.
  • Exploration of Mars: The View from the Surface – James Head, the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences, will be joined by Brown alums Steve Saunders in presenting the latest information from the surface of Mars – including breathtaking panoramas and stunning views of the rocks, mountains, volcanoes, glaciers and river valleys. Share the exciting visions of ancient Mars and those of future exploration. MacMillan Hall, Room 117, 167 Thayer St.
  • How to Keep from Breaking Your Heart: What Every Woman Needs to Know about Heart Disease – Nearly half a million American women die from cardiovascular diseases annually, more than from any other cause. Author Barbara H. Roberts, M.D., director of the Women’s Cardiac Center at Miriam Hospital and Brown clinical associate professor of medicine, will talk about how women can stay heart healthy in a fast-paced world. Salomon Center for Teaching (upper level), The College Green
  • Why the National Attention for Brown’s Anthropology Department? The Impact of Brown’s New Academic Enrichment – The Anthropology Department at Brown recently earned journal accolades that can be directly attributed to President Ruth Simmons’ Plan for Academic Enrichment. Department members David Kertzer, Matthew Gutmann and Catherine Lutz will talk about the exciting teaching and research taking place at Brown, including anthropological perspectives on warfare and the deciphering of Mayan hieroglyphics. Salomon Center for Teaching (lower level), The College Green
  • From Brown to Broadway – Tony-nominated actress Kate Burton, a veteran of stage, film and television, will discuss her favorite roles, the trajectory of her career, and how Brown has influenced her choices as an actress. Sayles Hall, The College Green
  • Transforming Government: The Impact of the Bush Presidency on the Public Sector – How is the Bush presidency affecting public policy? Focusing on health, education and welfare, panelists Marion Orr (professor of political science), Scott W. Allard (assistant professor of political science and public policy), Brian Knight (assistant professor of economics) and Ann Aizer (assistant professor of economics) will discuss how the current administration is redirecting policy and what the likely consequences will be. List Art Center, 64 College St.

2:15 p.m.

  • Responding to Historical Injustice – Do individuals, states, corporations and non-profit institutions bear responsibility for historical injustices to which they may have contributed? Brown scholars Anthony Bogues (chair of Africana studies), Evelyn Hu-DeHart (director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America) and Rachel Chernos Lin (graduate student in history) will examine how institutions have taken responsibility for past harm. MacMillan Hall, Room 115, 167 Thayer St.
  • Computer Science Celebrates Its 25th – To celebrate the department’s 25th anniversary, a panel of distinguished members of Brown’s Computer Science family will discuss three often-overlooked areas of computer technology – optimization technology, coping with future computer security threats, and taking database technology out of the back office. Panelists include Joe Pato, a technologist at Hewlett Packard, and Brown professors Pascal Van Hentenryck and Stan Zdonik. MacMillan Hall, Room 117, 167 Thayer St.
  • Fulfillment in Later Life - Adapting to Changes with Aging – Life satisfaction in the elderly has much to do with accepting some degree of disability while maintaining an active role in one’s family and society. This Joan and Frank Rothman Forum will feature Leo M. Cooney Jr., Humana Foundation Professor of Geriatric Medicine and chief of geriatrics at Yale University School of Medicine, discussing how his research has focused on helping the aged maintain the highest possible level of independence. Salomon Center for Teaching (lower level), The College Green
  • A Discussion with Suzan-Lori Parks – A California Institute for the Arts professor, playwright and screenwriter, Suzan-Lori Parks won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for her play, Topdog/Underdog. She has written screenplays for Jodie Foster and HBO and recently published her first novel, Getting Mother’s Body. In this informal forum, she will read from her work and take questions about her career and the artistic process. Salomon Center for Teaching (upper level), The College Green
  • The AIDS Pandemic – The AIDS pandemic threatens to destroy the socio-economic fabric of sub-Saharan Africa, India and China. In this forum, experts Ira Magaziner (chairman of the Clinton Foundation AIDS Initiative), Sandra Nusinoff Lehrman, M.D., (director of the Therapeutics Research Program Division of AIDS, National Institutes of Health) and Anne de Groot (scientific director and founder of the Global Alliance to Immunize against AIDS Foundations and Brown associate professor of community health) will explain the ripple effects of this major health crisis and discuss what needs to be done to address this enormous threat to global political stability. Sayles Hall, The College Green

3:15 p.m.

  • 40 Years After Freedom Summer: The Brown-Tougaloo Relationship – One of the little-known results of the turbulent summer of 1964, when white and black civil rights workers led demonstrations in Mississippi, has been the strong relationship between Brown and historically black Tougaloo College in Jackson. Tougaloo President Beverly Hogan reflects on the value of a bond that continues to this day. MacMillan Hall, Room 115, 167 Thayer St.
  • Einstein’s Biggest Blunder: A Cosmic Mystery Story – Within a decade of adding a “Cosmological Constant” to his triumphant General Theory of Relativity in 1915, Einstein denigrated the addition as his “greatest blunder.” In the last decade, however, new observations have led to a revolution in cosmology and a rethinking of Einstein’s alleged blunder and its implications for understanding nature and life. In this Maurice and Yetta Glicksman Lecture, Lawrence Krauss, director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics at Case Western Reserve University, will explain new data from a wide variety of independent cosmological and astrophysical observations and reveal the strangest theoretical possibility one can imagine. MacMillan Hall, Room 117, 167 Thayer St.
  • After 9/11 – Recovery and Healing in the FDNY: A Personal and Professional Perspective – New York City firefighters became a symbol of courage in the wake of their heroic efforts at the World Trade Center. Kerry Kelly, M.D., chief medical officer of the New York City Fire Department, reflects on her recovery and involvement in developing strategies for the physical and mental recovery of the department’s 16,000 members. This forum is the ninth annual Ruth B. Sauber Distinguished Medical Alumni Lecture. Salomon Center for Teaching (lower level), The College Green
  • From Farm Boys to the Front: A Rural Collection of World War II – As the filmmaker of Stories from Silence, Witness to War, a documentary of the experiences of the WWII veterans from Goshen, N.H., Deborah Scranton will discuss the meaning of authenticity in the context of historical research and the ways in which a writer/filmmaker/historian edits recollections. Salomon Center for Teaching (upper level), The College Green
  • Iran and the United States: Will Women Lead the Way to Mutual Understanding? – The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi has drawn American attention to the ongoing civil rights movement in the Islamic Republic and to the part women are playing in securing those rights. In this forum, Abbas Milani (visiting professor of political science at Stanford University), clinical psychologist and author Nezhat Farnoody, Houra Yavari (senior research scholar at Columbia University), award-winning filmmaker Shirin Neshat, and other Iranian scholars and artists will examine the cultural impediments to mutual U.S.-Iranian understanding and the roles that women such as Ebadi might have in helping to overcome them. Sayles Hall, The College Green


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