Forums

Each Commencement, we present a wide range of academic and topical colloquia led by faculty, alumni, and distinguished guests. This year's forums will take place on Saturday, May 27.  Come explore the breadth of knowledge and experience in the Brown community, and help celebrate Brown's many triumphs in education, research, and service. 

Brown's 2017 Commencement forums are listed below. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis for all forums. Please continue to check this page as information may change. 

9:00 am 
How Structural Racism Works 

TRICIA ROSE '93 PHD, director, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America (CSREA)

What is structural racism? How does it work in society? Why does it seem obvious to some and invisible to others? These questions are at the core of Professor Rose's ongoing research project, which examines the connections between policies and practices in housing, education and other key spheres of society to reveal the intersectional and compounding effects of systemic discrimination as a significant force in American society today. In addition to sharing the outline of the project, Rose will also share her experiences with student co-researchers and creative contributors to the project. Reception to be held immediately following: CSREA, 96 Waterman Street. 
Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Room 130, 85 Waterman St.
SPONSORED BY THE CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF RACE AND ETHNICITY IN AMERICA 

9:00 am 
Brown Arts Initiative: Creative Agency and the University 
BUTCH ROVAN, faculty director, Brown Arts Initiative (BAI)
ANNE BERGERON, managing director, BAI
CHIRA DELSESTO, associate director, BAI 

The Brown Arts Initiative is the new all-arts consortium created to fortify the arts and make Brown the leading university for experimental, collaborative, and engaged arts practice and education. This forum will provide an introduction to the Brown Arts Initiative, its mission, and its strategies for developing the arts ecosystem on campus. 
Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Martinos Auditorium, 154 Angell St.

9:00 am 
The Jazz of Physics: The Link Between Music and The Structure of the Universe 
STEPHON ALEXANDER, professor of physics 

In this talk Professor Alexander will revisit the interconnection between music and the evolution of astrophysics and the laws of motion. He will explore new ways in which music, in particular jazz music, mirrors modern physics, such as quantum mechanics, general relativity, and the physics of the early universe. Finally, he will discuss ways that innovations in physics have been and can be inspired from "improvisational logic" exemplified in jazz performance and practice. 
Metcalf Research Laboratory, Friedman Auditorium, Room 101, 190 Thayer St.

9:00 am 
The Constitution, Conflicts of Interest, and the Presidency 
AMBASSADOR (RET.) NORM EISEN '85, former special counsel, White House
ED STEINFELD, director, Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs 

A conversation with Ambassador (ret.) Norm Eisen '85, former special counsel for ethics and government reform in the Obama White House, on current threats to ethics, transparency and the rule of law in U.S. government, and how they relate to global trends. 
Watson Institute, Joukowsky Forum, 111 Thayer St.
SPONSORED BY THE WATSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS

9:00 am
​Awakening Psychiatry and the Doubting Disease 

The Ruth B. Sauber Distinguished Medical Alumni Lecture
STEVEN A. RASMUSSEN '74, '77 MMS, '77 MD, Mary E. Zucker Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior; chair, psychiatry and human behavior, Warren Alpert Medical School 

We have witnessed a remarkable transformation in our understanding of the brain and behavior in health and disease over the past 40 years. Extraordinary advances in technology have revolutionized our ability to address fundamental questions about how the brain works. Translating that knowledge into therapeutic discoveries awaits the next generation of physicians. This talk focuses on a common neuropsychiatric illness - ­obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) - to illustrate past advances and future challenges in the field. 
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106, 95 Cushing Street

11:00 am
Data Science as a Liberal Art 
UGUR CETINTEMEL, professor, chair of computer science
JOSEPH HOGAN, Carole and Lawrence Sirovich Professor of Public Health; professor, biostatistics; deputy director, Data Science Initiative 
SOHINI RAMACHANDRAN, Manning Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
JEFFREY BROCK, professor, mathematics; director, Data Science Initiative

Our ability to generate, process, and interact with data has placed us in the midst of a great societal transformation. From self-driving cars, to "smart" digital appliances, to automated medical diagnostic tools, abundant new machines blur the boundary between our own rational decisions and data-driven artificial intelligence. But with all its triumphs, this "data revolution" also raises many questions: How do we guarantee fair, explainable results? How do we distinguish correlation from causation? How do we understand what constitutes evidence? And how do we re-envision academic inquiry with this data genie out of the bottle? This forum will introduce Brown's Data Science Initiative, presenting a panel of faculty to discuss how we plan to engage these questions and to reaffirm the value of a liberal arts education in training the next generation to lead and shape our data-enabled society. 
Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 001 

11:00 am
Launchers and Leaders: Brown Women and Entrepreneurship 

MODERATOR: DEB MILLS-SCOFIELD '82, founder, Mills-Scofield, LLC 
PANELISTS: MORRA AARONS-MELE '98, founder, Women Online; author, Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert's Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You'd Rather Stay Home)
SARAH CARSON '02, founder/CEO, Leota New York
SADIE KURZBAN '12, founder, 305 Fitness
VIBHA PINGLÉ, Ph.D. AM'90 PhD'96, president and founder, Ubuntu at Work; adjunct lecturer, International and Public Affairs

Entrepreneurship has long been knitted into the fabric of the Brown experience for students, faculty, and for our alumni once they leave College Hill. Join Brown alumnae in a conversation about the challenges and opportunities for women in entrepreneurship, and learn about their personal and professional journeys as leaders and launchers. How does gender shape entrepreneurial choices, support, access to capital, and innovation? What does entrepreneurship mean to women in today's world? 
List Art Center, Room 120, 64 College St.
SPONSORED BY THE PEMBROKE CENTER AND THE JONATHAN M. NELSON CENTER FOR ENTREPRENEURSHIP 

11:00 am
​Learning From Elephants to Treat Patients with Cancer 

The Charles 0. Cooke, MD, Distinguished Visiting Lectureship 
JOSHUA D. SCHIFFMAN '96, 'oo MD, professor, pediatrics; adjunct professor, oncological sciences; investigator, Huntsman Cancer Institute, University of Utah 

Elephants are the largest living land animal with a lifespan over 70 years, and yet they remain remarkably cancer resistant despite so many cells dividing decade after decade. Dr. Schiffman and colleagues discovered that elephants have 40 copies of the TP53 cancer fighting gene compared to only two copies in humans. Now they've teamed up with collaborators in Israel to make a new medicine based on this finding in elephants to treat and possibly prevent cancer in humans. 
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106, 95 Cushing St. 

11:00 am
A Human Expedition to Mars 
Maurice and Yetta Glicksman Forum 
MARIA ZUBER ScM '83, '86 PhD, E. A. Griswold Professor of Geophysics; vice president for research, MIT 

What are the impediments to sending humans to Mars? Interplanetary travel has been a topic of discussion since the 1800s, but no mission concept has gone beyond the planning stage. The advent of NASA's Space Launch System and ever­increasing knowledge about space and the Martian environment are genuine advances towards enabling that goal. Considering the knowledge needed to make an interplanetary journey, the first person to walk on Mars has probably already been born. Learn about the latest in scientific findings and technological advances as we explore the possibility of sending a human to the Red Planet within this century. 
Metcalf Research Laboratory, Friedman Auditorium, Room 101, 190 Thayer St.

11:00 am
Alumni Reunion Forum - Stories of Social Justice On Screen and Stage: The Swearer Center at 30 

MODERATOR: MATHEW JOHNSON, director, Swearer Center; associate dean, College for Engaged Scholarship 
PANELISTS: OREN JACOBY '77, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker
LISA GOSSELS '82, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker
LIZ GARBUS '92, two-time Oscar nominee, two-time Emmy winner, Peabody winner, Grammy nominee, and DGA-Nominated director
JASON SMITH '87, writer/director, producer, and feature film vocal artist

Storytellers can change the world. They can give voice to the unheard, shine light on injustice, and inspire action. Stories, told well, touch us, shape us, and move us toward justice. From sex trafficking and civil rights to coming of age on opposite sides of a conflict zone, from staging the "Invisible Man" to uncovering the impact of concussions in American sports, these storytellers challenge audiences to care and to act. Join a panel of award­winning alumni storytellers as they discuss how the stage and screen can tear down walls, change perceptions, and build bridges. 
MacMillan Hall, Room 117, 167 Thayer St.
SPONSORED BY THE OFFICE OF ALUMNI RELATIONS AND THE SWEARER CENTER FOR PUBLIC SERVICE 

11:00 am
Politics, Patients and Price: The Ongoing Saga of U.S. Healthcare Policy 

TERRIE FOX WETLE, MS, PhD, dean, School of Public Health
IRA B. WILSON, MD, professor and chair, health services, policy and practice; professor, medicine
PETER HOLLMANN '76, '79 MD, academic director, Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership; chief medical officer, University Medicine; assistant clinical professor, Warren Alpert Medical School
VINCENT MOR, PhD, Florence Pirce Grant University Professor; professor, health services, policy and practice 
ANYA RADER WALLACK, PhD, Acting Secretary for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services in Rhode Island

The United States spends more than any other country on healthcare, yet the return on this investment is not reflected in our overall population health. Meanwhile, Congress and the White House continue to debate repealing or enhancing the Affordable Care Act. What could revision mean for patients and the broader American public? How might a new plan impact states? What are the potential impacts on health practitioners, and the delivery and quality of care? In this lively discussion, experts from Brown's School of Public Health and the Executive Master of Healthcare Leadership Program will try to untangle the state of healthcare in the United States. 
Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Room 130, 85 Waterman St.

11:00 am
The Legacy of American Dance ... and Why It Matters Now More Than Ever 

JULIE ADAMS STRANDBERG, senior lecturer, theatre arts and performance studies; founding director of dance; co-founder, American Dance Legacy Initiative (ADLI); co-founder, Artists and Scientists as Partners (ASaP)
CAROLYN ADAMS, co-founder, American Dance Legacy Initiative
LAURA BENNETT '92, managing director, dancing legacy director, American Dance Legacy Initiative (ADLI)
STEPHEN URSPRUNG '10, operations and engagement director, Dancing Legacy Ensemble, American Dance Legacy Initiative (ADLI)
RACHEL BALABAN '80, co-founder, Artists and Scientists as Partners (ASaP); adjunct lecturer, theatre arts and performance studies; regional coordinator, Dance for PD (Parkinson's Disease)
DEANNA CAMPUTARO, master teacher, Arts, Communication & Teaching Academy (ACT), Central Falls High School
Brown undergraduates and members of Dancing Legacy

Discover your personal and cultural connection to American dance, whether you're a dancer or not. Join Brown faculty, alumni, and current students on a journey through American Dance Legacy Initiative (ADLI) materials and programs. ADLI, housed at Brown's Center for Public Humanities, does not restrict or limit participants, which levels the playing field for all to engage in America's rich dance heritage. This philosophy of access and inclusion is revolutionizing how dance is experienced and understood. Through performance, videos, and discussion, learn why the legacy of American dance matters now more than ever. 
Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Martinos Auditorium, 154 Angell St. 

12:30
The Impact of Social Media on Politics, Culture, and Scholarly Communication 

DAVID CORN '81, American political journalist, author, Washington bureau chief, Mother Jones
ALISSA QUART '94, executive editor, Economic Hardship Reporting Project; author, Branded, Republic of Outsiders
ELIAS MUHANNA, Manning Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature; contributing writer, The New Yorker online 

Social media and other rapidly evolving digital technologies have changed the way we communicate in all realms of our lives. Learn more about the role of social media on political, cultural, and scholarly communication. 
List Art Center, Auditorium, 64 College St.
SPONSORED BY THE BROWN UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 

12:30 pm
Rhode Island Middle Passage and Ceremonies Port Markers Project: Recognizing Slavery's Hidden Past in Rhode Island 

The Middle Passage Ceremonies Port Marker Project* seeks to acknowledge the history of the transatlantic human trade in port cities by bringing communities together through educational commemorative markers and memorials. Organized by volunteers, local organizations, and universities, the project has helped to catalyze and connect people across Rhode Island to engage with the local history and legacies of the slave trade. Learn more about this initiative*, and how the Center for the Study of Slavery & Justice has worked to share its scholarly resources with the public. 

*These efforts are part of a larger effort by the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, an international grassroots organization dedicated to commemorating the more than 2 million people who perished in the Middle Passage of the transatlantic human trade and the 10 million who survived.
Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Room 130, 85 Waterman St.
SPONSORED BY THE CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF SLAVERY AND JUSTICE 

12:30 pm
A Poem/ Like Trying/ to Remember, is a Movement/ of the Whole Body 

ROSMARIE WALDROP, poet, translator, small press publisher 

In April, Rosemarie Waldrop received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in poetry for "Gap Gardening: Selected Poems." The collection traces her growing sense of writing as an exploration of what happens in between. Between words, sentences, people, cultures. Waldrop, a 2017 recipient of a Brown honorary degree, will read from her work. 
McCormack Theater, 70 Brown St.

3:30 pm
Alumni Reunion Forum - A Legacy of Social Justice at Brown: The Swearer Center at 30 

MODERATOR: MATHEW JOHNSON, director, Swearer Center; associate dean, College for Engaged Scholarship 
PANELISTS: MALIKA SAADA SAAR '92, senior counsel on civil and human rights, Google; founder and former executive director, Human Rights Project for Girls (Rights4Girls)
KATHERINE CHON '02, founding director, the Office on Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; past president and co-founder and president, Polaris
KEN LEVIT '87, executive director, George Kaiser Family Foundation 

Institutional leaders matter for social justice. They can bend industries, governments, and the public toward recognizing and combating injustice. These champions of change can marshal resources, influence, and power for social innovation at scale. From developing anti-human trafficking strategies and building a national teacher corps, to marshaling "big data" for justice and responding to world health emergencies, these Brown alumni frame strategies for just change. Join a panel of major institutional leaders as they discuss how the resources and positionality within institutions has allowed them to build toward justice. 
MacMillan Hall, Room 117, 167 Thayer St.
SPONSORED BY THE OFFICE OF ALUMNI RELATIONS AND THE SWEARER CENTER FOR PUBLIC SERVICE 

3:30 pm
How Cells Export Proteins 

DR. RANDY SCHEKMAN, PhD, University Professor, molecular and cell biology; investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute; editor in chief, eLife Sciences Publications Ltd., Li Ka Shing Center, University of California, Berkeley. 2013 Nobel Laureate in Medicine or Physiology.

One of the fundamental mysteries in biology has been how cells accomplish the secretion of proteins - such as hormones and neurotransmitters - that mediate communication among nerve cells and between nerve and muscle cells. By studying secretion in baker's yeast, Schekman's laboratory discovered the genes that organize this process and found that the pathway is conserved throughout evolution. His scientific discoveries inspired the biotechnology industry to use yeast as a platform for the production of human proteins, such as recombinant insulin and the hepatitis B vaccine. His groundbreaking work was honored with the Nobel Prize in 2013. Dr., Schekman will describe this work, and will comment on the role that scientific research continues to play in American society today.
Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Carmichael Auditorium, Room 130, 85 Waterman St.

4:30 pm
A Conversation with Robert De Niro 

ROBERT DE NIRO, one of the world's greatest actors is widely recognized for his roles in the classics The Godfather: Part II, Raging Bull, Silver Linings Playbook, and many more. De Niro will be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts at this year's Commencement. Lynne Joyrich, Chair of Modern Culture and Media, will moderate the discussion. Doors will open at 3:30 pm. 
Olney-Margolies Athletic Center, 235 Hope St.