2019 Commencement Forums

Saturday, May 25 2019

Led by faculty, alumni and distinguished guests, these academic and topical colloquia are an integral part of Commencement and Reunion Weekend — creating an ongoing educational link to the University.

All family members and guests are welcome to attend and forums do not require a ticket. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

9 - 9:50 a.m. 11 - 11:50 a.m. 12:30 - 1:20 p.m. 3:30 - 4:20 p.m.

9-9:50 a.m. Forums
Transforming Treatment: Biotech and Modern Medicine

The Ruth B. Sauber Distinguished Medical Alumni Lecture

Peter A. Thompson ’80, ’84 M.D., P’15, co-founder, president, chief executive officer and chairman of Silverback Therapeutics, private equity partner at OrbiMed and affiliate professor of neurosurgery at the University of Washington

Dr. Thompson is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awardee,​ a biotechnology executive, an inventor on numerous patents and a board-certified internist and oncologist. He will share how we can use our knowledge of basic science and leverage it to transform ​health care through the creation and use of medical tools and biotech development aimed at treating a range of severe diseases.
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106, 95 Cushing St.


The Future of Media and Political Engagement

Panelists: Jenny Kaplan ’14, CEO and co-founder, Wonder  Media Network; Jon Klein ’80, former president of CNN/US; Jenny Backus ’90, political media strategist; Ellen McGirt ’84, senior editor, Fortune magazine

Moderator: Edward Steinfeld, Howard R. Swearer Director of the Thomas J. Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

For the past decade, media and news companies have experienced rapid disruption and digital evolution. In today’s economic and political climate, the future of the media is at a pivotal point in history. Join the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs and the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship for a panel featuring Brown alumni who are operating at the intersection of commerce, politics, new technology and news.
Watson Institute, Stephen Robert '62 Hall, Room 101, 280 Brook St.


Pivot Points: 50 Years of Dance in Brown's Open Curriculum

Julie Adams Strandberg, distinguished senior lecturer in theatre arts and performance studies

The dance program began the same year as the establishment of the Brown Open Curriculum and one year before the merger of Brown and Pembroke College. Join Brown dance program founder Julie Adams Strandberg for a look back at five decades of dance at Brown and the social, political and cultural context of this milestone anniversary. The forum will include current students and faculty, dance alumni and dance professionals with a connection to Brown and will feature short performances and a preview of celebrations planned for the coming year. 
Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Martinos Auditorium, 154 Angell St.


Who's Black? Racist Exclusion and the Intersection of Betrayal, Power and Identity

Sheryl Brissett Chapman ’71, executive director, National Center for Children and Families

Moderator: Françoise N. Hamlin, associate professor of Africana studies and history

Explore the experiences of an African American female who has been educated in predominantly white institutions (PWI’s) for her entire career and the pattern of exclusionary messages that interfered with her development and influenced her Black identity formation. Brissett Chapman, executive director, National Center for Children and Families, identifies effective interpersonal strategies that emerged despite the resultant effects and “insidious trauma” that are correlated with persistent social and intellectual racist rejection that targeted her since childhood. Her narrative illuminates the unrelenting, consistent assault on affirmative Black identity as well as coping, adaptive responses which collectively serve as protection and have guided her path toward advocacy, innovation and social justice.​
MacMillan Hall, Room 117, 167 Thayer St.


Black [email protected]: A Conversation with Tricia Rose and Scott Poulson-Bryant

Tricia Rose ’87 A.M., ’93 Ph.D., P’14, director, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America; Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies 

Scott Poulson-Bryant ’08, assistant professor, Department of English, Fordham University

Professor Tricia Rose’s 1994 award-winning book, “Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America,” which was based on her Brown University dissertation, is still considered a foundational text for the study of hip hop, one that has defined what is now an entire field of study. To mark the 25th anniversary of this groundbreaking work, Rose and music critic and scholar Scott Poulson-Bryant will discuss hip hop culture, “Black Noise” and its legacy.Institute at Brown for Environment & Society, Room 130, 85 Waterman St.

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11 a.m. - 11:50 a.m. Forums


Reflections on the Open Curriculum

Panelists: Thalia Field ’88, ’95 MFA, Adele Kellenberg Seaver ’79 Professor of Creative Writing; Jennifer E. Johnson ’04, assistant professor of History; Neil Thakrai ’13, assistant professor of economics and international and public affairs; and Rashid Zia ’01, associate professor of engineering and physics, dean of the College

Moderator: Besenia Rodriguez ’00, senior associate dean for curriculum

The Open Curriculum prepares graduates to thrive as independent, innovative leaders no matter what path they choose. Join a conversation with Brown alumni who are also Brown faculty members as they discuss their journeys through the curriculum, and its impact on their teaching and scholarship.​
Salomon Center for Teaching, De Ciccio Family Auditorium, Room 101, The College Green 


If I’m Not Safe, No Body Is: Science, Power, and Activism in the Age of #MeToo

Sharona Gordon ’90, ’94 Ph.D., professor of physiology and biophysics, University of Washington; 2019 Horace Mann Medalist

Sexual harassment is more prevalent in academic sciences, engineering and medicine than in any other public sector, private sector or government workplace except for the military. Women’s physical health, mental health and careers continue to suffer as four decades of combating sexual harassment in the academy have yielded little progress. The #MeToo and #MeTooSTEM movements are raising awareness of sexual harassment as a major contributor to the so-called “leaky pipeline” that drives women out of academic sciences. 

In this talk, Professor Gordon will share the narrative of her career path and how her experiences lead to her current activism and founding of Below the Waterline, an organization devoted to supporting targets of gender harassment in academia. Below the Waterline now works with people of all genders to understand how personal, collective and institutional power can be leveraged to create an academic culture that respects and values individuals.
Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 001
Sponsored by the Graduate School


Digital Health as a Tool for Good

The Charles O. Cooke, M.D., Distinguished Visiting Lectureship

Megan L. Ranney, M.D., ’08 RES, ’10 MPH, associate professor of health services, policy and practice and associate professor of emergency medicine at Warren Alpert Medical School; chief research officer for the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine; director and founder of the Brown Emergency Digital Health Innovation Program

Dr. Ranney will describe the ways in which digital health (apps,​ wearables, texting, et al.) can and must be used to achieve a lasting shift in patient and population health. She will describe benefits and weaknesses of current digital health offerings, outline best practices for​ digital health design and describe some of the ground-breaking projects here at Brown that are helping to shift the healthcare landscape.
Smith-Buonanno Hall 106, 95 Cushing St.


Fermat's Last Theorem​

Maurice and Yetta Glicksman Forum

Kenneth A. Ribet ‘69, ’69 A.M., ’98 hon., P’19, professor, Department of Mathematics, University of California Berkeley

Fermat’s Last Theorem is a simple statement about whole numbers that was formulated in the 17th century and proved in 1994. Ribet’s work on the problem was one of the key building blocks in the final proof. This lecture will explain the problem and recount the modern history of its proof.
Metcalf Research Laboratory, Friedman Auditorium, Room 101, 190 Thayer St.


Voices Carry: Brown Women in Media and Entertainment

Panelists: Bernadette Aulestia ’94, P’23, president of global distribution, HBO; Sara Crutchfield Clarke ’89, SVP of corporate strategy, analysis and collaboration, Showtime Networks; Jenny Kaplan ’14, CEO and co-founder, Wonder Media Network; and Yoruba Richen ’94, documentary filmmaker (“The Greenbook: A Guide to Freedom”) and director, documentary program at Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY

Moderator: Lauren Zalaznick ’84, P’17 ’19, media executive, founder, the LZ Sunday Paper and senior advisor, the Boston Consulting Group

Featuring Brown alumnae whose exceptional achievements in entertainment and media span film, new media, television, writing and teaching, this panel will share success stories and insights into their work as well as discuss how Brown influenced their career paths. Join us as our panelists explore the current landscape for women in these industries, including the impact of the #MeToo movement from a personal perspective, and what opportunities and changes it has and has not produced.
List Art Building, Room 120, 64 College St.
Sponsored by the Pembroke Center for Teaching and Research on Women


Black Student Walkout of ’68 – The Walk Forward Into 2019 and Beyond​

Panelists: Françoise N. Hamlin, associate professor of Africana studies and history; Barrett Hazeltine ADE’66 hon., GP’06 ’09 ’15, professor emeritus of engineering; and Mathew Johnson, executive director, Howard R. Swearer Center for Public Service

Moderator: Randall Ward ’69, Black Student Walkout participant

The global activism of the ’60s was especially evident at Brown in 1968 when members of the class of ’69 (among other participants) risked all by divorcing themselves from Brown with the Black Student Walkout. Professor Hamlin will reset our mental clocks to 1968 before Professor Hazeltine shares recollections of campus responses during the Walkout and shortly thereafter. Mathew Johnson will provide a present-day perspective on the values derived by Brown that continue far beyond the demands of the walkout. Share perspectives and question the links of history to the Brown of today and tomorrow.
MacMillan Hall, Room 117, 167 Thayer St.


The Promises and Perils of Diversity

A conversation between Jennifer Richeson ’94 and Tricia Rose

Jennifer Richeson ’94, Philip R. Allen Professor of Psychology, Yale University
Tricia Rose ’87 A.M., ’93 Ph.D., P’14, director, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America; Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies

It is widely presumed that more diversity naturally expands racial understanding and equality. Jennifer Richeson’s award-winning research reveals a more complex picture. As society becomes more diverse, Professor Richeson finds, actual and projected increases in the racial and ethnic diversity of the nation engenders more racial tension, a rollback of various civil rights protections and ultimately the undermining of democracy. What forces are at work in generating these outcomes? How can we expand democracy in a multi-racial society and guaranteed protections for all in a more diverse world? Join us for a dynamic conversation with two Brown alumnae who are leading scholars on this issue.
Institute at Brown for Environment & Society, Room 130, 85 Waterman St.


Research Universities: Engines for Innovation, Entrepreneurship and Economic Growth

Richard M. Locke, provost and Schreiber Family Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs
Kathleen Eisenhardt ’69, Stanford W. Ascherman M.D. Professor and co-director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program
Ben Armstrong, postdoctoral research associate

Research universities have a role to play in spurring economic development and the growth of good jobs in their local economies. This forum will offer examples of best practices and the conditions necessary for success. In this context, the discussion will focus on the University’s strategic action plan, “Brown and the Innovation Economy,” which was developed with input from more than 70 meetings, focus groups and interview sessions with an array of leaders and relevant experts from the public, private and nonprofit sectors in Providence and Rhode Island. The plan identifies key economic areas in which Brown is positioned to make an immediate impact and establishes action items aimed at maximizing that impact. With an emphasis on developing partnerships, the plan calls for incentivizing entrepreneurs to build ventures in Rhode Island, translating medical discoveries into products and companies, increasing the University’s engagement with private industry, building new innovation infrastructure and helping Brown faculty to turn research ideas into commercial ventures.
Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Joukowsky Forum, 111 Thayer St. 

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12:30 - 1:20 p.m. Forums


Patriotic Philanthropy and the Pursuit of Democratic Values through History

David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-executive chairman, The Carlyle Group and host, “The David Rubenstein Show”

Moderator: Neil Safier ’91, associate professor of history and director, John Carter Brown Library

A shocking 60 percent of Americans can’t pass a citizenship test. Simply put, Americans don’t possess the knowledge of history 
that is necessary to be informed and engaged citizens, thereby placing the state of our democracy at risk. As a global businessman and passionate collector of the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, among other historical documents, David M. Rubenstein will take the audience on a journey connecting the American story with the idea of modern-day patriotism through the vehicle of Patriotic Philanthropy, a brand he has created and pioneered.
Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts, Martinos Auditorium, 154 Angell St.


Battling Cancer: Translating Research Into Better Care for Patients​

Wafik El-Deiry, M.D., Ph.D., FACP, associate dean for oncologic sciences and director, Joint Program in Cancer Biology

Over a 25-year career, Dr. El-Deiry has made numerous important​ discoveries about targeting cancer cells. Come hear about trends in cancer prevention, strategies for early detection, new treatments for patients and Brown’s new effort to develop a translational ​cancer research program to impact patient care locally, nationally and internationally. 
Smith-Buonanno Hall, Room 106, 95 Cushing St.


Memory Dishes

Panelists: Jessica B. Harris, American culinary historian; Toni Tipton-Martin, award-winning food and nutrition journalist

Moderator: Johanna Obenda ’19 A.M., “Memory Dishes” curator

Women are at the heart of African diasporic cooking — past and present. Enslaved and free women of African descent reimagined new culinary practices in the “New World” by blending traditional recipes with indigenous and European staples. In personal gardens, plantation kitchens, urban markets, taverns and over open-fire hearths, they used food and cooking practices of remembrance and independence. Organized in conjunction with the Center for Slavery and Justice’s gallery exhibition “Memory Dishes,” this panel discussion explores how food connects a vast and diverse diasporic peoples across generations and helps us to better understand history and legacies of slavery today.
Institute at Brown for Environment & Society, Room 130, 85 Waterman St.


Exploring Human Health and Societal Impacts of Emerging Contaminants through Multidisciplinary Research

Panelists: Kurt Pennell, 250th Anniversary Professor of Engineering; Jessica Plavicki, assistant professor of pathology and laboratory medicine; and Scott Frickel, professor of sociology

The synthesis of new chemicals and materials has greatly benefited society, leading to advancements in food production, consumer products and medical therapies. However, these breakthroughs are often realized without adequate toxicity testing and knowledge of environmental and social processes. This forum brings together a multidisciplinary team of panelists to discuss the occurrence, toxicity and societal impacts of a new class of emerging contaminants, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals, which were widely used in surface coatings, waterproofing and fire-suppression foams, have been detected in water supplies throughout the United States and have been linked to a range of adverse health effects. 
Salomon Center for Teaching, Room 001, the College Green

Environmental Matters: How Climate and Chemicals Shape our Health

Greg Wellenius, associate professor of epidemiology; director, Center for Environmental Health and Technology 
Joseph M. Braun, associate professor of epidemiology

Researchers in the Brown University School of Public Health investigate the complex connections between our environment and our health. Professor Gregory Wellenius, a member of the Federal Advisory Committee that produced the National Climate Assessment, will discuss the health threats posed by our rapidly changing climate and the work public health scientists are conducting to mitigate these threats. Professor Joseph Braun will discuss the threats environmental chemical exposures pose to human health, including the ways common household chemical exposures before conception, and during pregnancy, infancy and childhood affect the risk of disease across the lifespan. 
List Art Building, Room 120, 64 College St.

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3:30 - 4:20 p.m. Forums

Breathing for Eve: The Strangers Inside Our Cells

The Frank and Joan Rothman Lecture

Jodi Nunnari, University of California–Davis, distinguished professor, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology

Over a billion years ago, ancient bacteria took up residence inside the cells that gave rise to all animals, ourselves included. These bacteria evolved to become mitochondria — powerhouses that provide energy for all cells. Mitochondria form a network that contains copies of a small genome that remains distinct from nuclear DNA. Our research has revealed that mitochondria interact with the endoplasmic reticulum, a cellular site for protein and lipid synthesis. These interactions serve as molecular hot spots that control mitochondrial behavior and function.
Sidney Frank Hall for Life Sciences, Nathan Marcuvitz Auditorium, Room 220, 185 Meeting St.


The Vietnam War – The Enduring Impact on the Brown Community

Panelists: Thelma Austin ’69, publisher; David I. Kertzer ’69, Paul R. Dupee Jr. University Professor of Social Science, professor of anthropology and Italian studies, Brown University; and Scott Somers ’69 (Naval ROTC, U.S. Navy), co-founder of an executive search firm

Moderator: Joe Petteruti ’69 (Rhode Island Air National Guard), former vice president, Bank of America

The 1960s were a time of turmoil and unrest. With war raging in Vietnam and demonstrations mounting here at home, many Brown graduates — both men and women — faced challenges and made life-altering choices. Some protested or fled the country, others enlisted in the armed forces and were sent overseas. Some never came home. Unpack the ways the war shaped a generation of Americans and affected the Brown community in a thought-provoking discussion with a panel of alumni experts and service members. Learn how the war affected the entire Brown community a half-century ago and how it continues to shape the lives of Brunonians today. 
John Hay Library, Willis Reading Room, 20 Prospect St.