Tag: Convocation

Why Are We the Way We Are? Renowned Psychologist Explains in Lawrence University Convocation

Acclaimed author and cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, whose views on the role of biology in determining human behavior has produced best selling books and raised scientific eyebrows, discusses the concept of nature vs. nurture Tuesday, Jan. 20 in a Lawrence University convocation. Pinker presents “The Blank Slate” at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. He also will conduct a question and-answer session at 2 p.m. in Riverview Lounge of the Lawrence Memorial Union. Both events are free and open to the public.

Widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading experts on the workings of the human mind, Pinker sparked widespread debate with his latest book, “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature,” a Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction in 2003 and recipient of the American Psychological Association’s William James Book Prize and the Eleanor Maccoby Book Award.

In “The Blank Slate,” he explores why what he says is the extreme position — that cultural and environmental influences are everything — is so often seen as moderate and the moderate position — that human behavior is innate — is seen as extreme. According to Pinker, the brain at birth is not simply a blank slate but a genetic history of humankind.

As an experimental psychologist, Pinker’s early interests focused on visual cognition and language, particularly language development in children. In 1994, he published the first of his four books, “The Language Instinct,” in which he made the case that language is a biological adaptation. The New York Times Book Review included it on its Editor’s Choice list of the 10 best books of that year.

In 1997, Pinker explained how people think, feel, laugh, question and enjoy in his second book, “How the Mind Works,” which became a best-seller, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and was named one of the 10 best books of the decade by Amazon.com. Two years later, he published “Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language,” which chronicles his research on regular and irregular verbs as a way of explaining how human language works.

A native of Montreal, where he earned his undergraduate degree at McGill University, Pinker, 49, has spent much of his academic career bouncing between the psychology departments of Harvard University, where he earned his doctorate, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he conducted a postdoctoral fellowship. After a year of teaching at Harvard, he returned to MIT in 1982, where he remained until last year, returning to Harvard as the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology.

In addition to his numerous book awards, Pinker has been named one of the “100 Americans for the Next Century” by Newsweek magazine and been a recipient of the National Academy of Sciences’ Troland Award and the American Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award.

Humorist David Sedaris Shares his Witty Observations in Lawrence University Convocation

Award-winning humorist and National Public Radio commentator David Sedaris brings his collection of witty observances on life to Lawrence University Tuesday, Oct. 14 in the second installment of the college’s 2003 2004 convocation series. The program, “An Evening with David Sedaris” at 7:10 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, is free and open to the public.

Sedaris, who claims his idea of fun is “sociological problems and medical mishaps,” launched his career as one of America’s funniest social commentators in 1992 on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” He shared stories from his book “SantaLand Diaries” about his strange-but-true experiences as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s in New York.

He has since written four more books: “Naked,” “Barrel Fever,” “Holidays on Ice” and his most recent, “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” The largely autobiographical collections of essays chronicle his life growing up in North Carolina with “voluble” parents and five siblings, his collection of part-time jobs, including an office worker, moving company employee and an apartment cleaner in New York, and taking French classes as an expatriate in Paris, where he currently resides.

Collaborating with his sister, Amy Sedaris, under the name The Talent Family, Sedaris also has written several plays that have been produced in New York, including “One Woman Shoe,” which was honored with an Obie award.

A one-time writing instructor at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he had earned a degree in 1987, and frequent contributor to Esquire magazine, Sedaris was saluted as Time magazine’s “humorist of the year” in 2001. That same year he was named just the third recipient of the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

Following his address, Sedaris will conduct a book signing in Lawrence’s Shattuck Hall, Room 163.

ABC News Analyst, Newsweek Editor Discusses “Why They Hate Us” in Lawrence University Convocation

Newsweek International editor and ABC News analyst Fareed Zakaria examines the religious, cultural and political reasons behind the growing resentment and distrust of America in much of the Arab world Tuesday, March 4 in a Lawrence University convocation.

Zakaria presents “Why Do They Hate Us? America in a New World” at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. He also will conduct a question-and-answer session immediately following his address. Both events are free and open to the public.

Widely considered one of the nation’s best foreign policy minds, Zakaria, 39, has been editor of Newsweek International since October, 2000, overseeing the magazine’s three English and 26 foreign language editions in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. In 1992, at the age of 28, the Bombay, India-born Zakaria became the youngest managing editor in the history of Foreign Affairs — America’s most influential foreign policy journal — where he spent eight years before joining Newsweek.

A contributing editor at Newsweek for the past six years, Zakaria’s first column for the magazine, “Thank Goodness for a Villain,” argued why America needed Saddam Hussein in order to sustain American policy in the Middle East, but today he supports military action in Iraq.

In addition to Newsweek International and Foreign Affairs, Zakaria has written on international affairs for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, The National Interest, International Security, The New Republic and the webzine IntellectualCapital.com.

Named “one of the 21 most important people of the 21st Century” in 1999 by Esquire magazine, Zakaria joined ABC News last fall as an analyst and appears regularly as a member of the round table panel on the Sunday morning program “This Week” hosted by George Stephanopoulos.

Zakaria, a resident of New York City, earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University and a Ph.D in international relations from Harvard University. He is the author of the 1998 book “From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins of America’s World Role” and his latest book, “The Future of Freedom,” is scheduled to be released in April.