Faculty Lecture Series to cover a wide array of topics in spring

Last Thursday’s lecture by Amos Lawrence Professor of Art Samuel Edgerton kicked off a long-standing tradition at Williams: the Faculty Lecture Series. Professor Edgerton’s talk, “The Cross, The Sword and the Cave: Mendicant Friars and Indian Artists in Sixteenth-Century Mexico,” initiated the wildly diverse survey of topics which brings the Williams community together each spring.

This week’s speaker, Professor of Geosciences and Edna McConnell Clark Professor of Geology Bud Wobus will give a talk titled “Great Blasts from the Past: A Few Explosive Moments in Geologic Time.” Professor Wobus’s speech will focus on ancient volcanic rocks left behind by what he calls “big-bang type” volcanic explosions: the kind “that go off like they have a nuclear warhead inside.”

Like most of the professors who present during the lecture series, Wobus will speak on his personal research. He has been researching volcanic rocks, some up to 17 million years old, for the last thirty years.

Likewise, Professor of Psychology Saul Kassin will present his personal work when he speaks on “The Psychology of Confession Evidence” on March 18th. As the nature of the lecture series is to provide a somewhat introductory approach to a diversity of opinions and disciplines, the challenge for professors is to structure a less technical but still intriguing approach to their work. While Kassin admits it can be “very frustrating to condense” years of research, the end product is valuable. It is an approachable and informative opportunity to “see what your colleagues are doing, [what they are] involved in,” Kassin explains.

Apparently students have not caught on to this opportunity to survey new concepts. While many faculty members attend the lectures, and Williamstown residents come to the college for the sessions, Wobus laments, “very few students, unfortunately” are frequent attendees. Yet, Wobus emphasizes how the lecture series has evolved to be quite a “town-gown thing”, fostering appreciation and interest among the residents of Williamstown towards the college community.

The Faculty Lecture Series began nearly half a century ago when a group of faculty spouses organized the forum as a way to promote interaction between the college and the community. A faculty committee currently headed by Professor of Psychology Phebe Cramer now runs the series. The responsibility of lecturing rotates yearly, thereby surveying a full, cross-disciplinary spectrum of professors and topics over the years.

Lectures are held in the Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall at 4:00 on Thursday afternoons throughout the spring, and students are encouraged to attend. After this week’s speech by Professor Wobus the schedule includes:

Cathy Johnson on February 25th speaking on “Sperm Donors, Deadbeats, Good Guys, and Promisekeepers: Men Families and Welfare”; Meredith Hoppin on March 4th: “Plautus’ Aulularia: Pot of Gold, Pot of Baby, Pot of Words”; Birgit Koehler on March 11th: “What’s Going on Up There? Ozone Loss, Global Warming, and Soot”; Saul Kassin, March 18th: “The Psychology of Confession Evidence.”

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