The Great Conversation — 2018 Topics and Conversationalists
Surfing and the American Imagination in Song, Story, and Film — Terry Hallmark
Terry Hallmark is a faculty member in the Honors College at the University of Houston, where he teaches the Human Situation sequence, along with courses in ancient, medieval, and early modern political philosophy, American political thought, American foreign policy, and energy studies. His current research is focused on the political rhetoric and writings of Will Rogers. Prior to his appointment in the Honors College, Hallmark worked in the international oil and gas industry, where he served for more than 30 years as a political risk analyst. He has been an advisor to international oil exploration and service companies, financial institutions, and governmental agencies, including the World Bank, U.S. Department of Defense, and members of the intelligence community. He is the Honors College coordinator for the minor in Energy and Sustainability Studies.
Scotch! — Andrew Davis
Andrew Davis is Dean of the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts. He was previously Director of Graduate Studies in the Moores School of Music and an associate dean in the Honors College at the University of Houston. Davis specializes in instrumental music of the Romantic period and late-19th and early-20th century opera. He is the author the book Il Trittico, Turandot, and Puccini’s Late Style (Indiana University Press), and a forthcoming book, Fragments: Romanticism and Musical Narrative in the Piano Sonatas of Brahms, Chopin, and Schumann, focused on rhetoric and narrative in the nineteenth-century sonata repertoire. He has published and delivered presentations nationally and internationally on the works of Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, Puccini, Strauss and Gershwin. He lectures widely and often, most recently in Krakow, Rome, and Brussels. He will be the featured speaker on the orchestra concert series at this summer's Texas Music Festival on the University of Houston campus, on Saturday nights in June. He has been on the faculty since 2003 and has been an avid fan of single malt Scotch whisky for even longer.
Oprah 2020: The New Trend in Presidential Politics — Christine LeVeaux-Haley
Christine LeVeaux-Haley is a political science professor in the Honors College at the University of Houston. She received her B.A. from Spelman College in Atlanta and her Ph.D. from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Her teaching and research interests include legislative politics, black politics, and political behavior. LeVeaux-Haley has fused these research areas together, focusing much of her attention on minority representation in Congress and black electoral politics. She is also a political commentator for local and national news outlets, including CNN. Her work appears in the Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, and an edited volume titled Eye of the Storm: The South in an Era of Change.
News? Does the Truth Matter Anymore? — Steve Smith
Steve Smith is a former Houston news anchor who began his career at KPRC-TV, Channel Two, during the '60s, at the height of the evening news heyday, and he spent the next several decades on the Houston news scene. During his 30 years at KPRC-TV and KHOU-TV, Smith anchored two, sometimes three daily newscasts. He also covered most of the important local and national news events of the era. Smith reported on several hurricanes, including the devastating Hurricane Alicia in 1983, as well as the moon landings and the Challenger explosion. He was the only Houston anchorman to report live from Berlin when the infamous wall was breached in 1989. Coverage of news events have taken Smith to widespread points of the globe, including the North Sea, the British Isles, Japan, Singapore, Cairo, Israel, Kuwait, Paris, and Vienna. For 10 years, Smith also wrote and hosted a Sunday morning public affairs program, Steve Smith’s Sunday. He retired from nightly television in 1999 and formed a media consultancy, Anchor Communications. He remains active in the community, contributing his time and talents to numerous charitable and arts groups in the Houston-Galveston area, including the Honors College.
Sixty Years of Honors Education at University of Houston — Ted Estess and Bill Monroe
For thirty-one years, Ted Estess was the leader of Honors education at the University of Houston, first as director of the Honors Program, and then, in 1993, as founding dean of the Honors College. He is a proud recipient of the University of Houston Teaching Excellence Award. Though he left the deanship in August of 2008, Estess remains a member of the Honors College faculty and a professor in the Department of English at the University of Houston. In Honors, he also holds the Jane Morin Cizik Chair. He has published a book on Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust writer Elie Wiesel and a number of articles on various writers and topics. Most recently, he has been writing and publishing non-fiction life stories—his collections The Cream Pitcher: Mississippi Stories and Be Well: Reflections on Graduating from College. Ted Estess’ teaching of Honors classes has concentrated in the humanities, especially in a yearlong, ten-hour, team-taught course required of all Honors students at the University of Houston entitled The Human Situation. He also has taught upper-level English Honors seminars dealing with contemporary American fiction. (Ph.D., Syracuse University)
William Monroe is professor of English and dean of the Honors College at the University of Houston. His book Power to Hurt: The Virtues of Alienation was selected as an outstanding academic book of the year by Choice magazine and nominated for the Phi Beta Kappa/Christian Gauss Award. His other publications include the play Primary Care, which deals with personhood issues related to Alzheimer’s Disease, and articles on T.S. Eliot, Vladimir Nabokov, and Willa Cather. He also publishes in the interdisciplinary field of literature and mMedicine and contributes to the scholarship of teaching, including a forthcoming essay on the “old school” methods of Wayne Booth, his mentor at Chicago. He teaches honors courses in literature and medicine and contemporary American fiction, and in 2004 the University of Houston awarded him its Teaching Excellence Award. He directs The Common Ground Teachers Institute and founded the Medicine & Society Program at Houston. He is currently at work on The Vocation of Affliction: Flannery O’Connor and American Mastery.
Corporate Ethics Then and Now — Fermeen Fazal
Fermeen Fazal has been chief counsel and vice president at UniversalPegasus International, Inc. since September 26, 2016. She holds a B.S. in Biology and English Literature from the University of Houston. During her undergraduate career, she was a member of the Honors College and was the president of Sigma Tau Delta. She then earned a J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center in 2000.
Introverts Rule! — Jamie Belinne
Jamie Belinne is the assistant dean for Career Services at the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston's Rockwell Career Center. Prior to that she managed Recruiting and Staffing at The University of Texas at Austin. She is the president of the international MBA Career Services and Employers Alliance. She is the winner of the National Association of Colleges and Employers 2012 Professional Change Maker Award for her initiatives around experiential education in large classes and the winner of the 2013 NACE Innovation Excellence Award in Diversity Programming for her e-book, The Care and Feeding of Your Young Employee. She was a member of Team USA 2009 for the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships and Team USA 2011 for ITU Duathlon World Championships. She is an Ironman, an RRCA Certified Run Coach, and a mother of two.
Where Were You When the Waters Rose? — Doug Erwing
Douglas A. Erwing began teaching in the Honors College in 2009. He graduated from the University of Houston's dual J.D./ Ph.D. program in 2007. Erwing recently returned from a year of teaching and traveling in China where he held a visiting scholar position and lectured at a number of Chinese universities about the U.S. political system, real estate law, and the U.S. Constitution. He teaches courses in U.S. history, political science, and constitutional law, is currently working on a book about how the federal system worked during the 1790s, and is practicing real estate law. (Ph.D., J.D., University of Houston)
Taking and Making: The Traveler’s Viewfinder — Jesse RainbowThis table will investigate what we do—and what we think we are doing—when we take photographs as tourists. We will compare examples of 19th century and recent travel photographs, including photographs from recent Honors College overseas trips. Participants are invited to bring duplicate prints (no irreplaceable heirlooms) of up to four of their own travel photographs to pass around the table. Please bring at least one photograph that you think spectacularly captures a travel experience and be prepared to talk about why. If you have a photo that failed spectacularly, we'd like to see it, too!
Jesse Rainbow is an alumnus of the Honors College and has been a member of its faculty since 2012. A scholar of the ancient Near East, he teaches in the Human Situation and in the Honors College's Medicine & Society minor. He has led several student trips to Israel, Russia, Italy, Egypt, and Turkey and will lead a trip to Israel and Greece in May 2018.
Can Trump Turn Texas Blue? — Richard Murray
Richard Murray is a political science professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Houston. The Richard Murray Endowed Scholarship was established in 2008, honoring his service to the Houston community and his 40 years of teaching and research at UH. Murray’s research interests include political parties and elections, political interest groups, urban politics, and state and local electoral politics. He has worked on several redistricting projects for local governments, and has been an election analyst for KTRK-TV Houston 13. He is frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other national publications.
Pete Rose: Baseball, Rules, and Forgiveness — Dave Shattuck
David Shattuck, faculty fellow in the Honors College, is associate professor in the Cullen College of Engineering and director of the Honors Engineering Program. He came to the University of Houston with degrees in biomedical engineering after working in medical ultrasound. Dr. Dave, as he is known to his students, also conducts research in well logging. (Ph.D., Duke University)
Boss vs. Bossy: How Do We Learn to Lead? — Brenda Rhoden
Brenda Rhoden is the director of the Leadership Studies minor and assistant dean for student success in the Honors College. Dr. Rhoden oversees the student lifecycle in Honors, from recruitment and admissions to advising and leadership development to graduation. She works closely with both academic and extracurricular cohorts, including but not limited to Terry Scholars, Houston Premedical Academy, Club Theater, Honors Ambassadors, and Honors Biomedical Sciences students. In Dr. Rhoden’s seventeen years with the Honors College, she has established many initiatives to ensure student success, such as the Faculty Advising Network and the Honors Mentorship Program. Dr. Rhoden is a proud graduate of the Honors College with B.A. in History and B.S. in Psychology; her research interests include student retention and persistence, mentoring, and engagement. (Ed.D., University of Houston)
Are Novels Relevant? Our World, Great Fiction — Robert Cremins
Robert Cremins is a novelist and essayist who has taught in the Human Situation sequence in the Honors College since 2010. He is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the creative writing program at the University of East Anglia. Cremins moved to Houston in 1993 and has since led Honors College study abroad trips back to his native Ireland. He wisely married a Texan and they have two sons. He has published two novels: A Sort of Homecoming and Send in the Devils. A Sort of Homecoming was translated into French and highlighted as an L.A. Times notable novel of the year. Recently, he published an essay that speaks to his 2018 table topic titled “Ishiguro’s Orphans” (https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/ishiguros-orphans/).
Risky Business: Smartphones, Gambling, and Other Addictions — Ki-Joon Back
Ki-Joon Back holds a B.S./ M.S. in hotel administration from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and a Ph.D. in hotel, restaurant, and institution management from The Pennsylvania State University. He is a co-guest editor of Journal of Travel and Tourism Marketing–Gambling Issue and Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes–Gambling Themes. He has industry experience in casinos in Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Perth, and Seoul. Back is a three-time recipient of the International Council on Hotel and Restaurant and Institutional Education's Best Paper Awards, as well as a recipient of 13 other research and teaching awards.
Love and Health Care — Jennifer Walthall
Jennifer Walthall earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Houston, before going on to earn a medical degree from Indiana University. She stayed on at IU as a faculty member and picked up a masters degree in Public Health. She was division chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Riley Hospital for Children before serving as deputy health commissioner from 2014 until 2017. In 2017, she was appointed as the Family and Social Services Administration Secretary.
The New University of Houston College of Medicine: What Difference Will It Make in Our Community? — Steve Spann
Steve Spann holds an M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas at Dallas. He is a family physician who started out in rural Arkansas and North Carolina. After working in family medicine for years, he left rural practice to be a full time faculty member at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine. Since making the switch to teaching medicine, he has held several different positions at UTMB Galveston and Baylor College of Medicine. He has most recently worked in the United Arab Emirates as the chief medical officer at Tawam Hospital, which is managed by Johns Hopkins International.
Political Humor in the Age of Trump — Bill Kelly and Nick Anderson
Bill Kelly is the current director of government relations at the Mayor’s Office for the City of Houston. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and government at the University of Houston in 2003. Since earning his degree, he has worked in the field of public policy and governmental relations.
Nick Anderson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist for the Washington Post Writers Group. He has most recently drawn cartoons for the Houston Chronicle, and is syndicated in more than 100 newspapers. His work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, News Week, The Washington Post, and USA Today. In addition to winning his Pulitzer Prize in 2007, Anderson has also earned a Sigma Delta Chi Award, the National Press Foundation’s Berryman Award, and the John Fischetti Award from Colombia College Chicago.
Blue Eyes and Whiskey Rivers: The Music and Legend of Willie Nelson — Andrew Hamilton and Eric Bittner
Andrew Hamilton is associate dean for student success in the Honors College and director of the University of Houston Bonner Leaders Program. He has been recognized at the department, college, and university levels for teaching excellence and at the national level for leadership in academic innovation. He is published widely on evolutionary theory and biological classification, as well as effective teaching. Hamilton’s most recent work in these areas can be found in The Evolution of Phylogenetic Systematics (University of California Press) and in Change magazine, as well as in From Groups to Individuals (edited by Bouchard and Huneman, MIT Press), Zookeys, and Systematics and Biodiversity. Before coming to the University of Houston, Hamilton was a senior sustainability scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability and a faculty member in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. He is a graduate of Berea College, Boston College, and the University of California-San Diego. Patterns in Nature, his edited volume on the conceptual foundations of phylogenetic systems, will be published by the University of California Press.
They Were Right: You Are What You Eat — Henk RossouwInside strip-mall eateries, store-front taquerias, food trucks, family-owned bakeries—and at home—Houstonians prepare some of the most exciting and varied cuisine in the United States. As part of The Great Conversation 2018, I will discuss the creativity and problem-solving behind Houston’s immigrant-enriched foodways, whether Hugo Ortega’s focus on edible insects, John T. Edge’s musings in “Mutt City” on Houston’s openness to cuisine fusion, or the grit of the bakers at El Bolillo who, trapped by Tropical Storm Harvey, baked non-stop to help feed flood survivors. Any discussion of food brings memory and identity to the table, such as Javier O. Huerta’s reflections on shopping at Fiesta or Mai Pham’s search for the perfect bun cha Hanoi, and so the conversation can extend to how food has shaped both your sense of self and community.
Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Henk Rossouw's book-length poem Xamissa won the Poets Out Loud Editor's Prize and will be published in fall 2018 by Fordham University Press. Best American Experimental Writing 2018 (Wesleyan University Press) features an excerpt. His chapbook Xamissa: The Water Archives is part of the boxset New-Generation African Poets: Tano (Akashic Books/African Poetry Book Fund), along with the work of ten other writers connected to the continent. His poems have come out in The Paris Review, The Massachusetts Review, and Boston Review. He holds an M.F.A. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Ph.D. from the University of Houston. He is an associate editor for Tupelo Quarterly. Currently, Rossouw is a visiting assistant professor in the University of Houston's Honors College, where he’s teaching a course on Houston food and everyday creativity.
Tillerson and Trump on the World Stage — Joe Pratt
University of Houston Professor Emeritus Joseph Pratt is a leading historian of the petroleum industry. He received his undergraduate degree from Rice University and his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University. He taught at UC-Berkeley, Harvard Business School, and Texas A&M. Professor Pratt teaches courses in energy history and regulation, international business, and public history and is currently the director of an interdisciplinary minor in Energy & Sustainability. He is the author or co-author of twelve books and numerous articles. His research is primarily in energy history and the history of the Houston region. Pratt’s most recent publications include a history of ExxonMobil from 1973-2005 and an edited volume of essays on energy capitals around the world. Pratt has been a consultant for the PBS mini-series on the oil industry, "The Prize," and for the American Experience documentary on the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline. He is the editor of the Oil and Business History Series for Texas A&M University Press; the director of the Houston History Project; and the editor of Houston History, a magazine of popular history.
The Social Impact of Artificial Intelligence — Thomas Markovich
Growing up in Houston, Thomas Markovich was steeped in the ethos of NASA and manned space flight. He learned to love making the seemingly impossible work in the real world. At Forge.AI, he has been able to leverage these desires as well as his skills in high performance and distributed computing to construct intelligent machines to read and understand the near infinite amount of unstructured text available on the web. During his career, he has pursued a variety of different research projects in math, physics, and chemistry to hone his ability to clearly solve previously unsolved questions. Markovich holds a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from the University of Houston and was a member of the Honors College during his time there.
From the Bean to the Bar and the Brew: How Today's Socially Conscious Chocolate and Coffee Companies Help You Indulge Your Cravings and Protect the Planet at the Same Time — Wendy Paris
Wendy Paris is a writer and editor living in Santa Monica, CA. She has worked in the field of journalism, writing, and editing for the last two decades. Her most recent book, Splitopia: Dispatches from Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well, takes a look at how laws made in the last 40 years have greatly improved divorce. Her book has been written about or excerpted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, Real Simple, Marie Claire, and the Houston Chronicle, among others. Paris runs the nation’s first “divorce wellness” website and blog.
The Law of Rock and Roll — Michael OlivasEvery Saturday evening at 7:00, the NPR station KUHF broadcasts University of Houston Law Center Michael A. Olivas’ show, The Law of Rock and Roll™, where he discusses the legal aspects of entertainment law, cases involving the record companies, and the business of rock and roll. For Great Conversation, he will consider recent songs that have been legally deemed to have entered the public domain, such as “Happy Birthday” and “We Shall Overcome.”
Michael A. Olivas is the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law at the University of Houston Law Center and director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at UH. He holds a B.A. (Magna Cum Laude) from the Pontifical College Josephinum, an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Ohio State University, and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. He is the author or co-author of fifteen books, and his most recent book, Suing Alma Mater, on the subject of higher education and the U.S. Supreme Court, was published by Johns Hopkins University Press. In 2011, he served as president of the Association of American Law Schools. He has been elected to membership in the American Law Institute and the National Academy of Education, the only person to have been selected to both honor academies.
Shakespeare, Ambition, and Rage — Dan Price and Tanya Fazal
Dan Price is a faculty member in the Honors College at the University of Houston. He is the author of Touching Difficulty: Sacred Form from Plato to Derrida, as well as many others. His Ph.D. is in 19th and 20th century continental philosophy, and he directs a number of interdisciplinary projects on community health and data. Continuing projects involve air quality and asthma, and a new initiative for creating a network of community health workers who can sustain a data-driven culture of health in communities.
Tanya Fazal is co-presenting with Dan Price, her former teacher. Fazal is a proud alumna of the University of Houston Honors College and a life-long fan of the Human Situation course. She holds an M.B.A. from NYU Stern and currently works in New York as a marketing director at American Express (no, she can't get you a black card). Fazal’s true passion lies in the theater. She recently played her dream role of Medea in Euripides' Medea in New York. It was a true honor to be asked to bring the show to the Honors College, where she performed Medea again in November 2017. Other favorite roles include Maryamma in Miss Witherspoon, Thetis in Andromache, Trisha in Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, Lady Macduff in Macbeth, and Jeanette in Last of the Red Hot Lovers. Fazal has trained at Stella Adler and HB Studios, and her television credits include The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Foreign Policy in the Age of Twitter — Joel Westra
More information to come
The Business of Beer — Aaron Corsi
Aaron Corsi is a faculty member in the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. His expertise and research interests include brewing science, viticulture, enology, and distillation science. Corsi is co-founder and master brewer of 8th Wonder Brewery. He has restaurant experience in both the United States and Europe, including positions as a general manager for Food Maker, Inc. and managing partner of Café Metro in Copenhagen, Denmark. Aaron is a member of the American Society of Brewing Chemists and the American Chemical Society, and he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in molecular and environmental plant science at Texas A&M University.
Handling Your Business: What Honor Cultures Can Teach Us about Conflict — Tamler Sommers
We tend to see conflicts as something to avoid. When we can’t avoid them, we marshal our conflicts to specialists, lawyers and judges, who have no personal connection to the case or the people involved. Our aversion to conflict, according to sociologists, reflect the depersonalization of social life in the industrialized West. Everyone lives in their own comfortable, corner, their bubble or echo chamber. Conflicts provide opportunities for social engagement and active group participation. When conflicts are contained and handled directly, they can foster social cohesion, and add vitality to relationships we might otherwise avoid.
Honor cultures believe it’s shameful to appeal to impartial third parties to resolve their disputes. And since unresolved disputes can lead to violence, honor cultures have a variety of rituals and ceremonies that allow people to hash out their differences face to face. We can learn from their practices, and develop a healthier approach to conflict in the modern life.
Tamler Sommers is an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Houston with a joint appointment in the Honors College. He is the co-director of Phronesis, a program that comprises the study of politics and ethics. He holds a B.A. in English from University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Duke University. In addition to writing reviews for Times Literary Supplement and The Believer, he has a podcast with David Pizarro called the Very Bad Wizards, and is the author of the book Why Honor Matters.
Houston, Texas, and Larry McMurtry — Stuart Long
Stuart Long, associate dean of undergraduate research and the Honors College, also holds the position of academic advisor for all Honors students majoring in electrical and computer engineering. He regularly teaches the undergraduate introductory course in electromagnetic waves, and his research involves antenna design and applied electromagnetics. (Ph.D., Harvard University)
The 1960s: The Years That Changed America? — Lawrence Curry
Lawrence Curry, professor emeritus at the University of Houston, received his B.S. and M.A. degrees in history from the University of South Carolina in 1957 and 1959. He joined the University of Houston Department of History in 1968 and received a Ph.D. in history from Duke University in 1971. He officially retired in 2001 but continues to teach at least one course in American history each semester. He received awards for teaching excellence in 1978, 1997, and 2000, the Honors College Distinguished Service Award in 1996, the Houston Alumni Organization's Outstanding Faculty Award in 1999, the Magner Award for Excellence in Academic Advising in 2000, and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences Distinguished Service Award in 2001. This is his twenty-first year to lead a Great Conversation table.
Wine — Glenn Cordúa
Glenn Cordúa is the founder and director of the Wine & Spirits Management Institute (W&SMI) and an active researcher in responsible service of alcoholic beverages on premise. Along with his brother, Michael, he co-founded and operated the Cordúa Family of Restaurants—Churrascos, Americas, and Amazon Grill—for 12 years. He rejoined the University of Houston in 2000, where he once was part of the psychology faculty, to develop a program in commercial beverage management at Hilton College. In partnership with the Rydman family of Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods, and the Glazer’s Family of Companies, he raised the funds needed to create W&SMI, which began operation in fall 2002. His wine & spirits certifications include the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) from the Society of Wine Educators, the Level 3 Advanced Certificate in Wine & Spirits from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET-Advanced), and accreditation from the Conseil Interprofessionel de Vins de Bordeaux as a Bordeaux Wine Educator.
"The Russians Are Coming!" — David Rainbow
Salacious dossiers. Hacked computers. Special investigations. Not since the end of the Cold War has Russia been so important to American politics at home. Come discuss the significance of Russia in American affairs over the past couple of years, what Putin is up to both here and in Russia, and what it might mean for where our two countries are headed.
David Rainbow is a professor at the Honors College, where he teaches Russian history and “The Human Situation.” Before coming to Houston in 2015, he was a post-doctoral fellow at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies, and a writer-in-residence at New York University's Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia. He holds a Ph.D. in modern European history from New York University (2013). Before becoming a historian, Dr. Rainbow worked aboard a ship on the Pacific and on a cattle ranch in Western North Dakota. He has also lived in Russia and Siberia several times.