Rhett Talks aim to foster debate, student thought

The Faculty-In-Residence program hosted its first annual Rhett Talks Monday night in an attempt to promote intellectual curiosity outside the classroom, officials said.

Rhett Talks organizer Daryl Healea said when students are given the opportunity to interact with faculty outside the classroom and to engage in stimulating discussion or outside projects, their overall learning experiences improve.

“By attending lectures like this [Rhett Talks], or by working on a project outside the classroom or going to open hours, everything else is off the charts,” Healea, who is also Associate Director of Residence Life, said.

Inspired by TEDx, three acclaimed BU faculty members each gave brief, provocative and engaging presentations on contemporary issues. Healea said different faculty members will come together and give their own original Rhett Talk to students each week.

“Faculty are the single biggest influencer on students’ learning and development,” Healea said. “Although this [student and teacher] interaction naturally happens inside the classroom … we tried to come up with a way to facilitate that extra interaction outside the classroom.”

Healea said he invited the most dynamic and influential professors from across the university to speak on a variety of issues, ranging from international affairs to sexual education.

Education professor Thomas Cottle opened the night with his talk titled “Witness to the Story.” He spoke of the mutual dependence people have on each other and said although we are responsible for our own stories and experiences, we need witnesses to confirm the ethics and validity of our narratives.

Cottle also explained that our world is psychologically driven. He said he is interested in what people want out of life and what keeps some people, particularly those in extreme poverty, from achieving their goals.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Virginia Sapiro followed Cottle with her talk titled “So you think you treat people as individuals, not as categories or stereotypes, eh?” Sapiro spoke about how humans’ natural tendency to stereotype based on social context may be specific to our social experiences.

Science professor James Anderson ended the night with his talk titled “The Future of Energy.” Anderson said the supply of energy to the world has created many career opportunities, which is important for students looking to enter the job market. Anderson also said the environment is in jeopardy, as fossil fuels are a finite resource.

Shanon Rubin, a College of Fine Arts freshman, said he enjoyed Anderson’s talk the most because the subject of energy closely pertained to his personal interests.

“The first two talks were definitely interesting to me, but I really enjoyed the exuberance of the last speaker,” Rubin said. “I enjoyed the topics he was talking about and I liked the way he engaged the audience.”

Rubin said he found the talks so compelling that he plans to attend all future Rhett Talks.

Mikhail Yeremeev, a CAS sophomore, said the Rhett Talks function demonstrates how much the BU faculty has to offer its students. He said he enjoyed the diversity of subjects presented in the three presentations.

“I thought this presentation gave first year students a lot of great advice, and it was a very informative session,” Yeremeev said. “This [Rhett Talks] definitely gave freshman the chance to feel more connected to their faculty.”

Talya Wasserman, a School of Education freshman, said she particularly enjoyed the first two talks because they were philosophical and thought-provoking.

“The first two speakers had a very concrete energy,” Wasserman said. “I am glad I listened to those two because it [their topics] is something I don’t normally think about, and they are things that will definitely affect how I act.”

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