If you enjoy talking ideas with colleagues and friends (old and new) in an extremely inviting environment, then please select your Great Conversation from the list below for October 16. Please sign up early for this special event; our previous Great Conversations dinners sold out in advance, and a number of people were disappointed that they could not be included. Sign up for the conversation of your choice today.
1. Germany: Its Culture, History and Beauty
Have you ever been to Germany? Have you ever tried currywurst or french fries with mayonnaise? Come join me for an evening of conversation to learn more about Germany, its history, its culture, its beauty.
Your table host will be Dean Dirk Schlingmann, who grew up in Germany and has lived for over twenty-five years in the United States. He has traveled extensively and enjoys meeting people from all over the world.
2. Bringing the Dead Sea to Life
The Dead Sea, the famous salt lake in the Middle East, has long captured the public imagination for different reasons. It’s the lowest point on earth and one of the saltiest bodies of water on the planet. Original biblical texts were discovered in a nearby cave. It’s been a place of refuge for ancient visitors – King David, Cleopatra, Herod the Great – to modern tourists seeking the mysterious healing powers of its mud and waters. Nearby Jericho is the oldest known city; Sodom and Gomorrah were located on the eastern shore. It’s home to unique birds and plants. The Dead Sea is also dying, as the water level drops at an alarming rate. This table will discuss the current decline of the Dead Sea, efforts to save it, and the role of environmental issues as the basis of conflict and cooperation in the Middle East.
Your table host will be Dr. Lizabeth Zack, Associate Professor of Sociology. Dr. Zack is uniquely qualified to lead this outstanding conversation. She has published and lectured on various topics related to the Middle East. She spent a year in Jordan as a prestigious Fulbright Fellow, where she taught university classes and conducted research on environmental issues and activism.
3. Making First Impressions
Dinner parties are really the ideal setting in which to discuss the accuracy of our first impressions of others. The way we interpret social information on the fly can determine important outcomes in our life, such as whom we marry, whom we hire, or whom we avoid on the street. Table participants will discuss the origins of first impressions of others’ personalities. What do we look for? What do we care about? Are we any good at this? Why or why not? Participants should be prepared to discuss personal successes and failures in evaluating people as a springboard for this discussion.
Your table host will be Dr. Andrew Beer, Associate Professor of Psychology. Dr. Beer has written extensively in the area of personality and first impressions, and his Personality courses are very popular among Upstate students.
4. Decapitations and Tyrants: The French Revolution as it Really Happened
Few events in history were more dramatic or controversial than the French Revolution. With figures like Napoleon and Robespierre as well as events such as the storming of the Bastille and the Whiff of Grapeshot, the French Revolution has captivated the minds of historians, authors, playwrights, artists, soldiers, and politicians. Join us to discuss the fascinating events of this revolution which not only changed France but the world as well.
Your conversation leader for the evening will be Dr. Rob McCormick, Associate Professor of History. Dr. McCormick teaches courses and conducts research on the topics of war, genocide, and nation building. He has recently published on genocide in World War II Croatia. His forthcoming book Croatia and Ante Pavelić: America, Genocide, and World War II will be published by I.B. Tauris in March 2014. Dr. McCormick is a popular speaker before community and civic groups, primarily because he has a particular talent for explaining complex world events in a lively and understandable way.
5. The South: From The Help to “Honey Boo Boo Child” and “Hillbilly Handfishin”
Historians often state that there are “many Souths.” But in popular culture and society it seems that most when most people refer to “the South” they know concretely what that means. When we think about the South, how do we define it: by religion, by race, by politics, by economics, by culture?
In this conversation, Dr. Carmen V. Harris will lead a discussion that focuses on this question. Dr. Harris is a native of Gaffney, South Carolina. She teaches U.S., Southern, and African American History at USC Upstate and conducts research on African Americans in agriculture in South Carolina.
6. Inside the Actor’s Craft
Have you ever wondered how Meryl Streep consistently mesmerizes audiences? What skills/qualities do audiences attach to performances that are considered outstanding? What work does the actor do in preparation for a role in order to achieve truth and honesty in performance? Ever since Constantin Stanislavski introduced the psyche into the acting process in the 1890’s the acting process has undergone a major transformation. From Clark Gable to Denzel Washington, how have critical standards for acting changed? How far is too far in the lengths that actors will go to achieve sublime performance? How do we all “act” on a day to day basis? These and many other questions will be considered in this informative discussion about the actor’s process.
Your acting coach for the evening will be Dr. Lee Neibert, Assistant Professor of Theatre (Acting and Directing). Lee has over 20 years of experience as an actor and director, and most recently directed USC Upstate’s production of Almost, Maine for the International Youth Arts Festival in Kingston upon Thames, UK and Is He Dead? by Mark Twain on the USC-Upstate campus.
7. Moved by Music in Film
Dr. Gregg Akkerman, Associate Professor of music and author of The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story, will facilitate conversation about great moments in movies where the music gripped the emotions and transcended the screen. Guests are encouraged to come prepared to share one of their own favorite movie-music moments.
Dr. Akkermann is also an extraordinary musician and director of the USC Upstate Jazz Program.
8. You Thought Writing Was the Difficult Part
Do you occasionally put down a novel in frustration, thinking that you could write better than that? Have you thought about writing a book, or have you written a book-length manuscript, but you don’t know where to send it? Are your notebooks full of the beginnings of short stories and poems that you haven’t finished because you didn’t know who would read them? Do you a specific story of regional history, but you’re not sure other people would care? We’ll have a conversation about local, regional, and national publishing and self-publishing in literary and academic writing.
Dr. Peter Caster is the author of two books published with The Ohio State University Press and numerous articles published in academic journals. He is vice-chairperson of Hub-Culture, the board of directors for the Hub City Press and Hub City Book Shop.
10. Presidential Crystal Ball: Can You Predict the Winner?
There are many factors that go into a successful run for president - experience, personality, fundraising, campaign ads, endorsements, etc. But what if none of those factors really made a difference and instead the winner could be predicted months ahead of time, maybe even before the candidates were known? Scholars use variables such as economic indicators and presidential popularity to create forecast models to try and predict the outcomes of presidential elections. At this table, some of these forecast models will be examined, along with their success rates. We will also see the predictions they make for the outcome of the 2012 election. Additionally, we will examine the impact of the candidates, their positions, strategies, campaign ads, and media coverage in a non-partisan way.
Your fortune teller for the evening will be Dr. Allison Clark Pingley, Assistant Professor of Political Science. Dr. Pingley specializes in American politics, specifically campaigns and elections, the presidency, and media and politics. She is also regularly asked by the press to comment on state and presidential elections. This non-partisan look through the crystal ball is sure to be exciting!
11. Alien Invasions: People, Pythons, and a Global Pandemic
Exploring consequences of the introduction and expansion of Burmese Pythons in the Florida Everglades
Globally, introduced species are responsible for a myriad of current ecological, economic, and health issues. We will use the invasion of the Florida Everglades by giant Burmese pythons as a case study exploring the ramifications associated with establishment of non-native species in the Southeast. In addition, we will ponder the question: will your Piedmont backyard be home to a python one day soon?
Your table host will be Dr. Melissa Pilgrim, Director of Research and Associate Professor of Biology. Melissa is a native Floridian with long-standing research sites located in Central Florida.
12. Is 60 REALLY the New 40? Maybe!
Have you recently met someone and thought . . .
- “Wow, she looks and acts fifteen years younger! What is her secret?”
- “He just seems so old for his age. He could easily pass for someone fifteen years older.”
So, can you turn back the clock? Slow it down? Turn it off? What, in fact, does the research say about aging? This conversation will discuss what it means to age optimally, and present findings from psychological research that can help us feel younger and live longer. It will also discuss what we know about the role of genes, lifestyle, and environment in the aging process. Whether you are in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, or older, you will enjoy this lively discussion of aging in the 21st Century. While no one can completely stop the clock, it is certainly possible to avoid many of the negative consequences associated with aging. Join the conversation and learn some of the secrets!
Your table host will be Dr. Stefanie Keen, Assistant Professor of Psychology. Dr. Keen conducts research and teaches a wide variety of courses related to human development from birth to old age.