Alumnae/i College Lectures

Note: All times are given in Eastern time.

Friday | Saturday

Friday, June 3

2:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m.

Alumnae/i College Lectures Session 1

The Economics of Nostalgia in an Economy of Trust
Ben Ho, Associate Professor of Economics
Nostalgia can be seen everywhere during the pandemic: the Super Bowl halftime show called back to ’90s music, every movie and tv show seems to be a reboot, and teenagers flock to shows like Friends and the Golden Girls. Economics can help explain. Why does an economist care about nostalgia? Because nostalgia derives its value from relationships and trust, and trust undergirds every transaction in the economy. We will explore these relationships and others from Professor Ho’s book Why Trust Matters: An Economist’s Guide to the Ties that Bind Us
Rockefeller Hall 300 (available virtually)

The Olmsted Firm and Campus Planning at Vassar
Yvonne Elet, Associate Professor of Art
This lecture is based on an exhibition in the Vassar Art Library, organized by Organized by Yvonne Elet and Caleb Mitchell ’22 (April 6 - June 6, 2022)
There have long been unsubstantiated reports that Frederick Law Olmsted, widely known as the father of American landscape architecture, designed Vassar’s bucolic campus, although the source of Vassar’s early designs remains unclear. Drawing on new archival research and a wealth of unpublished drawings, documents, and photos, this exhibition clarifies the Olmsted firm’s contributions to the college, from the visit of F. L. Olmsted and Calvert Vaux in 1868, through the fundamental recommendations of John Charles Olmsted in 1896 for the college's expansion beyond Main Building, to the designs of Olmsted partner Percival Gallagher c. 1930. This exhibition—together with a brochure and an article in press—marked the bicentennial of F. L. Olmsted’s birth on April 26, 2022. It is also the inaugural exhibition in a series about the history, preservation, and planning of the Vassar campus, organized by the Vassar Art Department.
Taylor 203

The Key Change: Modulation in Memory
Lori Newman, Assistant Professor of Psychological Science
Everyday we face a myriad of information, of which we typically remember only a fraction. What signals are our brains recognizing to sift through and pull out what is important. Can understanding these signals inform us about what might be going awry in neurodegenerative diseases?
Rockefeller Hall 200

3:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m.

Alumnae/i College Lectures Session 2

The Blue Book: A Writer’s Journal
Amitava Kumar, Professor of English on the Helen D. Lockwood Chair
Picasso said that painting is a way of keeping a diary. Professor Amitava Kumar will talk of his latest work, The Blue Book, as an example of such a diary. A diary, both in words and images, telling us that we can keep in sight the daily sublime. All we need to do is pay attention, with an equal eye, to everything around us. Beauty exists only if you notice it. Don’t let your life pass unnoticed. The Blue Book was written for the most part during the pandemic and addresses the question of how do we keep our creativity alive even during crises.
Professor Kumar says: “When I was a boy growing up in India, I would see my grandmother in her village place a single red hibiscus flower on a small pedestal for her gods. This was a daily morning ritual. I love rituals: they establish a pattern, and give structure to our days. My paintings and my words are just such a ritual, a way of giving form and shape to our shared lives, my reader’s and mine.”
Rockefeller Hall 300 (available virtually)

Environmental Justice and the Liberal Arts
Moderator:  Kathleen Susman, Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Biology
Panelists: Alison Spodek Keimowitz, Associate Professor and Chair of Chemistry; Jeffrey Seidman, Associate Professor of Philosophy; Fubing Su, Professor of Political Science
This panel will discuss how the liberal arts education that Vassar provides uniquely considers issues of environmental justice as crossing all disciplinary boundaries. Our panelists will provide examples from their own teaching and scholarship on how a liberal arts perspective is essential for finding solutions and for informing us all about ways to engage this crucial topic.
Rockefeller Hall 200

The Brain Game Lab: Studying Human Cognition Through Online Games
Joshua De Leeuw ’08, Assistant Professor of Cognitive Science
The games that we play on our phones are full of potential as tools to study human cognition. In this session, I’ll discuss some of the historical problems with traditional laboratory-based approaches to studying cognition and how broadening our research toolkit to include online games will allow cognitive scientists to answer new questions about the mind. I’ll also share a demo of the social online gaming platform that students in my lab have created and talk about our future research plans.
Rockefeller 210

5:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Maria Mitchell, Astronomer and Vassar Faculty Member: Through Science, Poetry, and Song
This event, hosted by Music Department Chair Christine Howlett, will feature remarks about Maria Mitchell by Debra Elmegreen, Professor of Astronomy on the Maria Mitchell Chair, and culminate in the premiere of Comets, six songs about Mitchell by Jonathan Chenette, Professor of Music on the George Sherman Dickinson Chair. The songs are based on the poetry collection Night Watches: Inventions on the Life of Maria Mitchell, written by Carole Oles and published in 1985. Mezzo-soprano Jacquelyn Matava ’09 and pianist Samuel Gaskin will perform. The session will conclude with a panel of all the participants interacting with attendees.
Martel Theater, Skinner Hall


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Saturday, June 4

2:45 p.m.–3:45 p.m.

Alumnae/i College Lectures Session 3

Living Our Best Lives: Gen-X Perspectives on Health and Wellness
Join four alumni experts as they explore physical, mental, relational, and spiritual health from the “Sandwich” generation’s point of view across multiple disciplines.
Rockefeller Hall 300 (available virtually)

Seiji Hayashi ’91, MD, MPH, FAAFP
Chief Transformation Officer and Medical Director at Mary’s Center

Joy Williams ’87, MBA, 
Founder & CEO of SoulJoy Wellness

Michael Lopez-Jensen ’92, LCSW
Psychotherapist in Private Practice, specializing in relationships
Core Faculty at Denver Family Institute
Adjunct Professor, University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work

Suzanne Tanski ’92, MD, MPH
Vice Chair of Pediatrics, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
Section Chief, General Academic Pediatrics

Rethinking Gender in an Educational Context
Kimberly Williams Brown, Assistant Professor of Education
This session uses a feminist lens to examine the social and cultural context of education, the structure of schools and classrooms, and the process of teaching and learning. How has societal issues such as the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation affected classrooms and what teachers are allowed to teach? How do LGBTQ students fare in spaces that are hostile to their identities?
Rockefeller Hall 212

Storytelling Through The Arts
Moderator: Sophia Siddique Harvey, Associate Professor of Film
Panelists: Amy Chin, Instructor in American Studies and Asian Studies; Shona Tucker, Professor and Chair of Drama on the Mary Riepma Ross ’32 Chair; Hannah Littman ’22, VRDT Dancer and Choreographer
Rockefeller Hall 200

Walking Tour of the Vassar College Arboretum
Enjoy a leisurely walk, discover fascinating fun facts about trees, and learn about the increasing importance of campus trees for our efforts to be more sustainable and achieve carbon neutrality. Our itinerary will include visits to the reuning classes’ class trees. Please wear comfortable walking shoes and dress for the weather. Led by Professor of Biology and Arboretum Committee Co-Chair Mark Schlessman.
Meet at the entrance to Main in front of Main Circle

Tell us about your class tree! Do you remember dedicating it? Has it played a role in your reunions? The Class Tree Oral History Project would love to hear from you. Please email Biology Professor Mark Schlessman:

4:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Alumnae/i College Lectures Session 4

Multidisciplinary Programs at Vassar
Moderator: Lisa Brawley, Faculty Director of the CAAD summer design research program and Senior Lecturer in Urban Studies and American Studies and Director of Urban Studies; Anne Brancky, Associate Professor of French and Francophone Studies, and Women, Feminist, and Queer Studies.
The multidisciplinary programs are perhaps one of the school’s best living examples of how collaborative and complex a classic liberal arts education can be. Majors such as Urban Studies; Science, Technology and Society; and Women’s Studies combine resources and professors from various disciplines to create a unique major that, according to the Vassar catalog, focus on a “single problem or series of problems that cannot be approached by one discipline alone.” 
Rockefeller Hall 300 (available virtually)

This is a True War Story
Robert K. Brigham, Professor of History on the Shirley Ecker Boskey Chair
This talk will follow the remarkable life of U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Bruce Allen Atwell, who was sent to Vietnam as a combat photographer and found himself part of the longest and deadliest urban battle of the entire war. Atwell earned a Purple Heart and was evacuated from the fighting in Hue in 1968, but not before taking some of the most iconic photographs of the war. Atwell’s life also gives us the perfect vantage point to look closely at Cold War America with some surprising twists and turns. This is a true war story. 
Rockefeller Hall 200

The Vassar Campus: Then and Now
Margaret Ronsheim, Professor and Chair of Biology; Cora Kenfield Assistant Dean for Strategic Planning & Director of Sustainability; Benjamin Lotto, Professor and Chair of Mathematics and Statistics. Topics include:
Ecological Restoration: Then and Now
Professor Edith Roberts developed one of the first restoration projects in the country 100 years ago, here at Vassar College. After exploring the creation and impact of Edith Roberts’ Ecological Laboratory, we will then discuss how her work has shaped our current ecological restoration projects on the Preserve. Her pioneering work on landscaping with native plants continues to inspire landscape architects and home gardeners alike, reweaving the fabric of living ecosystems and providing hope for the future.
Taylor 203

The Evolution of Science Facilities at Vassar
Tour the Bridge for Laboratory Sciences and other spaces that have been renovated to enhance the teaching and learning of science at Vassar—indoor and out.
Led by Joseph Tanksi, Professor of Chemistry on the Matthew Vassar, Jr. Chair
Meet in North Atrium of the Bridge Building

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