Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

2014-15 ESF Guest Lectures

Main content start

9/26 Chad Dickerson, "The (Liberal) Art of leadership"

CEO of Etsy

Chad Dickerson is CEO of Etsy, an online marketplace for unique goods. Under his direction, Etsy has grown to a community of one million creative entrepreneurs around the world. Etsy’s platform provides new forms of economic empowerment, and in 2013, gross merchandise sales totaled more than $1.35 billion. Prior to becoming CEO in July 2011, Chad was CTO of Etsy.

From 2005-2008, Chad led Yahoo!’s Brickhouse and Advanced Products team, and the Yahoo! Developer Network. Notably, Chad created the Yahoo! Hack Day initiative, the first internal innovation program for engineers and developers of its kind. The Hack Day concept has been adopted by organizations ranging from small startups to governments to large public companies.

Before he joined Yahoo!, Chad held various positions at media outlets including InfoWorld Media Group,, CNN, CNN/Sports Illustrated, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC). Through mostly self-taught web technology expertise, Chad was an early advocate for the power of the Internet as a disruptive platform for information delivery. Chad holds a BA in English literature from Duke University.

More About Chad Dickerson


10/10 Jordan Ellenberg, "How not to be wrong:  the power of mathematical thinking"

Mathematician and Author

How early should you get to the airport? Why do tall parents have shorter children? What’s the best way to get rich playing the lottery? In his New York Times bestseller, How Not to Be Wrong, Jordan Ellenberg shows us how math touches everything we do, in the same way that Freakonomics brought economics into the popular discourse. He unveils the hidden beauty and logic of the world and puts math’s power in our hands—in business and in life.

Math, as Jordan Ellenberg says, is “an atomic-powered prosthesis that you attach to your common sense, vastly multiplying its reach and strength.” Math helps every kind of thinker think better—it hones our intuition, sharpens our judgment, tames uncertainty, and lets us see the deeper structure and logic of our world. The Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Ellenberg is the author of two books: How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, and The Grasshopper King, which was a finalist for the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award.

Ellenberg has held an NSF-CAREER grant and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, and in 2013 he was named one of the inaugural class of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington PostWiredThe Believer, and the Boston Globe, and he is the author of the “Do the Math” column in Slate. His Wired feature story on compressed sensing appeared in the Best Writing on Mathematics 2011 anthology.

More about Jordan Ellenberg

Required Readings:

"Soonest Mended"

"The Last Great Problem"


10/31 Eric Bonabeau, "the prepared mind favors chance"

Complex Systems Expert and Author

The founder and Chairman of Cambridge, MA-based Icosystem Corporation, Eric Bonabeau is one of the world's leading experts in complex systems and distributed adaptive problem solving. His book Swarm Intelligence (Oxford University Press) has been a scientific bestseller for 15 years and provided the inspiration for a popular bestseller, Michael Chrichton's Prey. In his spare time, Eric is also the Dean of the College of Computational Sciences at the Minerva Schools at the Keck Graduate Institute.

Eric's experience includes years of research and development at US and European telecommunications and software companies. Prior to founding Icosystem, a research and development firm and technology incubator, Eric was the CEO of Eurobios, a joint venture with Cap Gemini Ernst & Young to apply the science of complex adaptive systems to business issues. In the 1990s, he was a research engineer with France Telecom R&D, an R&D engineer with Cadence Design Systems, and the Interval Research Postdoctoral Fellow at the Santa Fe Institute.

His work in the last decade has focused on exploring the limits of human decision making in a complex, decentralized and unpredictable world –and how technology can push these limits. Computational models of behavior and decision making, predictive analytics, machine learning and search and discovery techniques form the core of his approach to decision support. 

Eric was the founding Editor-in-Chief of the journals Advances in Complex Systems (World Scientific) and ACM Transactions on Adaptive and Autonomous Systems (ACM Press) and serves as a member of the editorial board of multiple scientific journals. In addition to Swarm Intelligence and more than one hundred and fifty scientific articles, Eric is the co-author of Self-Organization in Biological Systems (Princeton University Press), a biology textbook. He is a co-inventor on 13 granted patents. He received a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from Paris-Sud University Orsay in France, and is an alumnus of two French “Grandes Ecoles”, Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications.

More About Eric Bonabeau


11/21 Peter Robinson, "Tear down this wall: the story of a speech"

Former Reagan Speechwriter and author

Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he writes about business and politics, edits Hoover's quarterly journal, the Hoover Digest, and hosts Hoover's video series program, Uncommon Knowledge™.

Robinson is also the author of three books: How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life (Regan Books, 2003); It's My Party: A Republican's Messy Love Affair with the GOP, (Warner Books, 2000); and the best-selling business book Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA (Warner Books, 1994; still available in paperback).

In 1979, he graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College, where he majored in English. He went on to study politics, philosophy, and economics at Oxford University, from which he graduated in 1982.

Robinson spent six years in the White House, serving from 1982 to 1983 as chief speechwriter to Vice President George Bush and from 1983 to 1988 as special assistant and speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan. He wrote the historic Berlin Wall address in which President Reagan called on General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!"

More about Peter Robinson