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2019-20 ESF Plenary Lectures

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All lectures take place 9:30am-10:50am CEMEX Auditorium at the Graduate School of Business.

Sept. 27: Welcome Paula Findlen with ESF alums:  Arman Kassam (2022), Gaby Goldberg (2021), and Claire Womack (2020)

Paula Findlen is Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History and Director of the ESF Program where she teaches ESF 13 "The Discovery of the Mind."  When not hanging out with all the great freshmen in ESF, she is Director of the Suppes Center for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology and has written and lectured widely in the US and elsewhere on subjects such as Leonardo, Galileo, Renaissance Italy, the Scientific Revolution, and the origins of museums, collecting, and curiosity.  A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she was awarded the Premio Galileo in 2016 for her contributions to Italian culture.

Paula loves spending time in museums and libraries, asking herself why these objects from the past have survived, what they might mean to us, and making exhibits from some of them.  Her Leonardo's Library:  The World of a Renaissance Reader is on display in Green Library until Oct 13.  Another exhibit, with artist Mark Dion and Cantor Center director Susan Dackerman, The Melancholy Museum:  Love, Death and Mourning at Stanford just opened on Sept 18.  The baroque magnetic clock in the Social Science Reading Room in Green Library is an artifact of an earlier exhibit.

Paula is happy to tell anyone why majoring in Medieval and Renaissance Studies was the best thing she ever did in college -- other than work on the college newspaper and make great friends who were far less interested in very dead Italians than she was -- even though many adults were worried about the potentially disastrous consequences of choosing a "useless" major.  But then she had planned to be a cartoonist, so it's really just a matter of perspective.

Oct. 4: Caroline Hoxby | Economics, "Using Economics to Answer Your Questions About Education"

Caroline M Hoxby is the Scott and Donya Bommer Professor of Economics at Stanford University. Hoxby is also the Director of the Economics of Education Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research. She is a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution and the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. A public and labor economist, she is one of the world's leading scholars of the economics of education. Hoxby is well known for her research on school choice, school finance, the market for college education, peer effects, university finance and financial aid. Her current projects include work on how education affects economic growth; globalization in higher education; and ideal financing for schools.

Hoxby is the recipient of many honors including Global Leader of Tomorrow (World Economic Forum) and Sloan, Olin, Mellon, and Ford fellowships. Hoxby has served as a presidential appointee to the National Board of Education Sciences. She has a Ph.D. from MIT, studied at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, and obtained her BA from Harvard University.

Oct. 11: Alex Nemerov | Art History and Art, "Pilgrimage and Not-Knowing: Finding Oneself in Places of the Past and Present"

Humanists go to libraries and archives to find out about the past, but sometimes visiting the site of some past event is the most powerful experience of all. The experience cannot be readily turned into “knowledge” or “usefulness” but it stays with the person who has made the trip, changing them from within. Because of their pilgrimage, who they are in the world is different; how they interact with other people is different.

Every fall Alexander Nemerov teaches Art 1B, “How to Look at Art and Why,” one of the more popular humanities courses at Stanford. He has been named one of Stanford’s top ten professors by the Stanford Daily and also called “Stanford’s art history preacher.” He is the author of many books on American and European art and culture and has lectured widely in the United States and abroad.

Oct. 18: Rob Reich | Political Science, "Liberal Arts at a Tech University?" 

Rob Reich is professor of political science and, by courtesy, professor of philosophy and at the Graduate School of Education, at Stanford University. He is the director of the Center for Ethics in Society and co-director of the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (publisher of the Stanford Social Innovation Review), both at Stanford University. He is the author most recently of Just Giving: Why Philanthropy is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better (Princeton University Press, 2018) and Philanthropy in Democratic Societies: History, Institutions, Values (edited with Chiara Cordelli and Lucy Bernholz, University of Chicago Press, 2016). He is also the author of several books on education: Bridging Liberalism and Multiculturalism in American Education (University of Chicago Press, 2002) and Education, Justice, and Democracy (edited with Danielle Allen, University of Chicago Press, 2013).

His current work focuses on ethics, public policy, and technology, and he serves as associate director of the Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence initiative at Stanford. Rob is the recipient of multiple teaching awards, including the Walter J. Gores award, Stanford’s highest honor for teaching. Reich was a sixth grade teacher at Rusk Elementary School in Houston, Texas before attending graduate school. He is a board member of the magazine Boston Review, of Giving Tuesday, and at the Spencer Foundation.

More details at Prof. Reich's personal webpage.

Oct. 25: Blair Hoxby | English, "Codes of Life and Techniques of Living: Seneca to Beauvoir"

Blair Hoxby is Professor of English at Stanford University and a former director of ESF.  With his wife Professor Caroline Hoxby (Economics), he has just completed a book entitled Reading for Life (HarperOne, forthcoming 2019), which discusses many of the questions and problems central to ESF. 

His academic specialty is the literature and culture of England, France, Italy, and Spain during the Renaissance and Enlightenment. His recent research has focused on the theory and practice of tragedy. He is the author of What Was Tragedy? Theory And The Early Modern Canon (Oxford: OUP, 2015) and Mammon’s Music: Literature And Economics In The Age Of Milton (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002). He is the editor of Milton in the Long Restoration (Oxford: OUP, May 2016).

Nov. 1: Kathryn Starkey | German, "Faust’s Curious Mind: Transgression, Humanity, and the Desire for Knowledge"  

Kathryn Starkey is Professor of German and, by courtesy, Professor of English at Stanford. She has taught a wide variety of courses, including the ESF course “How to Be a Global Citizen” and the Thinking Matters course “What is Love?” In Winter 2020 she’ll be teaching a seminar called “In Search of the Holy Grail” (German 188).

Professor Starkey’s primary research interests are medieval and early modern Germanic literature and culture. She is the author of two books on medieval German manuscripts and their illustrations (Reading The Medieval Book (2004), and A Courtier’s Mirror (2013). She has also published a co-authored edition, translation, and commentary of songs by the controversial and humorous medieval poet Neidhart (ca. 1210-1240) entitled Neidhart: Selected Songs From The Riedegg Manuscript (2016). Additionally, Professor Starkey has edited several books on various aspects of medieval culture and society, including, most recently, a collection of essays on Sensory Reflections: Traces Of Experience In Medieval Artifacts (2018). She is the PI on the Global Medieval Sourcebook, an online compendium of original medieval texts and their translations.

Professor Starkey has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Humanities Center, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the DAAD, the Stanford Humanities Center, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has been at Stanford since 2012.

Nov. 8: Margot Gerritsen | Energy Resources Engineering, "Unintended Consequences of a Liberal Education"

Margot is a professor in Energy Resources Engineering, the former director of the Institute for Computational Mathematics & Engineering, and the current Senior Associate Dean for Educational Affairs in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. A mathematician by training, Margot loves using computational tools to study natural and engineering processes, particularly fluid flows, and has a very strong interest in data science and AI. 

This is the third year that Margot is running ESF10 "Unintended Consequences". Margot is a strong supporter of liberal education and believes that broad interests and a zest for lifelong learning are keys to a happy life.

Margot confesses that she was a ballistic student as an undergrad at first. She threw herself into mathematics and computing body and soul at a technical university in the Netherlands and paid little attention to other study areas. As soon as she started applying mathematics, at first in aerospace and then in environmental problems, she realized that she was only half-prepared for a successful career as an applied scientist/engineer. She missed knowledge about human behavior, about economics, law, and ethics, amongst many other gaps in my understanding. Margot was very fortunate to be a grad student here on campus, with such a wide range of expertise, and she has benefited tremendously from the incredible wealth of knowledge available, every day of every week. It is her deepest wish that all of students will have a similar experience here on campus and looks forward to sharing a bit of her own story and path, and those of some of her colleagues in STEM during this plenary talk for ESF. Welcome to campus!

Nov. 15: Gordon Chang | History, "History and Self" 

Gordon H. Chang is Professor of History at Stanford, Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities, and the Senior Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education.  He is interested in the histories of U.S. foreign relations, international relations, and trans-Pacific affairs.  His degrees are from Princeton and Stanford. 

His most recent book, Ghosts of Gold Mountain, was published earlier this year and presents a history of the thousands of Chinese workers who helped completed the first transcontinental railroad in the United States.