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Spring 2014 Calendar of Events

Higgins Spring 2014 Calendar [PDF]

Embracing Failure: The New Commons Dialogue Symposium for Spring 2014

This semester, rather than rushing toward success, the Higgins School will embrace failure — grabbing it with both hands to explore its boundaries and possibilities. No skipping to “try, try, again.” We will not just “get back on the horse.” What’s the hurry? For those like us, committed to learning and doing new things, failure is a near constant companion anyway. It follows behind risk, ambition, and curiosity. Let’s slow down and accept its company.

No doubt there is much to be learned by doing so: What does it mean to fail in school, the marketplace, life? Who sets the criteria for evaluation? When is failure an opportunity, when is it a constraint, and how can we tell the difference? And what of the failures that one cannot overcome through hard work and determination; what do they teach about fairness, humility, and grace?

We hope you will join us at the events listed below to explore these and other questions.

Embracing Failure: A Community Conversation

Tuesday, January 28 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons

We live in a society that strives to measure our performance in every conceivable way. Failure, we intimately know, can have very real consequences on not only our academic trajectories, but our psyches. Yet research has revealed the importance of failure in the development of character traits essential for later success. (Many Olympic athletes were not the most successful competitors in their sport as children.) Might failure be a key to success? What can the experience of failure teach us if we embrace it as a space of learning? Does something need to change in our personal and societal relationships to failure? Facilitated by Professor Eric DeMeulenaere (Education).


The Anthropocene and Its Discontents: Climate Change and the Future of the Earth System

A Clark University President's Lecture by Daniel Schrag

Tuesday, February 4 @ 7:30pm

Tilton Hall, Higgins University Center

Professor Daniel Schrag will orient us to the climate challenges we face and the question of timescale in which they are occurring. Schrag is the Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology at Harvard University, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, and Director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment. He currently serves on President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. This event launches the Council on the Uncertain Human Future, a year-long conversation among thirteen distinguished women on the implications of climate change for our world. A dialogue between Schrag and members of the Council will follow the talk. Co-sponsored with the Office of the President.


damaged. truncated. incomplete. continue?

An exhibition by Hugh S. Manon

Opening reception: Thursday, February 13 @ 4pm

Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons

Hugh S. Manon (Visual and Performing Arts) presents a selection of images as a means of theorizing the ontology of glitch. His images derive from the abuse of faulty software and from the semi-arbitrary manipulation of the data that comprises various digital photography formats. In each case, a delicate balance has been struck: the glitchy damage is significant enough to be seen, but not so drastic as to render the file unreadable. The software that “reads” the glitchy images does not “crash,” but instead fails to fully fail. The result is often an explosion of color and scrambling of image content, reminding us of the complex algorithms beneath the seamless perfectionism of all digital media.


Feminism, Failure, and "Failure" — A Multigenerational Community Conversation

Wednesday, February 19 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons

Stories of feminism’s failure abound. The movement has been accused of doing both too much and too little to improve the lives of women in the United States and around the world. A common critique suggests that, for some women, feminism has succeeded too well. With many choices and opportunities, a constant feeling of failure, of never doing enough, overwhelms them. Other accounts highlight those excluded from or even damaged by feminism — working-class and poor women who support the gains of the middle-class, young girls exposed to a culture that sells female sexuality, even boys and men constrained by a world remade in feminism’s image. What can we learn by exploring and challenging these stories of “failure”? What do they obscure? Facilitated by Professors Cynthia Enloe (Women’s and Gender Studies, IDCE) and Esther Jones (Women’s and Gender Studies, English).

Glitch in the Machine: The Queer Art of Failure

A talk by Jack Halberstam

Thursday, February 27 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons

Social systems established around winning wealth, health, possessions, longevity, mobility and access surely produce a community of people who must reside in the failure of poverty, illness, ephemerality, stasis and lack of access. Professor Jack Halberstam (University of Southern California) applies such insights to new contexts like video games in order to test the scaffolding within which success and failure take place and to explore their reconceptualization. Too often, we believe that winners and losers are distinct populations with little overlap among their membership, but in video games, losers can be winners and winners can lose. Play demands that we experiment with failure, and failure must be possible at all times if the games are to be deemed acceptably deep and challenging. In this talk, Halberstam will explore the appeal of a world in which players must fail before they succeed. Co-sponsored with the Women's and Gender Studies Program.


Why Nations Fail

A talk by Daron Acemoglu

Tuesday, March 11 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons

Why are some countries rich and others poor? What can explain why the United States is 5 times richer than Colombia in South America or 50 times richer than Sierra Leone in West Africa? Award-winning economist Daron Acemoglu argues that geographic or cultural explanations of these patterns are unsatisfactory. Rather, it is the economic institutions — the structures that shape people’s economic incentives and opportunities — that critically determine a country’s wealth. Acemoglu is the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He co-authored Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (Crown Publishing Group, 2013) with Professor James Robinson of Harvard University. Co-sponsored with the Departments of Economics and Political Science.


Learning from Failure: The Case of Cheating in Higher Education

A talk by James M. Lang

Thursday, March 20 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons

According to some educational theorists, our deepest learning experiences are driven by failure. When our current knowledge or skills lead us into failure — and we care about that failure — we become motivated to learn something new. Young children are engaged in a constant cycle of testing their minds against the world, failing, and learning from the experience. Hence, we can envision almost any failure as a possibility for new learning. Professor James M. Lang (Assumption College) suggests cheating in higher education is a failure of the teaching and learning transaction that should open pathways to new learning for students, faculty, and administrators at America’s colleges and universities.


Welcome to Loserville: A Historian Talks about Failure

A talk by Scott A. Sandage

Tuesday, March 25 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons

How does a culture obsessed with success make sense of failure? Historian Scott A. Sandage contends that failure is the very foundation of the American Dream — that economic striving and a faith in the individual have shaped the soul and self of America. Drawing upon examples from the 19th century, his work charts the transformation of failure from a business loss to a personality deficit. In this talk, he will discuss the origins and changing meanings of the American habit of labeling ourselves and each other “losers,” his 13-year struggle to complete a book on the subject, and his ultimate acceptance that failure is an inevitable part of everything we do — especially for historians. Co-sponsored with the Department of History.


Other Recommended Events from the Higgins School of Humanities

Don't Bite Your Tongue Dinners

Tuesday, February 11 @ 5:30pm | Hughes Hall
Tuesday, March 11 @ 5:30pm | Dodd Hall
Tuesday, April 8 @ 5:30pm | Blackstone Hall

Many of us were told from a young age that we should not discuss politics, sex, religion, race, or any potentially contentious issue at the dinner table. The Don’t Bite Your Tongue dinners break this convention — freeing us from “safe” observations and the fear of offending others. On the second Tuesday of each month, we will gather in different residence halls for dinner and dialogue on difficult topics with the intention of listening and learning from one another in ways that challenge our underlying assumptions about ourselves and others. Dinner will be provided. Students, staff and faculty need only bring themselves and a willingness to be open to anything! If you have questions or suggestions for topics, please contact Barbara Bigelow. Co-sponsored by the Difficult Dialogues Initiative, the Dean of Students Office, and Residential Life and Housing.


Recapturing the Ravishing Tonal Expression of

17th- and 18th-Century Keyboard Music

A presentation by Sylvia Berry and Dale Munschy

Wednesday, February 19 @ 4:30pm

Razzo Hall, Traina Center for the Arts

Sylvia Berry (fortepianist) and Dale Munschy (keyboard technician and restorer) will explore the story and legacy of changing tuning systems and keyboard instruments in the 17th and 18th centuries. The presentation will demonstrate the tonal characteristics of a variety of temperaments in music, ranging from Couperin and Sweelinck to Haydn, using three instruments: the harpsichord, the modern grand piano, and an 1806 Broadwood and Son fortepiano.

John Lewis' March

A Clark Faculty Roundtable with Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell

Wednesday, March 12 @ 7pm

Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons

Clark faculty will participate in a roundtable discussion of Congressman John Lewis’ graphic memoir, March. Lewis wrote March in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell, both of whom will join the discussion. March recounts the true story of Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights. Book One spans his youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and the battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall. Co-sponsored with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Office of the Provost.


Technology, Memory, and the Narrative of the Self

A talk by Ted Chiang

Thursday, March 27 @ 5pm

Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons

In the very near future, it will become practical to keep a video recording of every moment of your waking life. There’s an ongoing discussion about the etiquette of wearable computers like Google Glass, but there are also long-term implications of using such devices that are completely separate from questions of privacy. As we make greater use of computers to record our personal lives, science fiction writer Ted Chiang suggests our cognitive habits are likely to shift away from relying on our own recollection of events and toward consulting digital video. How will this affect our sense of ourselves? Will it change the way we understand our pasts?


White Privilege Meets Interracial Adoption

Comments and Conversation Fern Johnson & Marlene Fine

Thursday, April 3 @ 4pm

Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons

Professors Fern Johnson (English) and Marlene Fine (Communications, Simmons College) will talk about their perspectives on white privilege as the white parents of two adopted African American children. They are the authors of The Interracial Adoption Option: Creating a Family Across Race (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2013). The book provides a beginning point for the white person who is contemplating or already has adopted a child of another race, but it is also a commentary on how blinded white persons — even those who have studied race — can be to the everyday realities of race.