By Kristin Van Cleef and Laura Pustarfi Reddick June 9, 2016

CIIS has always attracted faculty with an eye for big ideas to inspire our community of scholars, artists, and thinkers. Through a new event series, Public Programs & Performances has begun focusing on sharing some of these thoughts with the Bay Area and beyond.

Launched in Spring 2016, the Big Ideas lecture series invites the public and CIIS community into the conversation about life's important topics. Each event, held at the Desai | Matta Gallery, features a CIIS faculty member relating insights from their body of work and explaining how these big topics are relevant.

Michelle Glowa, a member of the Anthropology and Social Change faculty, led the inaugural event, Eat Like It Matters, a topic of special interest in the food-focused Bay Area. Glowa shared multiple case studies highlighting how everyday consumption connects us to vast networks of relationships and what we can do to cultivate more just and sustainable food systems.

East-West Psychology Chair Craig Chalquist enlightened the audience about the ways mythic themes are interwoven into our popular culture, particularly in the news and media we consume every day.

Brian Swimme, of the Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness and Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion programs, explored why we should study the universe. With the history of the cosmos as a backdrop, Swimme focused on the most recent 2,500 years of cosmological study to look forward into the future of consciousness.


Two events were curated specifically around literature. MFA Programs Chair Carolyn Cooke explored the ways reading directly impacts personality. Brynn Saito, director of the Writing Center, shared her discoveries of the ways in which poetry brings meaning to busy, modern living.

The series concluded with Denise Boston, Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, who explained the necessity of learning to talk about diversity by grounding the conversation in lived experience. Boston led the audience in thoughtfully examining assumptions to help move the cultural discourse forward.

Our Fall series features Meg Jordan, Nick Walker, Alzak Amlani, and Zara Zimbardo on topics including creativity, wellness, neurodiversity, and zombies.

"The Big Ideas series showcases our amazing faculty and their work by inviting the world into CIIS," says Judi Wexler, Academic Vice President.

Kirstin Van Cleef is Public Programs & Performances Marketing Manager. Laura Pustarfi Reddick, Associate Director of Public Programs, is a PhD student in Ecology, Spirituality, and Religion.

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