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STO Talks preview: innovation and big ideas

The St. Olaf community is full of bright, creative people with innovative ideas. On Saturday, April 18, in the Lion’s Pause, some of these individuals will have the opportunity to present their ideas to the college community. The fourth annual STO Talks will feature lectures from students, alumni and faculty. The topics to be covered are wide-ranging in nature, from issues of foreign aid to astrobiology and Black revolutionary artistic expression.

STO Talks debuted in 2012 as the college’s version of the incredibly popular TED Talks. Like TED, the St. Olaf version emphasizes powerful ideas and critical thinking distilled into short, concise lectures.

The talks begin at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 18 in the Lion’s Pause. Several of the lectures are previewed here.

Tasha Viets-VanLear ’15: Nothing to Lose But Our Chains: Artistic Identity in Times of Black Revolution

Throughout this academic year, Viets-VanLear ’15 has been a visible and vocal advocate for the “Black Lives Matter” movement on campus. One of the organizers of the Christmas Fest “die-in” that honored shooting victim Michael Brown and other victims of police violence, her STO Talk lecture continues this work of raising awareness for minorities and explains how art intersects with revolutionary politics.

“My STO Talk will explore the ways in which the performing arts have been used as a tool for representing the revolutionary politics of identity in times of oppression and violence against people of color,” she said. “I will touch on my own experiences in poetry and dance, provide examples of Black artists who have used their art to testify or object to racial oppression, and then connect it back to contemporary issues and artists.”

She hopes that her talk will raise awareness regarding the plight of minorities in America and demonstrate the necessity of art in revolutionary politics.

Professor Gordon Marino: Four or Five Uplifting Ideas Gleaned on a Long Walk with Søren Kierkegaard

Marino, a professor of philosophy who specializes in Kierkegaard, will deliver a lecture on the renowned existentialist philosopher.

“Having walked with Kierkegaard for over three decades,” he said, “I would like to think that I have gathered some morsels of wisdom from the Danish firebrand. In my ten minute lecturette, I will discuss two of Kierkegaard’s ideas that have guided my life. For one, I will try to articulate the distinction he draws between depression and despair. Secondly, I will reflect on the moral import of his analysis of self-deception.”

Marino is prolific Kierkegaard scholar. He is the author of Kierkegaard in the Present Age and co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Kierkegaard. He emphasizes that audience members require no previous experience with Kierkegaard to appreciate his lecture and its message.

Robert Jacobel: What’s Under the Ice?

A recently retired professor of physics and environmental studies, Jacobel will speak about his research on ice and climate change.

He has continued his research since his retirement, working with St. Olaf physics students. His work specifically focuses on exploring the geography below glaciers and ice sheets. This is accomplished using ice-penetrating radar and satellite technology. Jacobel has traveled to Antarctica multiple times as a member of the Center for Geophysical Studies of Ice and Climate CEGSIC, which is a research group based out of the St. Olaf Physics Department.

Nathan Detweiler ’16: Building Community as Diverse Individuals

This lecture will focus on the diversity of individuals that exist within St. Olaf and society as a whole. Detweiler believes that recognizing this diversity will promote community, inclusion and new perspectives.

“My STO Talk suggests that recognition that we are all diverse individuals can spur us to engage with people that we perceive as different from us,” he said. “Through these are often awkward interactions, we can build community that is based not solely on the representation of diverse individuals, but on meaningful interactions featuring accountability and honesty.”

For Detweiler, recognizing and embracing individual diversity is a crucial aspect of a healthy and accepting community.

“So often we get caught up in what makes us comfortable, but the reality is that our world is an uncomfortable place with lots of people who make us uncomfortable,” he said. “It’s so important for us all to learn how to interact meaningfully with those ‘uncomfortable’ people, because otherwise we tend to develop friction. . . and that leads to violence of various kinds.”