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Distinguished Speakers Series photos courtesy of the University at Buffalo
Distinguished Speakers Series photos courtesy of the University at Buffalo

UB announces lineup for 2023-24 Distinguished Speakers Series


Tue, Sep 5th 2023 06:35 pm

By the University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo Distinguished Speakers Series returns for 2023-24 with a lineup of engaging, inspiring and entertaining speakers.

The season will feature:

•“JEOPARDY!” champion Amy Schneider, the first openly transgender contestant to qualify for the game show’s “Tournament of Champions.”

•Journalist Nicholas Thompson, CEO of The Atlantic, and legal scholar Nita Farahany, an expert on the implications of emerging technologies, who will speak on “AI and the Future of Everything.”

•New York Times bestselling author Heather McGhee, whose first book, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together,” was longlisted for the National Book Award.

•Amanda Gorman, the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, who received international acclaim for her performance of her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

All talks take place at 7 p.m. in the Mainstage Theatre in the Center for the Arts, North Campus.

“Since its inception more than three decades ago, UB’s Distinguished Speakers Series has hosted innovators and influencers who have shaped the cultural landscape, tackled grand challenges and probed our shared humanity,” President Satish K. Tripathi said. “This year’s speakers – through the transcendence of poetry, the rigor of scholarship, the purpose of journalism and the courage of conviction – build on this proud tradition, and we are delighted to welcome them to UB.”

Amy Schneider

The series kicks off Oct. 19 with a talk by author and history-making “JEOPARDY!” champion Amy Schneider.

Following an impressive 40-game winning streak, Schneider became the most successful woman ever to compete on “JEOPARDY!” She ranks second in the show’s history for consecutive games won — trailing only Ken Jennings — and is the 11th highest-earning contestant of all time across all American game shows. Schneider won the “Tournament of Champions” in 2022.

Her upcoming book, “In the Form of a Question,” serves as an inspirational memoir and an exploration of what it means to ask questions of the world and of yourself.

Nicholas Thompson and Nita Farahany

Journalist Nicholas Thompson and legal scholar Nita Farahany will share the stage for a provocative discussion about artificial intelligence on Nov. 16.

Before serving as CEO of The Atlantic, Thompson was editor-in-chief of WIRED magazine, where he broke significant stories about cyber-warfare, the Robert Mueller investigation and numerous other topics. His groundbreaking investigative reporting on Facebook was a finalist for a 2020 Loeb Award, and he oversaw work that won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Magazine Award.

At The Atlantic, Thompson has led teams that won National Magazine awards for coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, new perspectives on 9/11, the rise of global autocratic power, the case for returning the national parks to Native American tribes, and the hypocrisy behind high-class education in America.

Farahany, the Robinson O. Everett Distinguished Professor of Law & Philosophy at Duke University and founding director of the Duke Initiative for Science & Society, is a leading scholar on the ethical, legal and social implications of emerging technologies.

She was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. She currently serves on the National Advisory Council for the National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke, as an elected member of the American Law Institute and on the Global Future Council on Frontier Risks for the World Economic Forum, among others. Her publications include the book “The Battle for Your Brain: Defending Your Right to Think Freely in the Age of Neurotechnology.”

Heather McGhee

Author Heather McGhee will speak on Feb. 28 as UB’s 48th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration keynote speaker. The lecture is sponsored by the Minority Faculty and Staff Association.

McGhee’s “The Sum of Us” spent 10 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list and was also longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction. The book explores what we lose when we buy into the “zero-sum” paradigm – the idea that progress for some comes at the expense of others. Her deeply personal experiences traveling across America illuminate how racism is at the root of some of our most vexing public problems, from collapsing infrastructure to rising student debt.

An expert in economic and social policy, McGhee, for nearly two decades, helped build the nonpartisan think tank Demos, serving as its president for four years. She now chairs the board of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization.

Amanda Gorman

This year’s series will conclude March 26 with a talk by poet and activist Amanda Gorman, whose performance of her poem “The Hill We Climb” at Biden’s inauguration inspired millions of viewers with its message of hope, resilience and healing.

An advocate for the environment, racial equality and gender justice, Gorman was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017. She has appeared on the cover of TIME magazine and was the first poet to grace the cover of Vogue. Gorman was also one of five Variety Power of Women honorees and cover star, as well one of three cover stars for Glamour’s Women of the Year.

In 2021, a special edition of her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb”; her first picture book, “Change Sings”; and her poetry collection, “Call Us What We Carry,” debuted at the top of The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal bestsellers lists.

Ticketing Information

Those who held 2022-23 series subscriptions (all lectures as a package) will receive an email on how to renew their subscriptions for 2023-24. Those who would like to purchase new series subscriptions or individual lecture tickets may do so beginning Sept. 21 through Ticketmaster.

Tickets may also be purchased at the Center for the Arts box office. Information on how UB students may access tickets will be provided on the ticket portion of the Distinguished Speakers Series’ website before each lecture.

UB’s Distinguished Speakers Series has been bringing the world to UB audiences for more than 35 years. Additional speaker and ticket information can be found on the Distinguished Speakers Series website.

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