Coe College’s forum series dives into hot topics like critical race theory in the U.S. Constitution


The series for seniors includes 23 sessions from September to April

Members of the public listen during a forum session on the Coe College campus on September 9, 2021. (Coe College)

Addressing issues past and present, Coe College’s 30-plus forum series for this academic year kicks off in September and runs through April with 23 episodes covering eight topics – from “critical race theory” to evolution through “The History of Sports in the United States.”

The forum series on the Cedar Rapids campus is billed as a chance “for seniors who want to learn more in an academic setting.” Lectures—which typically draw audiences from Cedar Rapids and surrounding communities—are taught and organized by Coe faculty.

Since its inception in 1989, more than 150 speakers have presented a range of topics touching the worlds of music, science, politics, literature, arts and humanities. This year, 11 Coe teachers will present.

The 2022-23 program begins next week:

  • September 8, 15, 22 and 29: Byzantium Sails West: Eastern Heralds to the Italian Renaissance — This four-week forum looks at the art of medieval Byzantine culture, known for its abstraction — contrasting the traditional humanist art associated with the European Renaissance. Jeffrey Hoover, professor of philosophy at the Coe, will trace over the four weeks the artistic innovations of Byzantine art that migrated to northern Italy, inspiring a new generation of medieval artists and stimulating the Italian Renaissance.
  • October 6 and 13: Critical Race Theory: Facts, Misconceptions, and Opportunities for Engagement — This two-week session led by Assistant Professor of Communication Studies Antonio Spikes will define critical race theory and examine public debate . Although it has been studied for decades, critical race theory has recently sparked public interest and, in some cases, anger – prompting political discourse, for example, about what should be taught in schools. schools. Lectures will address misconceptions and why this “long-established but little-known scientific theory can be used to create a more inclusive and equitable society”.
  • October 20-27: More than Rebecca: The Life and Work of Daphne Du Maurier — Adjunct Assistant Professor of English Kate Aspengren will lead this two-week forum on the life and work of British author Daphne du Maurier, better known for her novel, “Rebecca”. Du Maurier also produced short stories, plays, a biography, non-fiction and 17 novels – and readers are beginning to appreciate his work better, beyond his reputation as a “romantic” writer. Works this series will examine include: “The Loving Spirit,” his first from 1931; “The Parasites”, published in 1949; “The Years Between”, a play from 1945; “September Tide”, a play from 1948; “The Birds”, from 1963; and “Don’t Look Now”, a collection of short stories from 1971.
  • November 3, 10, and 17: Evolution Before, During, and After Darwin — Assistant Professor of Biology Daniel Hughes and Emeritus Professor of Biology Floyd Sandford will co-lead this three-session series exploring the history of evolutionary biology. As well as the life and work of evolution’s most famous scholar, Charles Darwin, the couple will discuss other philosophers who sought to explain the origins of life and the development of species – such as first-century Lucretius. BCE to Lamarck during the French Revolution.
  • February 2, 9, 16 and 23: Hidden in Plain Sight: Tourism and Commemoration in Paris, Martinique, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina — For four weeks, a trio of teachers — Associate Professor of French Joyce Janca-Aji, Assistant Professor of Spanish Laissa Rodríguez Moreno and Assistant Professor of Spanish Martha Torres Mendez – will explore narratives of cultural and national identity for some of the world’s most iconic sites. The discussion will dive into stories that are often overlooked and how travelers might better understand tales “hidden in plain sight.”
  • March 2 and 9: Greek Olympians and Roman Gladiators: Diverging Notions of Sport, Spectacle, and Violence in the Classical World — Angela Ziskowski, Acting Rector and Associate Professor of History, will examine the ways in which competition, public entertainment, and Sportsmanship varied among the ancient Greeks, who had the Olympics, and the Romans, known for their gladiators. Sessions will explore what constituted acceptable forms of sport and entertainment in both cultures and the legacies they left behind.
  • March 23-30: The History of Sports in the United States — This two-week forum will uncover the history of sports in the United States, specifically examining the early 1900s to the present day. Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Larry Atwater will examine how sports have reflected American society while also serving as an agent of change. It will pay particular attention to religion, race, ethnicity and gender in sporting culture and the role sport played in racial segregation, the Great Depression and the World Wars. Such an understanding will pass, for example, through the examination of television coverage, corporate sponsorship and globalization.
  • April 6, 13, 20 and 27: The United States Constitution — Political science professor Bruce Nesmith will discuss during the four-week session the historical origins and “living” nature of the United States Constitution, who has ruled the country since 1789, “making it the oldest national constitution still in existence. Neither a sacred text nor an old-fashioned artifact of the agrarian past of the United States, the American Constitution functions today as a guide for politics and government: it outlines positions, articulates essential principles and establishes boundaries.

Each forum session will take place on Thursday mornings in the Kesler Boardroom at Hickok Hall on the Coe College campus. Registration and refreshments for everyone will take place from 8:45 to 9:15, with the presentation ending at 11:30.

Admission to each four-week series of forums is $40. One-to-one lectures and each two- and three-week forum session cost $12 per week. Admission includes lecture and refreshments. Spectators can pay in person on Thursday morning in cash or by check. Credit card is an option for those who pay in advance by registering at

Find more information about each session here.

Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.

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