Friday Forums

Millsaps College Friday Forums

All Forum events are free and open to the public.

Unless otherwise indicated, forums are held at 
1pm in 
Gertrude C. Ford Academic Complex, Room 215


Do-it-yourself Tennessee Williams: finding your own great writer within through improvisation – Brian Lohmann

Friday, January 20, 2017

Brian Lohmann is a director and member of the multiple award-winning Impro Theatre Company, which recently produced Film Noir UnScripted. Tennessee Williams UnScripted was "critically acclaimed" at Garry Marshall's Falcon Theatre in Toluca Lake. American Theater Magazine writes, “These virtuosic talents simply are as superhuman as they seem…who can write better on their feet than many writers can type at a desk.”  

The forum will feature performances by Brian and others based on audience suggestions, followed by discussion.

Contact: Peter Friedrich


The Expanding Universe – Alex Filippenko

Friday, January 27, 2017, 1:30pm (Note start time)

A total solar eclipse, when the Moon fully covers the bright disk of the Sun and reveals its breathtaking corona, is one of nature’s most magnificent spectacles – truly an awe-inspiring experience that moves some people to tears. On August 21, 2017, for the first time in 38 years, the very narrow path of a total solar eclipse falls on the continental United States. Scientists assumed the attractive force of gravity to slow down the rate at which the Universe is expanding. But observations of very distant exploding stars (supernovae) show that the expansion rate is actually speeding up, an amazing discovery that was honored with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics to the teams’ leaders and the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics to all team members. Over the largest distances, the Universe seems to be dominated by a mysterious, repulsive “dark energy” that stretches space itself faster and faster. But the physical origin and nature of dark energy, which makes up about 70% of the contents of the Universe, is probably the most important unsolved problem in all of physics; it may provide clues to a unified quantum theory of gravity. 

Alex Filippenko, an elected member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, is one of the world’s most highly cited astronomers. He is the recipient of numerous prizes for his scientific research, and he was the only person to have been a member of both teams that revealed the accelerating expansion of the Universe. Winner of the most prestigious teaching awards at UC Berkeley and voted the “Best Professor” on campus a record 9 times, he was named the US National Professor of the Year in 2006. He has produced 5 astronomy video courses with The Great Courses, coauthored an award-winning astronomy textbook, and appears in more than 100 television documentaries. In 2004, he was awarded the Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization. He is addicted to observing total solar eclipses, having seen 15 so far.

Contact: Kenneth Townsend


27th Annual Millsaps Student Research Symposium of Beta Beta Beta

Friday, February 3, 2017, 12:30pm (Note start time)

Millsaps undergraduates present the results of their scientific research in this annual symposium sponsored by Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society. Posters will be exhibited in the Olin atrium at 12:30pm, followed by oral presentations in Olin 100 at 1:30pm. 

Students in the natural sciences, social sciences, and math are invited to present their research at this symposium. In the past, students from a variety of disciplines, including archaeology, biology, chemistry, computer science, geology, math, physics, psychology, and political science, have participated. During the symposium, students make formal presentations in the manner of a scientific conference with speakers scheduled 15 minutes apart. Typically, the oral presentations are scheduled in two sessions of about an hour each with a 15-minute break for refreshments between sessions.

Contact: Debbie Mann


Citizen: Reflections on the Humanities and Civic Life” – Claudia Rankine 

Friday, February 10, 2017, 12pm – Recital Hall (Note start time and location) 

This public talk will be the culmination of the conference “‘This is How You Are a Citizen’: Humanities and Civic Life in Mississippi.” Claudia Rankine, 2016 McArthur Fellow and Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry at Yale University, will read excerpts from her acclaimed Citizen, which was the 2016 summer reading assignment for first-year Millsaps students, and reflect on the implications of her work, and the humanities, in general, for civic life.

Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. For Citizen, Rankine won the Forward Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry (Citizen was also nominated in the criticism category, making it the first book in the award’s history to be a double nominee), the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the PEN Open Book Award, and the NAACP Image Award. A finalist for the National Book Award, Citizen also holds the distinction of being the only poetry book to be a New York Times bestseller in the nonfiction category. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. 

Contact: Michael Pickard


Crafting a Conversation: Presidential Leadership  

Friday, February 24, 2017 

Presidential podcast host Lillian Cunningham of the Washington Post will explore leadership traits exhibited by past presidents in search of the defining characteristics of those who hold our nation’s highest office. In what was a highly divisive and contentious campaign cycle, Presidential sought to use the tools of objective narrative and historical context to investigate what it is the American people seek in its most powerful leader, and what it takes to be successful in that role.

In the 44 weeks between January 2016 and Election Day, Presidential examined each of our nation’s 44 presidents to seek a better understanding of the leadership traits and qualities that have defined the highest office of leadership in our country. Presidential offers a blend of serious inquiry and commentary from noted historians and journalists as well as a playful exploration of how presidential history has influenced pop culture. At the podcast’s conclusion, Presidential included a bonus episode reflecting on president-elect Trump in the context of his predecessors.

Contact: Liz Egan


Alumni Art Show

Friday, March 3, 2017 - Art Gallery (Note location)

This forum will include a panel of art alumni who’ll be among those exhibiting their work in the gallery during the Feb. 20-Mar. 29 show. A panel of about 5 speakers will each talk briefly about their work. The panel will take place in the Lewis Art Gallery during the exhibition. The exhibition is co-curated by junior art history majors, who have chosen the works for the exhibition, are in the process of interviewing the artists, and will write the text panels.

Contact: Elise Smith 


Participatory Art and Public Event Organization – Verge JXN Artists and Organizers

Friday, March 10, 2017

A panel of Verge organizers and artists will discuss participatory art, organizing and funding public events, and the benefit to the community. Sue Carrie Drummond, Kristen Tordella-Williams, previous Figment organizers, as well as other involved artists will present participatory artwork and discuss the challenges and benefits to community event organization. The forum aims to inspire and invite non-professional artists to create a project for Verge, which will take place April 15, 2017 at Lucky Town. 

Contact: Kristen Tordella-Williams


The (e)X Factors: What Every Educator Can Learn from John Cage – Stephen Miles

Friday, March 24, 2017 

Arguably the most audacious composer of the 20th century, John Cage taught the world to hear with new ears and redefined the distinction between art and everyday life. Key to his transformational pedagogy were the (e)X factors: the primacy of experience, the imperative of exploration, the necessity of experimentation, and the meaning of excellence. The talk offers both an introduction to Cage’s work and ideas, and provides examples of their application through the work of New Music New College, an interdisciplinary laboratory for composition, performance and research at New College of Florida.

Stephen Miles is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at New College of Florida, where he is also Professor of Music and Director of New Music New College (NMNC). As a composer, Miles has focused on music for the voice, producing songs, theater compositions, and choral works. Major compositions include Social Studies (2003), a collection of musical games for vocal performers and audience, and Living and Dead: The Gettysburg Project (2009), a full-evening theatrical work, co-created with choreographer Margaret Eginton, which combines movement, text, and extended vocal techniques.

Contact: Jason Rosenberg


Healthcare in Mississippi in a (post)-Obamacare era – Rep. Jarvis Dortch and Rep. Joel Bomgar

Friday, March 31, 2017 

The program will begin with a screening of the documentary film Mississippi Left Me Out, which suggests Mississippi’s legislature made a major economic mistake by not expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. After screening the film, audience members will dialogue with two legislators from the Mississippi House of Representatives, one for and one against the Affordable Care Act. Representative Jarvis Dortch (Democrat) will speak in defense of the Affordable Care Act, and Representative Joel Bomgar will speak in opposition to the Act.

Donald Trump’s election surprised many, leaving healthcare industry leaders nationwide scratching their heads. While much remains uncertain about how the President-elect shall direct healthcare once in office, understanding the relationship between healthcare coverage and state’s economy, understanding why Mississippi’s legislators rejected Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, and understanding options related to positions for and against the ACA are crucial. Where do we go next? Dialogue about Mississippi Left Me Out can help with that.

Contact: Kristen Brown Golden


For archive videos of previous Friday Forums, visit our YouTube channel. 

For more information about the Forums, please contact
Kenneth Townsend,, 601.974.1061