Honors College Speaker Series

The Honors College hosts a number of different speakers series designed to put Honors students in touch with exciting leaders and thinkers from the worlds of art, science, medicine, business, and academia. Typically, when the Honors College underwrites a visiting speaker, it arranges a separate meeting for the speaker with a group of Honors students, in addition to hosting a lecture for the larger campus community.

Honors also offers a variety of alternative, informal learning opportunities for students as a way of exposing them to topics they might not encounter in the course of their formal studies and as a way of allowing students to meet and talk with professors in a setting that is conducive to relaxed conversation.

The Pizza with Profs speaker series is designed to give Honors students a chance to interact with professors and other speakers in an informal, relaxed setting that encourages a free exchange of ideas about a particularly relevant topic of discussion. This is just one of many ways in which the Honors College builds community outside the classroom and exposes students to a range of diverse speakers and ideas. As always, the pizza is free and the discussion lively. In addition to the annual fall Pizza with Profs meeting on graduate school, past sessions have been devoted to topics like terrorism, the film industry, the notion of wilderness, and perceptions of America from abroad. Students must RSVP to the Honors director to secure a spot in these lunches.

Medical Ethics

Dr. Jay Jacobson, chief of medical ethics and humanities at the University of Utah School of Medicine, talked about how and why doctors make mistakes. He led a lively discussion that asked students to think about what we mean by the word "mistake," how the medical profession is getting better at asking hard questions about rates of error, and what patients can do to decrease the possibility that they might suffer the consequences of a medical blunder.

The Film Industry

Hollywood lead camera operator Paul Babin—who has shot over 20 films, including Magnolia, Bugsy, Terminator 2, and the Abyss—met with Honors students in a Pizza with Profs session to give an insider's view of the film industry. He told students about his own climb up the Hollywood food chain and shared a number of charming stories about filming on the set, including being kissed by Julia Roberts.

The Science and Psychology of Avalanches

Computer science chair, experienced backcountry skier, and field observer for the Utah Avalanche Center, Professor Greg Gagne, educated Honors students about the nature of avalanches, the science of snow, and the potential dangers of heading into the backcountry without being aware of the risks. He gave an extensive presentation—which featured dramatic pictures—and led Honors students Marie Robinson and Seth Simonds through a mock rescue using avalanche beacons in the hostile environment of Nunemaker.

Perceptions of America from Abroad

Hildy Benham, Fatima Mujcinovic, and Kelvin Willoughby—who have spent more than 50 years living and working in countries like Bosnia, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Australia, and China—met with Honors students to discuss the various ways in which people around the world view America and its inhabitants. They highlighted the massive influence of American popular culture abroad and the various misconceptions that hegemony sometimes engenders.

Wilderness and Exploration

Chair of the English Department and avid mountain climber, Jeff McCarthy, presented a slide show that historicized American notions of wilderness. He also placed his discussion in a contemporary setting by sharing stories about his own expeditions around the world, including tales of flying through One Shot Pass in Alaska and outfoxing national park rangers who were trying to impede his climbing.

Honors College Visiting Speakers are typically speakers who have been invited to campus because they have some area of expertise that dovetails with a subject currently being covered in an Honors seminar. Honors professors are encouraged to work with the director of the program to match course topics with visiting speakers that will be of interest to students. Recent visiting speakers have included former White House staffer Daniel Benjamin, historian Patricia Heberer of the United States Holocaust Museum, Harvard musicologist Thomas Forrest Kelly, the biographer and activist Rajmohan Gandhi, and filmmaker Paul Babin, who met with Richard Badenhausen's film and fiction Honors seminar to discuss filmmaking technique and then hosted an evening screening of his movie K-PAX.

Thomas Forrest Kelly

Harvard University musicologist Tom Kelly visited Westminster College to give a public lecture about Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Earlier in the day, he met with students in the Honors Arts in Performance seminar to lead a wide ranging discussion of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. Kelly, who has published half a dozen books, is especially known for his famous class at Harvard on the "first nights" of prominent musical pieces and for his two books on that topic. In this picture, Kelly discusses Berlioz's handwritten list of expenses associated with the premiere of his symphony, costs that came out of Berlioz's own pocket.

Daniel Benjamin

A former foreign policy speech writer in the White House and National Security Council staffer, Dan Benjamin had lunch with Honors students to talk about what life is like in Washington. Mr. Benjamin is the co-author of two highly acclaimed books on terrorism and since 2001 has been a senior fellow in the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he pursues studies on terrorism, American foreign policy, the Middle East, Europe, and South Asia. He began his career as a journalist, writing for Time magazine and then acting as Berlin bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal.

Rajmohan Gandhi

Prof. Rajmohan Gandhi is an eminent biographer, scholar, journalist, and historian, who has lectured and written on a wide range of topics relating to human rights, terrorism, globalization, religion, and Indian independence. A former member of the upper house of the Indian Parliament, Gandhi has published six books to date. He led the Indian delegation to the UN Human Rights Commission in 1990 and is a jury member for the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award. He is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. He met with a select group of Honors students during lunch to talk about the current world situation.

William Calvin

Brain researcher William Calvin gave a guest lecture in the Honors Social Sciences seminar, whose members spent the semester examining the brain. Calvin talked about some of the ideas in his recent book, A Brain for All Season: Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change, which won the 2002 Phi Beta Kappa Award for Science, and then answered questions from the audience.

The Kim T. Adamson Lecture in International Studies is an annual endowed lecture established at Westminster College in 2001 to bring major figures in international studies, military history, and related fields to campus to deliver relevant public lectures and conduct seminars. As the world becomes increasingly globalized, complicated issues face us every day. The lectures attempt to help people consider and navigate some of these challenging questions. The speakers are drawn from a pool of scholars, writers, and thinkers without regard to ethnic, religious, or ideological considerations. The annual lecture is open to the public without charge. The lecture series is funded through the proceeds of the Kim T. Adamson Endowment, a gift from Kim T. Adamson, alumna and long-time friend and supporter of Westminster College.

2017–18 Adamson Lecturer Kael Weston


President Trump was elected promising to put "America first." In his first year in office, how much change has there been in U.S. foreign policy? And is another war more likely—perhaps with North Korea and/or Iran? These questions and related issues will be the focus of the 2018 Kim T. Adamson Lecture, which will be given by Kael Weston. A Utah native and former US State Department official, Weston spent seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan (2003–2010) working closely with the US military and Iraqi and Afghan leaders. He is the author of The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded the Secretary of State's Medal for Heroism for his work with US Marines in Fallujah. Weston is currently Westminster College's Writer-in-Residence in the Honors College.

2015–16 Adamson Lecturer Elmira Bayrasli

Elmira BayrasliElmira Bayrasli gave a talk entitled "Steve Jobs Lives in Pakistan: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places or The Next Silicon Valley," which coincided with the release of her new book From the Other Side of the World: Extraordinary Entrepreneurs, Unlikely Places. Ms. Bayrasli is the founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted, a media platform designed to give female voices more visibility in discussions about foreign policy. From 1994 to 2000 she was a presidential appointee in the State Department, where she worked with Madeleine Albright and Richard Holbrooke.

2014–15 Adamson Lecturer Adam Segal

Adam SegalThe Maurice Greenberg Senior Fellow for China Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he leads the Cyberconflict and Cybersecurity Initiative, Dr. Segal gave a chilling account of the current state of cyberconflict in his lecture "The Digital Cold War between the US and China: Is Cooperation in Cyberspace Possible?"

2013–14 Adamson Lecturer Charlayne Hunter-gault

Charlayne Hunter-GaultAward-winning journalist and activist Charlayne Hunter-Gault gave a stirring yet sobering lecture on "The New Face of AIDS: Africa's Women and Children." Earlier in the day, Hunter-Gault met with students studying African history and public health to discuss the role of AIDS in Africa. Finally, she inspired students during lunch by recounting her trailblazing role as the first female African-American student at the University of Georgia.

2012–13 Adamson Lecturer Eric Greitens

Eric GreitensEric Greitens, the founder and CEO of The Mission Continues, discussed the work of his national nonprofit organization that encourages veterans to serve and lead in communities across America. During the day, he met with students, faculty, and staff to talk about his book The Heart and the Fist, which was also a common read for the incoming Honors class. Greitens served as a US Navy SEAL in four deployments, was a Rhodes Scholar, and the author of three books. He even talked about his work with John Stewart on The Daily Show.

2011-12 Adamson Lecturer John F. Harris

John Harris, editor-in-chief and co-founder of POLITICO, the must-read publication for anyone involved in politics, talked about America's place in the world and handicapped the 2012 presidential election in his talk, "The Whole World is Watching: Global Leadership and the 2012 Elections." During the day, he met with Honors students to talk about the founding of POLITICO, new media, and the future of journalism. Harris is the author of two books on presidential politics and worked at the Washington Post for two decades.

2010–11 Adamson Lecturer Nancy Sherman

Georgetown University Professor of Philosophy Nancy Sherman laid out the central arguments of her important book, The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of our Soldiers, a study dedicated to "the men and women who have served in the military and have carried the weight of war and its moral uncertainties." A specialist in ancient ethics and the history of moral philosophy, Sherman has authored four books and edited a fifth on Aristotle's ethics. She has taught at Yale, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Maryland, and served as the first Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the US Naval Academy, designing the brigade-wide required military ethics course and laying the groundwork for the new Stockdale Ethics Center.

2009–2010 Adamson Lecturer Thomas E. Ricks

In a packed concert hall, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Thomas Ricks discussed three critical things that we don't understand about the Iraq War. Ricks has studied and reported on US military activities for nearly 30 years, covering American combat in Somalia, Haiti, Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Kuwait, Turkey, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Ricks served as a special military correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, followed by a similar position at the Washington Post. He is the author of two best-selling books on the war, Fiasco and The Gamble.

2007–2008 Adamson Lecturer Michael E. O'Hanlon

Michael O'Hanlon is senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in US National Security Policy. The author, co-author, or editor of a dozen books on foreign policy, defense strategy, and military technology, Dr. O'Hanlon gave a talk entitled "The Case for Staying in Iraq: Advice for the Next US president." He also visited an Honors seminar to discuss the 9/11 Commission Report and spoke at a student luncheon about his experience teaching high school physics in the Peace Corps.

2006–2007 Adamson Lecturer Jonathan Shay

Author of the groundbreaking study Achilles in Vietnam, which rereads the Iliad through his work of 20 years with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, VA psychiatrist Jonathan Shay lectured on the challenges of homecoming for soldiers. Shay also gave a lively lunchtime talk on "Odysseus as a Military Leader" and met with students in an Honors seminar entitled "War, Trauma, and Narrative." In 2007, Shay received one of the MacArthur foundation's "genius" fellowships. Read more here.

2005–2006 Adamson Lecturer Daniel Benjamin

Co-author of The Next Attack, which The New York Times praised as "a persuasive and utterly frightening picture of the current state of America's war on terror," former White House advisor and member of the National Security Counsel Dan Benjamin deconstructed what we are doing right and what is going wrong in the country's struggle against terrorism. A senior fellow in the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Benjamin also met with students for lunch to discuss what it is like working in Washington, DC and the White House.

2004–2005 Adamson Lecturer Steven Komarow

Foreign Policy and National Security Correspondent for USA Today, Komarow gave a lecture entitled "Reporting on Terrorism from the Frontlines: Perceptions vs. Realities." Komarow has reported on all of the major developments in Iraq during the past two years. Since September 11, 2001, he has also reported from Europe, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Yemen, and Djibouti. Before that, he accompanied ground troops into action in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti. An AP correspondent in Washington for 10 years, Komarow also has extensive experience covering Congress and the presidential elections.

2003–2004 Adamson Lecturer William H. Calvin

Theoretical neurobiologist William Calvin addressed a filled Gore Auditorium on the topic of Climate Change. The author of 11 books, Calvin teaches psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle. His talk, entitled "When Climate Staggers: Civilization's Vulnerabilities to Sudden Climate Change," surveyed historical data on global climate change and speculated about what the future holds if we don't change our current patterns of resource usage. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Marcia Bartusiak noted that Calvin "is a member of that rare breed of scientists who can translate the arcana of their fields into lay language, and he's one of the best."

2002–2003 Adamson Lecturer Rajmohan Gandhi

The noted historian, biographer, and human rights activist Professor Rajmohan Gandhi delivered a rousing talk before an overflow crowd of 400 Westminster and Salt Lake City community members on the timely topic of "Religion and Violence," often framing the debate about violence in terms borrowed from his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi. The author of six books, Professor Gandhi discussed what it meant for America now that its days of "seclusion and isolation are sadly, but absolutely, over."

2001–2002 Adamson Lecturer Ralph Peters

Mr. Ralph Peters, who held a special meeting with Honors students during his visit on campus, spoke on "Terrorism in Our Times: Myths and Realities." Peters, who left a career in the US Army to write and has authored 10 books, was called by Newsweek "one of the best military minds of his generation." He discussed the post-9/11 landscape and what America could expect from terrorists in the future.

Several times a year, a professor in the Honors College hosts an evening screening of a film. Professors might select a film related to their own academic discipline, one that reflects an outside interest, or one that treats a timely subject matter. Usually, attendees will engage in a discussion about the film following its screening. Profs Pick the Flick was started by the Student Honors Council in 2003 as a way of offering alternative programming that put Honors students in touch with professors in informal settings. Films are shown on the large-screen presentation room in Nunemaker, home of the Honors College.

2014–15 Film
  • Eden, dir. Megan Griffiths; hosted by Prof. Fatima Mujcinovic (English/gender studies) and Prof. Han Kim (public health)
2013–14 Film
  • Le Hérisson (The Hedgehog); hosted by Prof. Steve Haslam (French)
2012–13 Films
  • También la lluvia (Even the Rain); hosted by Prof. Luis "Iñaki" Prádanos-Garcia (Spanish)
  • Contagion; hosted by Prof. Betsy Kleba (biology) and Prof. Han Kim (public health)
2011–12 Films
  • The Big Lebowski; hosted by Prof. Susan Cottler (history)
  • The Purity Myth, featuring Jessica Valenti; hosted by Prof. Kristjane Nordmeyer (sociology)
2010–11 Film
  • Salt of the Earth; hosted by Prof. Jeff Nichols (history)
2009–10 Film
  • Sweet Smell of Success; hosted by Prof. Sean Desilets (film studies)
2008–09 Film
  • The Lives of Others; hosted by Prof. Richard Badenhausen (Honors)
2007–08 Films
  • Underworld Evolution; hosted by Prof. Michael Popich (philosophy)

  • True-Hearted Vixens; hosted by Prof. Bridget Newell (philosophy)

2006–07 Films
  • Dark Days; hosted by Prof. Lesa Ellis (psychology)
  • A Time to Kill; hosted by Prof. Michael Popich (philosophy)
2005–06 Films
  • Rivers & Tides; hosted by Prof. Jeff McCarthy (English and environmental studies)
  • Crash; hosted by Prof. Bridget Newell (philosophy and gender studies)
2004–05 Films
  • Cool Hand Luke; hosted by Prof. Doug Wright (art and film studies)
  • Love and Death; hosted by Prof. Nick More (philosophy)
2003–04 Films
  • Chinatown; hosted by Prof. John Watkins (economics)
  • Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead; hosted by Prof. Bonnie Baxter (biology)
  • The Return of Martin Guerre; hosted by Dean Mary Jane Chase (dean, Arts & Sciences)