Please join me for a year-long series of conversations

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:

I write to invite you to engage with me and others in some collective conversations about individual well-being and our prospects for community. Disturbing events—around the country and on the edge of our campus—have made especially urgent perennial questions about how we can contribute to a more inclusive society, one where each of us has access to the opportunities that lead to productive, satisfying, and meaningful lives.

Many of our recent collective efforts—the strategic plan and grand challenges development process, the efforts to improve campus climate—have generated enthusiasm and energy, and have demonstrated that the University is in a good position to convene large and productive conversations and indeed might have a special obligation to do so.

In these circumstances, I am delighted to announce a year-long speaker series, focused on human rights, that will reflect and amplify our efforts. Please mark your calendars for these free events:

Moustafa Bayoumi, author of How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? 
Being Young and Arab in America
Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at 2:00 p.m.
Coffman Memorial Union Theater

Cristina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans
Monday February 6, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.
Coffman Memorial Union Theater

Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing
Tuesday, March 7, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.
Coffman Memorial Union Theater

Nicholas Kristof, 2017 Ford Lecturer and New York Times columnist
Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at 2:00 p.m.
Carlson Family Stage, Northrop

Many of you attended the 2015 Guy Stanton Ford Lecture, where Equal Justice Initiative founder and executive director Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy, spoke powerfully about "American Injustice: Mercy, Humanity and Making a Difference.” Since then, I have heard from many of you who were inspired by his talk. This year’s Ford Lecture, together with the author appearances leading up to that lecture, will provide an opportunity for all of us to continue throughout this year a productive and focused conversation on a set of topics not unrelated to that last Ford Lecture.

I hope you will be able to attend one or more of these events. I also hope you will seek other opportunities to engage with these topics. If you have suggestions for how we can extend the reach of these four events, or if you or your unit are planning related activities that would benefit from being listed on our series website, please share your information and ideas with me at

Karen Hanson
Executive Vice President and Provost