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Student Union hosts new programs
for faculty and student interaction
February 9, 1998

If you stopped by the Student Union Lobby around midday January 29, you would have found two faculty members and a group of students engaged in a lively debate about texts relating to the Amistad. You might have wondered what class this was and if all the classrooms were full.

In fact, Irene Brown, associate professor of family studies, and Richard Brown, professor of history, chose to pursue the topic in a public forum with whoever showed up, as part of a new weekly series of Thursday lunch-time programs, titled Great Moments at the University of Connecticut. There was no course credit to be gained, but there were free cookies and soda.

"The intent of the series is to get students to discuss issues with faculty outside the classroom," says Pablo Malavenda, a program administrator in the Department of Student Activities and Union Programs.

"We want to showcase faculty and engage students in thought-provoking discussions. People will remember these as great moments."

Malavenda says the Great Moments series is designed to dovetail with the University's intent to provide more teaching opportunities outside the classroom. "We rarely get a chance to showcase faculty outside a school, college, or residence hall," he says. "This is an open public forum."

Malavenda says the sessions, scheduled for 12:30 to 2 p.m. on Thursdays in the Student Union Lobby, are open not only to students but to everyone in the University community - in fact anyone who happens to be in the building at the time. "The Student Union should be a place where everyone feels welcome to come and join in," he says.

The series began January 22, with a discussion led by Robert Thorson, a professor of geology and geophysics, about the controversial Route 6 that runs through Coventry and Bolton. His topic was "A Highway Going Nowhere: Science Literacy and the Doomed Route 6." On February 5, Karen Chow, assistant professor of English, led a discussion on filmmaker John Won.

Malavenda says the participants were recruited through direct mail, e-mail, the UCForum listserv, and nominations.

Weekly sessions are confirmed through March 12, but Malavenda is still looking for volunteers. Presenters include.

  • February 12, Philip Mannheim, professor of physics, "The Practical Value of Pure Scientific Research."

  • February 19 Tim Saternow, assistant professor of dramatic arts, "The State of Connecticut Sells Out to the Department of Defense: Whatever Happened to Academic Freedom and the Tenet of Free and Open Exchange of Ideas at UConn."

  • February 26, Katherine Pancak, lecturer and assistant director, Center for Real Estate and Urban Economic Studies, "How to Rent an Apartment in Connecticut and Other Important Real Estate How-To's."

  • March 5, Bruce Stave, professor of history, "College Town" panel, including the Mayor of Mansfield, the state representative, and others.

  • March 12 Bob Kravchuk, assistant professor of political science, TBA.

He adds that the format is up to the individual presenter: it could include debate, audio, video, or a Q&A, "but at least a good portion of the session should be the presenter engaging the audience."

Great Moments is one of several new lunch-time programs in the Student Union. The concept was launched slightly more than a year ago with Lively Wednesdays, a series of social activities scheduled between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

"Lively Wednesdays were meant to be a test for daytime programs," Malavenda says. "Now they're wildly successful." He says there is a waiting list to sponsor the events, and the crowds attending are growing, sometimes allowing for standing room only.

In addition to Great Moments and Lively Wednesdays, Tuesdays are now Game Days in the Student Union. Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., in the lobby, students can practice or learn to play chess, mancala, dominoes, darts, and card games such as poker. Malavenda says the games are also available for loan from the Student Union billiard room, but this is not widely known. "This is a way to promote what the Student Union already has," he says.

The Student Union also offers four weekly evening program.

  • Thursdays, 10 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Jazz Cafe with the Student Union Jazz Band.

  • Fridays, 8-10 p.m. Caffeine Cafe, a weekly open mike, coffee house series when students can bring their own guitars and perform.

  • Saturdays, 9 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Karaoke Night.

  • Sunday, at 5:30 and 8 p.m. Free movies in the Student Union Ballroom.

Malavenda says by providing regular weekly events, "When students are wondering what to do, they will know what's going on.

"A lot of people pass through the Student Union. We're hoping they will stay awhile and take advantage of the services we have to offer," he says. "There's a lot going on here."

Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu