University Lectures series lineup announced

The 2014-2015 guest speakers include Van Jones, co-host of CNN’s Crossfire and Laurel J. Richie, the president of the WNBA.

Syracuse University announced next year’s University Lectures series speakers on Wednesday.

Beginning on September 30, seven distinguished guests from different disciplines will speak at Hendricks Chapel.

In the fall, the speakers are: Van Jones, co-host of CNN’s Crossfire and president of Rebuild the Dream; Eve Ensler, a playwright, performer and activist known for her play The Vagina Monologues; Carrie Mae Weems, an award-winning artist and MacArthur Fellow; and Barry Scheck, an attorney, DNA expert and co-founder of The Innocence Project.

In the spring, guest lecturers include: Andreas Weigend, former chief scientist at Amazon and founder of the Social Data Lab; Laurel J. Richie, president of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA); and Annie Griffiths, one of the first women photographers to work for National Geographic.

Esther Gray, the special assistant to the Vice Chancellor, organizes each year’s University Lectures series. She said while there is no theme for the series, each speaker has an academic flavor. “There’s a lot of input from people for speakers,” Gray said. “We just end up making selections.”

She said the process begins when she keeps a list of potential speakers in her head. After receiving input from faculty and staff, Gray narrows it down. Kal Alston, senior vice president for human capital development and the series director, has the final say.

“It’s just what works and what we can plug in at any given time,” Gray said. “This year, we might have some that have an environment flavor and next year, we might not have anyone with an environmental flavor.”

Gray said she was particularly excited for Jones, whom she had been trying to bring to campus for the past few years. However, she said she usually ends up liking all of the speakers. “For the most part, I enjoyed them and become friends with just about everyone,” Gray said.

Now entering its 14th year, the University Lectures series brings influential and accomplished guests to campus to speak about their experiences and contributions to their fields. The series is supported by Syracuse University’s trustees and alumni.

All of the lectures are free and open to the public.

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