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As much as finding the answers, a college education is about learning to ask questions.

That’s why Eastern Kentucky University is devoting its 2015-16 Chautauqua Lecture Series to the simple query, “What If?”

Sixteen distinguished scholars, best-selling authors, social activists and prominent educators will explore the theme in the University’s 16th annual series, which kicks off Sept. 3 and runs through May 5, 2016. They include best-selling author/historian Douglas Brinkley; social activist/author Naomi Klein, who was invited by Pope Francis to participate in the Vatican’s recent climate change conference; and Chris Impey, an astrobiologist who took part in the Science for Monks program in Dharamsala, India.

Chautauqua Coordinator Dr. Erik Liddell said this year’s theme “invites and encourages speakers to engage our curiosity and to explore possibilities, alternatives and ideas that excite both intellect and imagination, building upon research and scholarship while thinking creatively about the future in light of the past.”

Speakers will come to Richmond from such diverse locales as London, Toronto, Chicago, Texas, Minnesota, Arizona and Connecticut, and institutions such as University of California-Berkeley, Notre Dame, MIT, Ohio State and DePaul.

The schedule also includes an art exhibition on the theme.

All the events are free and open to the public and will begin at 7:30 p.m. in O’Donnell Hall of the Whitlock Building, unless otherwise indicated. The complete 2015-16 Chautauqua schedule follows:

·         Dorothy Edwards, author of “Green Dot etc. Violence Prevention Strategy” and executive director of Green Dot etc., “What if We Could End Power-Based Violence?: The Green Dot Revolution,” Thursday, Sept. 3.

·         Helena Goscilo, professor of Slavic and East European Studies and Comparative Studies and former chair of the Department of Slavic and East European Studies at The Ohio State University, “Contrary Imperatives: Culture and Society under Putin,” Thursday, Sept. 17, annual Distinguished Lecture in International Studies.

·         Jack Gilbert, associate professor, Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago; group leader in microbial ecology at Argonne National Laboratory; associate director, Institute for Genomic and Systems Biology; adjunct senior scientist, Marine Biological Laboratory; “What if We Can Use Bacteria to Make Hospitals Healthier?: The Invisible Influence of the Microbiome,” Thursday, Sept. 24.

·         Lourdes Torres, Vincent de Paul Professor and director of Latin American and Latino Studies, DePaul University, and editor-in-chief of Latino Studies journal, “What if We Change the Conversation about Latinos?: Towards a New National Discourse,” Thursday, Oct. 8, keynote address for Hispanic Heritage Month.

·         William Powers, author of “Hamlet’s BlackBerry” and research scientist at MIT’s new Laboratory for Social Machines, “Deeper Digital: A New Philosophy of Social Media,” Thursday, Oct. 15, Brock Auditorium, Coates Building, keynote address for EKU Reads Project.

·         Myra Beth Bundy, professor of psychology at EKU and autism and developmental disabilities intervention specialist, “Autism: The Metamorphosis of a Diagnosis,” Thursday, Oct. 22, keynote address for National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

·         Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology, University of California-Berkeley, and author of several books on paleontology, biodiversity and climate change, “Dodging Extinction, Saving the Planet, Saving Ourselves,” Thursday, Nov. 5, annual Bruce MacLaren Distinguished Lecture. (MacLaren is the founding director of the EKU Chautauqua series.)

·         Anton Treuer, executive director, American Indian Resource Center and professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University and author of many books on Native American and Ojibwe history and culture, “Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians but Were Afraid to Ask,” Thursday, Nov. 19, keynote address for Native American Heritage Month.

·         Tali Sharot, cognitive neuroscientist, director of the Affective Brain Lab and author of “The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain,” “The Optimism Bias: What if We’re Really Fooling Ourselves?”, Thursday, Dec. 3.

·         Juried Art Exhibition on Chautauqua theme, Monday, Jan. 25-Friday, Feb. 19, Giles Gallery, Campbell Building, reception Thursday, Jan. 28, 5-7 p.m., call 622-8135 for Gallery hours.

·         Chris Impey, author of “Beyond: Our Future in Space” and many other books, and professor of astronomy, University of Arizona, Thursday, Feb. 4.

·         Cathy Cohen, author of “Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics” and other books; professor of political science and former director of Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, University of Chicago, “The Black Youth Project,” Thursday, Feb. 18, keynote address for Black History Month.

·         Michael Waltman, associate professor of communication studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who has written extensively on hate groups and the communication of hate, “What If We Had a Real Conversation about Hate in America?”, Thursday, March 3, keynote address for First Amendment Week.

·         Naomi Klein, best-selling author (“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate,” “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” and “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies”), “This Changes Everything,” Wednesday, March 23, keynote address for Women’s History Month.

·         Douglas Brinkley, prominent and prolific presidential, cultural and environmental historian, author and professor of history and Fellow at Rice University, called “the best of the new generation of American historians” by Stephen Ambrose, “Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America,” Thursday, April 7.

·         Agustín Fuentes, author of “Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature” and professor and chair of anthropology, University of Notre Dame, “What if It’s Not All Sex and Violence?”, April 28.

·         Michael S. Roth, author of “Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters” and president of Wesleyan University, “The Future of Liberal Education: Transformations and Opportunities,” Thursday, May 5.  

For more information, visit, follow on Facebook (EKU Chautauqua Lectures) or Twitter (@EKUChautauqua), or contact Chautauqua Lecture Series Coordinator Dr. Erik Liddell at