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University of Minnesota's Spotlight Series to Explore Topics of Polarization and Identities

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The collaboration between the Institute for Advanced Study, Northrop, and the University Honors Program presents a series of six events.

University of Minnesota's Spotlight Series to Explore Topics of Polarization and Identities

From politics to pandemics, religion to rural life, a trio of University of Minnesota partners have announced today that the 2020-21 Spotlight Series will focus on polarization and identities as the main topic of its six scheduled events. The series is a partnership between the Institute for Advanced Study, Northrop, and the University Honors Program to present lectures, panel discussions, exhibits, and other events throughout the academic year around timely topics of interest.

In an academic year that includes an election, a pandemic, and an environment in which conversations across different identities and ideologies are becoming increasingly contentious, the purpose of the series is to model ways to create meaningful dialogue about these difficult-but-important topics for students and community members. The moderator for all six events will be John Rash, an editorial writer for the Star Tribune who focuses on media and politics. All events are Thursdays 3:30-5:00 pm via Zoom webinar. Advance registration is required.

The Spotlight Series includes:

DEPOLARIZING AMERICA

Featuring William R. Fry Jr. and Rob Weidenfeld, members of Braver Angels
Thu, Sep 24, 3:30 pm
Zoom webinar
FREE and open to the public. Registration required.

Braver Angels is a citizens' organization uniting Americans from different political parties in a working alliance to depolarize America. The mission of both red and blue members alike is to try to understand the other side's point of view, even if they don't agree with it; engage those they disagree with; look for common ground and ways to work together; and support principles that bring communities together rather than divide them. William Fry, Jr. and Rob Weidenfeld, a Braver Angels' "Red/Blue Pair" from Ohio, will model these practices to launch the Spotlight Series 2020-21.

IDENTITIES AND CREATIVE PROCESSES

Featuring LaTasha Barnes and Gaby Cook, members of Swing Out
Thu, Oct 8, 3:30 pm
Zoom webinar
FREE and open to the public. Registration required.

Swing Out is a captivating stage presentation with artists in residence at Northrop in Fall 2020 in anticipation of a Fall 2021 performance. The production celebrates the passion and power of the African-American born dance form-the Lindy Hop, which started in the community of Harlem, but swept the globe. The re-popularization of Swing Dance in the 1990s significantly altered the representation of African-Americans in the art form, while the cultural values held within the dance moved beyond to create a global community. Swing Out brings together a cast of performers who inhabit many roles within the art form; as such it is a model for how people with potentially polarized identities can communicate and collaborate. Swing Out members LaTasha Barnes and Gaby Cook will discuss the artistic process of creating the performance.

WILL COVID-19 TURN THE GENERATION GAP INTO A CHASM?

Featuring Tom McBride and Charles Westerberg, Co-Authors of Marist Mindset List
Thu, Nov 12, 3:30 pm
Zoom webinar
FREE and open to the public. Registration required.

The co-authors of the Marist Mindset List offer opposing views on how the COVID-19 pandemic may affect the current American generation gap. The Marist Mindset List is meant to reflect the world views of that year's incoming class of college students and to help faculty understand those students. In the 20 years since its creation, the Mindset List has been a valuable marker of social, economic, and cultural change for successive generations. Tom McBride and Charles Westerberg rely on their own thinking and research as they debate whether the pandemic will unite the generations around fighting a common foe or if it will exacerbate already gaping differences.

THE RURAL/URBAN DIVIDE

Featuring: Elissa Hansen, President & CEO, Northspan
Peter Lindstrom, Metropolitan Council Member, District 10
Shannon Smith Jones, Executive Director, Hope Community
Thu, Feb 11, 3:30 pm
Zoom webinar
FREE and open to the public. Registration required.

Geography is an important aspect of how citizens identify themselves, and an increasing number of people are finding themselves classified in the media and elsewhere as urban dwellers, out-of-state, or various other terms representing core identities. People also have created new geographic identities over the past five decades, including the suburbs and exurbs. Hear panelists from a variety of locations discuss how their geography shapes their identity and that of others.

RELIGIOUS IDENTITIES AND POLARIZATION

Featuring: Emmy Kegler, Pastor, Grace Community Lutheran Church
Chris Stedman, Author, Faitheist
Tahil Sharma, Regional Coordinator for North America, United Religions Initiative
Thu, Mar 18, 3:30 pm
Zoom webinar
FREE and open to the public. Registration required.

Issues of faith, religious practices, and even the abstaining from religion have long polarized different communities. These topics are also key aspects of many individuals' identities, including forms of monotheism, atheism, humanism, agnosticism, or others. This panel discussion will feature speakers from a variety of different backgrounds discussing how their religion or lack of religion is a core part of their identity and what is important to them about these practices.

POLITICS IN HIGHER EDUCATION

Featuring Kathryn Pearson, Bill Doherty, and Colin Agur
Thu, Apr 15, 3:30 pm
Zoom webinar
FREE and open to the public. Registration required.

University of Minnesota faculty members whose research focuses on the Spotlight Series theme of polarization and identities will present a response discussion in which they reflect on the first five events of the series. They will frame these events in the context of the larger issue of polarization and identity in America-past, present, and future.

Additional details of the series as well as other related events are listed here.



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