Key Conversations with Phi Beta Kappa

A Society, Culture and Education podcast
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The Phi Beta Kappa Society presents Key Conversations with Phi Beta Kappa, a podcast that features intimate and in-depth conversations with scholars and experts across many fields, including international law, Shakespeare, microbiology, economics of science, and astronautics. Listeners get a seat at the table to learn about the featured scholar’s background, research, and how their respective paths have led them to where they are today. Produced by Lantigua Williams & Co.
Professor Laura Brown’s endeavors as a literature reader and critical writer have provided a window into humans’ relationships with various species throughout history. She reveals to host Fred Lawrence what alterity, monkeys, feminist portrayal, and imperialism have to do with each other and what she considers to be the status of the humanities in academia.
While promoting her new book, an accomplished short story collection called Everything Inside, the PBK member and noted writer talks about her formative experiences, like imagining herself not as Madeline but the classic’s author, and writing for a high school paper in New York City a mere year after immigrating to the US from Haiti. She opens up about “borrowed memories” in her life and her work, about the role of death and ritual in healing, and the continuity of purpose in her writing
As a college student, Professor Paula Stephan fell in love with economics as a way to understand and influence systems that impacted many people's lives. Years of documenting and analyzing the role of gender in academic performance and the impact of monetary and status incentives on scholars and universities have led her to startling conclusions. In this episode, PBK's Fred Lawrence asks the Georgia State University’s to go beyond the research.
In this episode, Dr. Alfred Spector offers an optimistic take on the evolving relationship between the liberal arts and computer science. Reflecting on his career experiences in creating a company, working for Google and IBM, and now diving into economic modeling, Spector provides a fascinating account of the evolution of computer science both inside and beyond the academy.
In this episode, Fred Lawrence, Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, welcomes professor Amy Cheng Vollmer from Swarthmore College. A microbiologist whose research centers on how bacteria react to different types of stresses, discusses her ongoing fascination with bacteria, why failure is important in her field, the need for STEAM, not just STEM, and what it means to her to be a Chinese-American woman in the sciences.
Her passion for Middle East studies was ignited during a college course with an intense teacher. She immersed herself in the region’s history and language--and has never looked back. For this episode, Prof. Anderson retraces her growing enthusiasm for and deepening knowledge of the Arab world, which saw her break scholarly ground in Libya, take up residence as a professor at American University Cairo, and eventually landed her in the president’s office mere weeks before the upheaval of the Arab Spring.
In this special extended episode, Phi Beta Kappa Secretary and CEO Fred Lawrence invites two experienced colleagues to a frank discussion about the unfolding college admission scandal that has rocked higher education. There are no easy answers, and responsibility is spread around generously, but the exchange is one that will certainly spark discussions at home, in the classroom, and in vaulted academic halls around the country.
Much of Western culture and religious beliefs are grounded in a bifurcated notion of an epic power struggle between dueling forces, often defined as “good” and “evil.” This underlying premise influences how we parent, how we practice faith, how we choose vocations, and how we vote. In this episode Jamsheed Choksy, chair of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University Bloomington, provides surprising historical context for how the West’s construction of these binary elements evolved—from Islam.
As a college student, Professor Paula Stephan fell in love with economics as a way to understand and influence systems that impacted many people's lives. Years of documenting and analyzing the role of gender in academic performance and the impact of monetary and status incentives on scholars and universities have led her to startling conclusions. In this episode, PBK's Fred Lawrence asks the Georgia State University’s to go beyond the research. 
Dava Newman has spent her career figuring out how to get humans to space, and helping them not only to survive there, but also to thrive. She is the Apollo Program Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT and the former NASA Deputy Administrator. Her multidisciplinary work combines aerospace biomedical engineering, control modeling, biomechanics, and human interface technology, and she is a leader in advanced spacesuit design. In this episode, she talks about her journey from her childhood in Montana to college at Notre Dame to her research at MIT to leading role at NASA, in addition to how close she thinks we are to getting humans to land on Mars.
In our first episode, Fred Lawrence, Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, chats with his longtime friend, professor Harold Hongju Koh from Yale Law School. Professor Koh is a distinguished former diplomat and a renowned authority on public and international law. Their intimate and revealing conversation covers Koh’s expansive knowledge of foreign affairs, his views on the state of our nation, and the lasting influence of a father whose curiosity and capacious mind still inspire him. 
He got a call to consult on the Hollywood film The Man Who Knew Infinity, starring Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel. The director was so impressed with his knowledge of the life and work of Indian math prodigy Ramanujan that he invited him on set. By the time the credits rolled, he was an associate producer on the movie. But Ono’s own life would make a fascinating big-screen story: a high school dropout pushes away from an intellectually gifted family and his father’s academic legacy, only to be given a chance at college and advanced studies in the very field he avoided for so long.
Fred Lawrence, Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, welcomes professor Ayanna Thompson.  Professor Thompson specializes in Renaissance drama and issues of race in performance. She discusses the universality of Shakespeare while honing in on how he would have reacted to racialized readings of his work. Would he recognize that race plays a role in his plays? Would he agree with Thompson that one of his characters delivers “the first Black-Power speech in English”? What would he think of “Hamilton” and its non-traditional casting? These and other fascinating questions make for a memorable conversation with one of the country’s premiere Shakespeare scholars.
As a high school student, a college counselor created what Dr. Angel B. Pérez calls his “pivotal moment”—one that would set him on a path to college, a career in higher education, and now the chance to lead NACAC, the nation’s largest organization of college admissions counselors. His path from the South Bronx to the academy is extraordinary as are the times in which he steps into this leadership role.
Jefferson, Adams, Washington. Their names are synonymous with the bold experiment that was the United States in the late 1700s. But there is so much more to these men who wrestled with the notion of building a nation and battled one another politically. A Pulitzer Prize winner, Larson tears the pages of history to offer insight into what made these presidents tick. And what today's leaders can learn from them.
Philosophers Michael E. Bratman, from Stanford University, and Margaret P. Gilbert, from UC Irvine, are this year’s recipients of the Lebowitz Prize for Philosophical Achievement and Contribution, presented by the Phi Beta Kappa Society and the American Philosophical Association. In their respective work, each has expanded on the question of “What is it to act together?” based on sometimes divergent philosophical underpinnings of how two or more individuals interact in a collaborative effort.
The human brain has 100 billion cells, and there’s still so much to discover about it. Brandeis University neuroscientist Susan Birren has dedicated her distinguished career to decoding the mysteries of how the brain functions and how it communicates with the rest of the body. In this episode, she talks to Phi Beta Kappa Secretary and CEO Fred Lawrence about the challenges and triumphs of such a singular pursuit.
In our first episode, Fred Lawrence, Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, chats with his longtime friend, professor Harold Hongju Koh from Yale Law School. Professor Koh is a distinguished former diplomat and a renowned authority on public and international law. Their intimate and revealing conversation covers Koh’s expansive knowledge of foreign affairs, his views on the state of our nation, and the lasting influence of a father whose curiosity and capacious mind still inspire him.
While writing his dissertation, Dan Simon began to wonder how judges make decisions not from a legal, sociological, or economic perspective but rather from a psychological one. Today, the USC law professor has built a career investigating how factors of the mind—such as memory, false confessions, and the framing of interviews—influence rulings in the criminal justice system.
Fred Lawrence, Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, welcomes professor Ayanna Thompson. She specializes in Renaissance drama and issues of race in performance. She discusses the universality of Shakespeare while honing in on how he would have reacted to racialized readings of his work. Would he recognize that race plays a role in his plays? Would he agree with Thompson that one of his characters delivers “the first Black-Power speech in English”? What would he think of “Hamilton” and its non-traditional casting? These and other fascinating questions make for a memorable conversation with one of the country’s premiere Shakespeare scholars.
The Phi Beta Kappa book awards are given annually to three outstanding scholarly books published in the United States. 2019’s winners are Imani Perry for Looking for Lorraine: the Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry; Adam Frank, for Light of the Stars: Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth; and Sarah Igo for The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America. They revealed their thinking behind the works we celebrated and shared stories of unmatched discovery, spoke of love beyond adversity, and fueled our collective imagination with examples of unbound human curiosity.
While promoting her new book, an accomplished short story collection called Everything Inside, the PBK member and noted writer talks about her formative experiences, like imagining herself not as Madeline but the classic’s author, and writing for a high school paper in New York City a mere year after immigrating to the US from Haiti. She opens up about “borrowed memories” in her life and her work, about the role of death and ritual in healing, and the continuity of purpose in her writing
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Podcast Details

Started
Aug 30th, 2018
Latest Episode
Mar 27th, 2020
Release Period
Monthly
No. of Episodes
19
Avg. Episode Length
26 minutes
Explicit
No
Order
Episodic

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