This Year’s Schedule

This lineup of presentations for the 2019 Mini College is shaping up as one of the best in years. Already we have more than a dozen lectures and events confirmed on a wide range of subjects. There’s sure to be something for everyone. Most classes will be in Spooner Hall.  A few may be in Watson library or elsewhere.

We haven’t nailed down the exact times and dates of the presentations just yet, but confirmed speakers include:

David Burnham

Dr. David Burnham, “The Quest for T. Rex.” In June, paleontologist David Burnham will pack up the shovels, picks, glue and plaster he’ll use as he returns to the eastern Montana badlands to look for more T. Rex fossil material to bring home to KU. For several years, Prof. Burnham has spent part of each summer guiding an ever-changing roster of students, staff and volunteers in the fossil quest. He’ll talk about what they’ve found so far and what makes this dinosaur so interesting to research.  Dr. Burnham holds BS and master’s degrees from the University of New Orleans and a Ph.D. from KU’s Geology Department.

John YoungerProf. John Younger, “Gender and Sexuality in Ancient Greek Sculpture.” Prof. Younger, who also lectured at last year’s Mini College, came to KU in 2002 as a professor of classics from Duke University, where he had taught for 27 years. He has also taught in the KU departments of Humanities, Museum Studies, and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. He has been the director of Jewish studies since 2013. He holds a BA degree in history from Stanford University and MA and Ph.D. degrees in classics from the University of Cincinnati. His research focuses on the Aegean Bronze Age. He has published numerous books, chapters and articles on various Bronze Age and Classical topics, including an entry in the encyclopedia “Sex in the Ancient World, A-Z.”

Kevin SmirthKevin Smith, dean of KU libraries, “What’s Happening to Libraries in the Digital Age?” Smith became the dean of libraries and courtesy professor of law at KU in May 2016 after 10 years as director of copyright and scholarly communications at the Duke University libraries. As both a librarian and a lawyer specializing in intellectual property issues, Smith’s role at Duke was to advise faculty, staff, and students about the impact of copyright, licensing, and the changing nature of scholarly publishing in higher education. Prior to that, Dean Smith was director of the Pilgrim Library at Defiance College in Ohio, where he also taught constitutional law. He also has taught courses in theology and library science. He is the author of numerous articles on the impact of copyright law and the Internet on scholarly research.

Lisa McLendonDr. Lisa McLendon, “Real Rules Vs. Grammar Myths.” Dr. McLendon,  who lectured on fake news at last year’s Mini College, is chair of the News & Information track at the KU School of Journalism, where she also teaches grammar, editing and writing. Before coming to KU, she spent seven years as the deputy news desk chief at the Wichita Eagle and five years as news editor at the Denton (Texas) Record-Chronicle. She moved into journalism after earning a doctorate in Slavic languages from the University of Texas. In 2017, her book “The Perfect English Grammar Workbook” was published by Callisto Media.

Arvin AgahArvin Agah, dean of engineering, “KU Engineering and the History of Robotics.” Agah’s research focuses on applied artificial intelligence and mobile robotics. He has been a co-investigator on research grants totaling more than $33 million. From 2007 to 2012, he was laboratory director of the Intelligent Systems Lab at KU’s Information & Telecommunication Technology Center. Agah was named Engineering School dean in January. He had been serving as interim dean of the school since July 2018, filling the role made vacant when the previous dean opted to return to a faculty role. Agah has been a member of the KU Engineering leadership team since September 2012, when he was selected to be associate dean for research and graduate programs. He has been on the KU faculty since 1997, and he has served as associate chair for graduate studies for the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science. He is a prolific author and the editor of three books.

Sarah KirkDr. Sarah Kirk,  “A Tour of  Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.”  Dr. Kirk is the director of the KU Psychological Clinic and assistant director of clinical training in the Clinical Psychology Program. She also has been a practicing psychologist in the KU Psychological Clinic since 2005, specializing in autistic spectrum disorder, anxiety disorders and complex medical problems. She supervises graduate students in the clinical psychology graduate program and teaches graduate-level coursework.

Raymond PierottiAssociate Prof. Raymond Pierotti, “How Humans and Wolves Co-evolved.” Prof. Pierotti and his associate, former KU student Brandy Fogg, are the authors of a book in which they argue passionately that Western tradition and folk tales have for centuries unfairly and ignorantly demonized wolves. In fact, they say, indigenous people of North America, Australia and Asia tend to hail the wolf as a creator figure that taught humans to hunt, survive and thrive. Prof. Pierotti holds a Ph.D. degree in biology from Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has taught at KU since 1992. Prior to that, he was on the adjunct faculty at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence.

Matthew BurkeAssociate Prof. Matthew Burke, leading a panel discussion on “Art at the Intersection of Science.” Prof. Burke teaches sculpture, foundation and drawings courses, as well as courses in art and ecology at KU. His creative research ranges from the production of sculpture and drawing to large-scale, eco-based installations that integrate site, structure, and viewer. Burke received his BA degree from Colby College in Maine and his MFA degree in sculpture from Queens College, CUNY. He has had numerous solo and group shows including PS1 MoMA in Queens, NY, the Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, NY, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art in New York. His work is in several major museums and collections including the Museum of Modern Art Library and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Teri FinnemanAssistant Prof. Teri Finneman, “Press Portrayals of Women Politicians, 1870s-2000s.”  Finneman is an assistant professor in KU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. She previously worked as a print journalist and multimedia correspondent covering state government, business and enterprise. Her research focuses on news coverage of U.S. first ladies and women politicians. She also conducts research related to media ethics, journalism history and oral history. She is the author of “Press Portrayals of Women Politicians, 1870s-2000s,” which was named a 2016 finalist for the Frank Luther Mott – Kappa Tau Alpha book award for best research-based book about journalism or mass communication. Her documentary, “Newspaper Pioneers: The Story of the North Dakota Press,” premiered in 2017.

A tour of the bird and fish collections in the Biodiversity Institute at the Natural History Museum, led by collection managers Mark Robbins (birds) and Andy Bentley (fish). (This tour is limited to 30 people due to space restrictions.)

Mark RobbinsRobbins is an evolutionary biologist and has been a collection manager of two major ornithological collections over the past 33 years. The initial 11 years were at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, and since 1993, he has been at the  Biodiversity Institute.


Andy BentleyBentley is the bioinformatics manager for the Biodiversity Institute and usability lead for a collections management software project. He served as president of the Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections from 2013 to 2018.


Genelle BelmasAssociate Prof. Genelle Belmas, “Free Speech and the First Amendment.”
Prof. Belmas heads the journalism concentration in the School of Journalism’s Department of Communications. Before that, she was at California State University, Fullerton. She teaches media law, media ethics, communications technology and computer-assisted reporting. Her research primarily focuses on media law. Her work has appeared in the Yale Journal of Online Law and Technology, the Federal Communications Law Journal, and Communications Law and Policy, among others, and has been cited by several appellate courts. She is the author of a media law textbook, “Major Principles of Media Law.” Prof. Belmas has BA degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Wisconsin, an MA in political science from the University of Wisconsin, and a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of Minnesota.

A discussion of the University’s “common book,” including viewings of artwork that accompanies the discussion.

In addition, we are looking into other tour possibilities and an evening movie.  And there are more presentations to come! In fact, we are expecting to offer a choice of two classes during a few time periods.