UW-Eau Claire to host 80th annual Forum series

Speakers include Monica Lewinsky and Naomi Shihab Nye

Liam Flake

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Photo by SUBMITTED, UWEC

Lewinsky will open UW-Eau Claire’s 80th Forum series on Oct. 26.

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, UW-Eau Claire will kick off its 80th Forum series with an appearance from Monica Lewinsky, who will give a speech in relation to her 2015 TED Talk “The Price of Shame” covering online bullying. 

Lewinsky is the first of four speakers this year, with the campus tradition continuing Nov. 3 with Jelani Cobb and two more in the spring.

One of the people involved with Lewinsky’s appearance is Justin Patchin, professor of criminal justice at UW-Eau Claire, who will be serving as the opening Forum’s moderator. 

Patchin explained that this role was selected in part due to his personal field of expertise, which overlaps with Lewinsky’s topic.

“My research focuses on similar kinds of issues, particularly how teens use and misuse technology and some of the mental health issues there,” Patchin said.

In his role as moderator, Patchin will be responsible for the question-and-answer session following Lewinsky’s speech. 

The Forum’s website notes that the structure includes an hour-long lecture and a half-hour question-and-answer session, often followed by a reception. Lewinsky will also be introduced by second-year student Luke Plagens.

Patchin said that during this time he will seek largely to eliminate redundant questions and find queries from attendees that speak most prominently to Lewinsky’s area of expertise.

Patchin also explained that, coincidentally, he is already acquainted with Lewinsky, having met her seven or eight years ago when she began establishing a public presence in the field of online bullying and mental health. 

Due to this connection, he rearranged his schedule to attend when offered the role of moderator and is excited for the event.

“I’m obviously very interested in what she has to say. I’ve been following her work now for quite a few years and hopefully, we’ll get a good turnout. People can learn more about kind of her message,” Patchin said.

Another key figure in this year’s program is the Artists Series and The Forum intern, Megan Schmitz. As such, Schmitz was able to offer insight into the planning process behind the series this year.

The committee, Schmitz said, is comprised of 12 members — six students, three faculty members and three community members – and meets monthly during the school year. This committee discusses and selects speakers for the following academic year.

This year, Schmitz said, the committee aimed to celebrate the 80th anniversary by placing more attention on the keynote speakers. Due to the longstanding tradition’s importance to the university, they worked to find candidates who were particularly captivating. 

This goal is what led the board to the selection of Lewinsky.

“Having this keynote speaker is really symbolic for our Forum series. I’m super excited that we are honoring the committee’s desire to have a bigger speaker for this academic year,” Schmitz said.

Schmitz said that due to the speaker’s acclaim, Lewinsky’s speech will be hosted in Zorn Arena, which can seat 2,700 people. Typically, the Forum series is held in Schofield Hall.

The speakers selected can cover any person or any topic — this year, the committee discussed how they could bring more perspective to the Forum.

“The committee talked about lots of different topics, from sustainability to politics to creative speakers. And so we’re really excited that we’re opening our 80th season in less than a month,” Schmitz said.

According to the Forum’s website, the other three speakers this year are Jelani Cobb, a staff writer for the New Yorker and professor of journalism at Columbia, Jessica McCabe, who created Youtube channel “How to ADHD”, and poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

Nye’s lecture will be co-hosted by the Frederick and Joan Christopherson Schmidt Robert Frost Celebration.

“We’re super excited that we can share these speakers with you. We’re excited to see your attendance at these events, and we hope that you learn something new, and gain a different perspective,” Schmitz said.

Tickets for the first forum are available UW-Eau Claire’s website.

Flake can be reached at [email protected]