2015 Great Conversations Tables

Round Table

1. Because I Said I Would… Alex Sheen believes that each of us can be a person of his/her word. He inspires others to become more accountable through compelling real-life examples of promises made and kept. Founder of the social movement “because I said I would,” Alex has sent more than 3.15 million “promise cards” to over 150 different countries. Hear stories of promises he has made and promises this movement has inspired worldwide.

2. Teaching Socrates to Scientists STEM areas are getting a lot of attention lately, but what about the humanities? Kay Satre, Professor of English at Carroll College, joins us for a night of exploration as we grapple with the value of humanities and its impact on society and individual life. Maybe our culture is in crisis. If the humanities allow us to “move along the endless coastline of human experience,” shouldn’t we seize that opportunity and learn from it?

3.  ‘What a Thing to Say!’ Navigating the intricacies of respectful engagement in our increasingly diverse society—diversity of culture, religion, national identity, ethnicity, race and more—can cause the most well-intentioned of us to question how to respectfully express our opinions.  Explore how to navigate the deep waters of political correctness with Alan Hansen, a professor of Sociology and Communication at Carroll College.

4. Behind the Scenes The book Missoula shone a spotlight close to home, but the truth is the problem is rampant. Lucy France is the legal counsel for the University of Montana, with extensive experience and training in dealing with sexual assault on college campuses. Learn more about the intricacies of campus adjudication, its relation to law enforcement and the changing campus policies UM has implemented.

5. Accentuate the Positive An entire field of psychology focuses on the tricky business of measuring happiness. Only 50% of our happiness is based on genetics? the rest is up to us! Join Kristin Bishop and Sara Groves to learn more about positive psychology and walk away with a variety of happiness incubators that will bring you more joy in every aspect of your life—cultivating curiosity, learning new things, actively pursuing rich experiences, maintaining meaningful relationships and, of course, dessert.

What we like: Popular Culture

6. A “Hoppy” Revolution The U.S. now has 3,500 breweries, the most since pre-Prohibition.  As the U.S. revolutionizes the world of beer both in quantity and style, breweries today serve as economic drivers in crumbling towns and are changing America’s taste for beer.  Join Thomas “Patches” Pacholik of George’s Distributing, formerly the lead brewer of Kettlehouse Brewing Company, for a lively discussion of what’s brewing in the changing world of beer and enjoy some specially selected samples.

7. A Guy Walks into a Bar… Steffen Rasile is the new owner of Triple Divide Spirits in Helena. His passion and knowledge for original cocktails has led to some of the most creative spirits this side of the divide, and now he wants to share his secrets. Join his table to listen to tales of classic cocktails, and learn about the next big spirits coming to America. Finish the night with pro tips and tricks on how to create the perfect bar at home with cocktail ingredients from your own garden.

8. Live a Thousand Lives Book lovers unite! Come prepared to talk about your favorite books… and your least favorite. “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” so let’s join together to make sure we’re living the best of them! Leading the discussion will be Doug Mitchell, book reviewer for Montana Magazine. Bring a pen to jot down titles that pique your interest!

9. Films that Changed Cinema Jim Shea, Associate Justice on the Montana Supreme Court could be one of the most avid movie buffs in the American Judiciary and he probably is the only judge in the country to have cited Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle in a published judicial opinion. In any case he is perfectly suited to lead you in this discussion. From silent movies to CGI, what movies pioneered a leap forward in the industry? What films presented a leap forward for you?

10. What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been! In May of 1965, a group of musicians set up their gear at a pizza joint in California. The Warlocks became The Grateful Dead, one of the top grossing touring acts in the country. 20 years after their last show together, they are still drawing huge crowds of adoring fans. 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of The Dead and 20 years since the death of its leader, Jerry Garcia. What’s behind the mystique of this band and why are fans so intensely devoted? Join the discussion with John Chart, an attendee at some 30 odd Dead shows, guitarist in a local Dead cover band (710 Ashbury) and avid lifelong deadhead.

Who we are: Current Events and Politics

11. Are We Frustrated or Are We Afraid? District Court Judge Jim Reynolds thinks this is a central question as we work through both the social and fiscal costs of our corrections system. The issues are manifold—mandatory sentencing requirements, increase in drug use, rising cost of incarceration and more. This is a great opportunity to hear Judge Reynolds’ perspectives on crime… and punishment.

12. Democracy for Durable Peace David Hunter has worked in Montana politics and state government for 30 years, spending much of that time laboring to strengthen the democratic process and legislative bodies in eleven post conflict countries. Join Dave as he leads a discussion on the strength of democracy, corruption in developing democracies, and how we begin to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

13. Hope or Nope? Obama’s Place in History Barack Obama entered his first term faced with the greatest set of challenges and expectations of any American president since Franklin Roosevelt. What have been his greatest successes and failures? Join D.J. Cash, Assistant Professor of History at Carroll College and author of several articles on presidential history, to discuss how historians will assess Obama’s presidency. Was he the transformational president he hoped to be, or will his presidency be viewed as one that failed to live up to expectations?

14. Watchdog in the Statehouse  Chuck Johnson’s career covering Montana politics began during the 1972 Constitutional Convention and spans 43 years and 7 governors. He has witnessed and relayed to us the watershed events of Montana’s march into the 21st century. This is an extraordinary opportunity to hear first hand the stories he has to tell.

15. The Personal Is Political Did the Sexual Revolution change American politics forever? Many of the topics at the center of political conversation today revolve around freedoms and changing attitudes that gained momentum after the introduction of readily accessible birth control in the 1960’s, which accelerated the women’s movement in the United States. Millennials have come of age in a world where contexts have changed, but some of the central arguments rage on. How or will these issues resolve? Join Nancy Keenan for this relevant conversation.

16. Yearning to Breathe Free Conversations on immigration swirl in our public forum. Many candidates have widely divergent opinions on issues surrounding immigration both in the United States and Europe. Dr. Alex Street, Professor of Political Science at Carroll College, will look with you at immigration from the perspective of the immigrants themselves, not only that of the receiving countries and broach the topic of why, in many cases, immigration policies seem to fail.

17. Arms Up, Don’t Shoot! Media has brought to our attention the alarming number of black citizens who have been killed by white police officers, raising questions about racial bias in these cases. Psychologists study how race and racism may influence split second judgments. Jessica McManus, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Carroll College, studied the social psychology of prejudices and discrimination at Kansas State University, earning her doctorate in 2013. Join her to discuss research that sheds light on this national conversation.

18. The 4th Estate Join Jim Clark, Associated Press Western Regional Director, to talk about the future of traditional journalism. Since 2005 advertising revenue has dropped precipitously, as has the number of reporters and editors who keep an eye on state and local government. Can the so far unfulfilled promise of citizen journalism and Internet-based organizations provide meaningful local coverage?

How we are: Health and Wellbeing

19. How Sweet It Is!(Not) Sugar is the new bad guy in our diets. Dr. Brian Robinson, endocrinologist at St. Peter’s Hospital, will lead you through the labyrinth of what’s true about sugar. Should you count calories? Do calories count? Are substitutes better? What exactly are they and what do they come from? With so many questions, don’t you want answers?

20. When Food is Not Your Friend Is a gluten-free diet a fad or a healthy choice?  Celiac disease itself is rare, but many people consider themselves to be gluten sensitive or intolerant. Dr. Summer Monforte, an allergist-immunologist with St. Peter’s Hospital, will provide a clinical perspective on the growing issue of food allergies and food intolerance, Dr. Monforte specializes in the immune system,  including food, insect and respiratory allergies,

21. Own Your Health. Own Your Happiness We live in a society with rising rates of depression and general dissatisfaction. Is this simply a reality of the world today or  could some root causes lie within us? Dr. Monica Berner, Chief Medical Officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Montana believes there is much we can control. Gain some perspectives and tips on taking charge of your own wellbeing. Explore with her the adage “The groundwork of all happiness is health.”

22. Say, “I’m Sorry” How information is communicated when errors occur in medical settings profoundly affects patient and family responses. Peggy Schlesinger, MD, has experienced an error as a patient herself, and knows first hand what happens when the process doesn’t go well. A clinical professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, she has practiced adult and pediatric rheumatology in Montana since 1983. Join her to learn why apologies are vital when helping patients and families find resolution after the trauma of a medical error.

Who we were: History

23. One of the Boys in a Boat A member of three US Olympic teams, multi-year National Kayaking Champion, and now an investment advisor at Opportunity Bank of Montana, Terry White has stories to tell. Although he was a boy in a different kind of boat, his experiences as an Olympic athlete are fascinating and have some parallels to the compelling stories of the best selling book, The Boys in the Boat. Tales of the political overtones that are the hallmarks of the XI(1936) and XXII(1980) Olympiads, the dynamics of team endeavors and the thrill of Olympic level competition will have these tablemates pulling together.

24. Vietnam: How It Shaped Us. How It Shaped America Already 2,950 events across the United States have been scheduled to commemorate and honor veterans 50 years after the end of the Vietnam War. This war and its aftermath had a profound impact on our soldiers, the veterans and our nation. Join Diane Evans, founder of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington DC, for a passionate and intimate look at how this war has affected our soldiers and veterans over the last 50 years.

25. No Drive Bys! Diane Flynn began her career of ancestral research in the small Iowa farm town where she grew up and where six generations of family rest in area cemeteries. Her grandfather spurred her interest with tales of a mystery ancestor, and the stories set her imagination and intrigue ablaze. Join Diane as she recounts her RV journey along the trail of her ancestors (with the help of her cat, Booshie!) and learn how to embrace the mysteries, slow your pace, fully experience the places you find, and plan your own thoughtful path of discovery.

26. Telling Montana’s Stories Both the words “story” and “history” derive from the Greek historia,—knowledge acquired by investigation. Although we think of fiction as “made-up,” fiction does indeed help us better understand the past.  Aaron Parrett is author of Montana Then and Now and more. Join him for a dialogue about the nature of stories and what they tell us about our history.

27. Get to Know Montana In 1865, a group of far-sighted pioneers began collecting and preserving materials relevant to the history and culture of Montana, making the Montana Historical Society the oldest institution of its kind in the American West. Join Jennifer Bottomly-O’Looney, senior curator, as she wanders through time to celebrate 150 years of Montana history.

What we believe: Religion and Culture

28. On the Road Again Travel the Silk Road (on a motorcycle!) with an avid explorer who has visited 11 countries to witness some of the most powerful events and historic sites—from the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an China, to participating in the Blue Mosque’s call to prayer in Istanbul. Spend an evening envisioning your own adventures through the inquisitive eyes of Terry Gauthier.

29. A Nearly Infallible History of Christianity How much do we, or can we, know about the earliest forms of Christianity two millennia later? Competing versions of history, even disputes about subtleties of grammar in ancient texts, contribute to what we know and what we think we know. Some argue for the Bible’s literal interpretation; others point out vast inconsistencies. Tackle these puzzles with Reverend Terry Turner, ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, retired pastor and former District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church.

30. 50 years before Francis Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen, the quintessential pastoral bishop Pope Francis seeks today, put the emphasis on compassion over law in the Diocese of Helena and the Archdiocese of Seattle—reaching out to laity, women, gays, and those on the margins. He embraced a Vatican II model of church that was inclusive, and involved in the moral issues of the day, particularly the threat of nuclear war, but he was investigated, punished, and ostracized. Join John A. McCoy for a discussion of his recently published biography of Archbishop Raymond G. Hunthausen, A Still and Quiet Conscience: The Archbishop Who Challenged a Pope, a President, and a Church.

31. Charting a New Course with Cuba  Adonis and Mae Zamora immigrated to the United States from Cuba, and have tremendous insights on life in Cuba—its food, culture, music and travel. Now the door is once again opened to Cuba’s patchwork of habitats, from fields and swamps to mountains and forests and tropical beaches. The Zamoras not only have much to share about their native home, but also perspectives on adjusting to their new one, right here in Helena.

32. Satan, Demons and The Exorcist For centuries, theology has pondered “evil” and its origins; our intrigue has been such that even popular culture has delved into the topic, most notably, the St. Louis exorcism that inspired a novel and the 1970’s horror film The Exorcist. Dr. Gerardo Rodriguez, who teaches courses on the Bible and history of biblical interpretations in the Theology Department at Carroll College, will consider with you the origins of Satan—from ancient Near Eastern religions, the Old Testament, Intertestamental Period, and the New Testament with brief explorations of popular culture representations.

33 Gauche and Sinister: Labels for Lefties Left-handedness has captured our fascination throughout history and aroused an unsettling degree of discrimination. Chrysti M. Smith, known to MPR listeners as “Chrysti the Wordsmith,” will lead an exploration of ways in which lefties are linguistically libeled and how languages around the world reflect our bias. From the Latin, sinister, to the French, gauche, words for “left” carry myriad negative connotations. Chrysti, an expert on the origin and histories of English words and phrases is also among the elite 13% of the world’s population that is left-handed.

34. Politics of Culture Professor Doreen Kutufam is a Fulbright Scholar whose research covers race, gender, and class in mass and audio-visual media, as a tool for health education in Africa. A published author who has presented at various national and international conferences, she has recently returned from her sabbatical in Ghana where she worked on a research and documentary film project on Dipo—a puberty rite of the Krobo people in the eastern region of Ghana. Join Dr. Kutufam for a captivating look at this culturally rich and highly controversial ceremonial practice.

What’s new: Science and Technology

35. Disconnect to Connect Have we confused high-speed Internet connections with meaningful interpersonal connections? Maybe! Users tweet over 400 million times a day, while Facebook processes over 500 terabytes of new data every 24 hours. Join Kathy Kinsella Shea to discuss the effects of social media and technology on our emotional wellbeing. A Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Kathy spends much of her day helping young people to navigate the world of social media and to seek genuine human contact.

36. Do You Believe in…Science? The news is full of debates about vaccinations, GMOs, and global warming. Why are there gaps between what the public believes and what science tells us? Is it politics? Economics? Religion?  How much do the 24/7 access to media and the Internet play into this issue?  Explore these topics with Colin Thomas, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Carroll College.

37. Is Montana the Next California? Montana’s winters are getting shorter and temperatures are on the rise. Are melting glaciers and wildfires the new norm? Humans have adapted to climate change for tens of thousands of years, but population growth and human activities may exceed our ability to sustain what we know and love. Join Patricia Heiser, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Science at Carroll College, for a timely discussion about drivers of climate change in Montana and its impact on our unique resources, environment, economy, and quality of life.

38. Is Anybody Out There? The popular movie The Martian may have piqued your curiosity about the potential for another habitable planet, other sentient life in the Galaxy or perhaps beyond. Nate McCrady, Associate Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Montana and co-Principal Investigator on Project MINERVA, a dedicated observatory for detection of Earth-like planets orbiting nearby stars, is wildly excited about all there is to discover. Join him for some earth-bound exploration of the potential beyond the world we know.

39. Winged Warnings Researchers have used the study of hummingbirds to improve flight, the complicated language of the chickadee to learn about human language, falcons for therapy in inner cities and birds as flying sentinels to help us better understand our natural world.  But, birds are in trouble. Habitat destruction, climate change, and development threaten numerous bird species. Jim Robbins, science and environment contributor to the New York Times, is the author of six books including Nineteen Arguments for the Survival of Birds, (Spring 2016).  Not just for bird enthusiasts, this topic speaks to anyone interested in learning what the canary in the mine has to tell us.

40. A Blarney Stone’s Kiss Away from the World’s DNA Donna Greenwood, Professor of Nursing at Carroll College, integrates global concepts into her curriculum and networks with colleagues and students around the world.  Through her global outreach and travels to Italy, Ireland, Norway, and New Zealand, Donna has explored what it is it like to be a foreigner, what it means to be a global village, how world travel shapes our view of our own lives and our own country.  You are invited on a journey of learning humility through world travel and encouraged to bring the lessons you’ve learned from your own expeditions.