In an effort to bring together world-renowned thinkers and speakers from the Rensselaer community, a team of students have worked to create a new lecture series—Rensselaer TALKS, which made its debut on May 9 with the theme “Understanding Ourselves and the World Around Us.”

“The motivation behind Rensselaer TALKS is to create an atmosphere of excitement with collaboration, community, and transparency at its core,” said Raymond Jacobson ’16, a sophomore majoring in computer and systems engineering and computer science, who is also a member of the fraternity Lambda Chi Alpha, which is spearheading the program.

Rensselaer TALKS stands on three pillars: exhibition, inspiration, and facilitation. According to Jacobson, the concept behind creating Rensselaer TALKS came from a “collection of students, largely—but not exclusively—from my fraternity, that saw a need for the event around campus that would be focused on developing short, biannual, TEDx-style talks given by outstanding members of the campus community. To kick off the event, our chosen speakers will each contribute their own piece intertwined with their personal narrative and experience.”

Rensselaer TALKS

(seated l-r) Speakers Eddie Ade Knowles, Langdon Winner, Chuck Boylen, Seth Appert, and Johnson Samuel with the TALKS event organizers. Photo by: Andrew Kaiser, photo club, class of 2017.

The Rensselaer TALKS program featured the following speakers and discussion topics:

Considering Our Environment and Necessary Stewardship | 
Charles Boylen, Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Associate Director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute

The Spiritual Dimension of Life: Is it Worth Investigating? | 
Johnson Samuel, Assistant Professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, and a recent recipient of the Faculty Career Award from the National Science Foundation

Understanding Our Role as Leaders | 
Seth Appert, Head Men’s Hockey Coach

Thinking Outside the Box IS the New Box| Langdon Winner, Thomas Phelan Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences

Connecting with the Rhythms of our Mind, Body, and Spirit | Eddie Ade Knowles, Professor of Practice at Rensselaer, Accomplished Musician

“We hope that through TALKS, outside of the classroom setting, we will be able to exhibit some of the fantastic thinkers, speakers, and diverse topics of interest in the Rensselaer community,” said Jacobson. “Second, we hope that TALKS will inspire members in the community to look at things in a more analytical, thought-provoking manner, much in the way TED creates topics of discussion. Lastly, we hope that TALKS will facilitate dialogue within the greater Rensselaer community. Most important, we feel that this program gives Rensselaer something that is ours as well as something that we can show to the outside world.”

The motivation behind Rensselaer TALKS is to create an atmosphere of excitement with collaboration, community, and trans- parency at its core.”—Raymond Jacobson

Initial planning for the inaugural event started in fall 2013. The 14-member committee is comprised of students representing the Class of 2016 and the Class of 2017. In addition to Jacobson, planning committee members include: Julius Alexander ’16, Rachel Mannella ’16, Simon McCarthy ’16, Chris Hoskins ’16, Ryan Moriarty ’16, Connor Finnell ’16, Joshua Schramm ’16, Becca Bradley ’16, Cyril George ’16, Peter Kang ’16, Alexander Garcia ’17, Chris Lamplough ’17, and Karl Meier ’17.

Organizers hope that Rensselaer TALKS will become a twice-a-year event. “The way in which our committee has built this event makes it very reproducible, and our group of students are very passionate about continuing it,” Jacobson said. “Rensselaer TALKS started with students at a fraternity, but it is truly more of a campus event. Using our fraternity funding to kickstart TALKS hopefully has built us toward the longevity of the event.”

The Rensselaer TALKS program was also supported by the Rensselaer Union Speakers Forum, Phalanx Honor Society, and the Rensselaer Alumni Association.

For more information about the Rensselaer TALKS program, visit their webiste.