Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Lessons branch out with ‘Talks’

The Honors College Assembly has brought back its “HCA Talks” sessions for students interested in learning about and discussing topics they may not be offered in the classroom.

HCA Talks is a program dedicated to giving all students on campus an opportunity to explore their interests, even if the interest is not related to student’s classes. Students who attend the session are able to hear a lecture and have a conversation with the professor and other students who attend.

Austin Lafferty, HCA executive vice president and founder of HCA Talks, said he thinks students should have a way to intelligently discuss topics of their choice and explore what interests them, no matter what their field of study is. He described the talks as giving students an opportunity to branch out of their own field or to get even deeper into something that they’re already studying.

“Say you’re a biology major and all you are ever really taking are biology classes,” said Lafferty, a senior majoring in philosophy. “If we have a [HCA Talk] on whether or not higher education is a right or a privilege, that might be a topic you may be interested in but do not necessarily get in your classes.”

Lafferty credits his inspiration to begin HCA Talks to videos from TedTalks, a website with videos of experts from around the world giving presentations on atypical topics they are passionate about. After watching the videos, Lafferty decided to bring something similar to campus.

“I thought ‘you know, that’s really interesting,’” he said.

From there, HCA Talks began.

“When I started, I looked for university professors that were both knowledgeable and passionate about something that the students would find interesting,” Lafferty said. “Something interesting or something controversial within [the professor’s] field of study.”

Since then, the HCA Talks have continued with discussions that have been received enthusiastically by both the students and professors.

“The professors contact us with something they’re interested in,” Lafferty said. “We make sure it is something the professors are really enthusiastic about.”

This year, Molly Olmstead, director of academic engagement for HCA, is in charge of organizing the sessions for HCA Talks. There has already been one session this semester, “Human Computation,” presented by Jeff Gray, an associate professor in the department of computer science.

Robert Cayaban, the assistant director of academic engagement for HCA, helps with the HCA Talks and said he believes it is useful to all students.

“I think HCA Talks is a great way for students to foster discussion and connect informally with faculty and peers in an engaging and warming atmosphere,” Cayaban said, a junior double majoring in civil engineering and new college. “I hope that more students would take this opportunity to engage in scholarly discussion outside the classroom.”

The topics for the rest of the semester’s upcoming sessions are “Quarks, Higgs, and Multiverse: Physics Looks to the Next Universe,” the topic of new energy and the future of energy, “Political Economy of Place,” and “The US’s Healthcare Puzzle.”

The dates of these sessions are, respectively, Oct. 10, Oct. 17, Nov. 14 and Nov. 28. Each session will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Riverside Community Center. For more information, contact Molly Olmstead at [email protected].


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