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Presidential Engagement Fellows: Speaker Topics

The Presidential Engagement Fellows can speak to a wide variety of fields of study. From specific presentation titles, to general topics of discussion, use the list below to help inform requests for speaking engagements.

If you have questions about requesting a speaker, please reach out to Ashley Rhode ( before completing a speaker request form.

Scott Christianson – Business Management
  1. Meet the Learning Machine: How Artificial Intelligence is transforming our world!
    Artificial Intelligence, in the form of Machine Learning (ML), has already transformed medicine, retail sales, and other industries. It is about to enter all our lives, whether we want it or not! In this session, we will quickly develop a basic understanding of AI, and its advantages, applications, and difficulties.
  2. 5G, Blockchain, and Self-driving Cars: Why does the pace of change keep getting faster?
    Why does the pace of change seem to be quickening? There is a reason! “Exponential” technologies are causing massive disruption to our world and livelihoods. Let's take a close look at what drives these technologies, the positive and negative effects on markets and nations, and develop an "exponential mindset" to anticipate digital disruptions.
  3. Smart Homes, Smart Farms, Smart Cities and the Internet of Things.
    Our world seems to be getting smarter, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT). Cheap electronics, a robust set of tools, and growing libraries of projects have enabled our surroundings to become "smart" and have empowered everyday innovators. Modern-day Edisons can inexpensively and quickly create new inventions using IoT devices. Already several Missouri entrepreneurs have used this technology to create thriving businesses. Let's explore these tools are being used to shape the future!

Dima Dandachi – Medicine
  1. Ending the HIV epidemic, can we do it?
  2. HIV and COVID-19, what do we know so far?
  3. Telehealth for patients with HIV, would it help?

Jill B. Deston – Philosophy
  1. Paternalism, Pap Tests, and the Pill
    Why are birth control prescription refills tied to unrelated tests like pelvic exams and Pap tests? I discuss the role of cancer screenings in contraception access.
  2. Losing Patients
    What are your rights as a patient? I discuss how medical sexism can undermine patient autonomy and lead to medical malpractice.
  3. A Typical Treatment
    How can contraception policy inform the abortion debate? Overriding patient autonomy in abortion cases is often justified by the fetus. But are the same attitudes, behaviors, and treatments present in situations where no fetus exists?
  4. The Ethics of Precision Health
    How can ethics inform the possibilities and limits of precision health research and medicine?
  5. The Ethics and Politics of Microaffirmations Academic and corporate settings are working to end microaggressions. How can we work to expand the issue of microaggressions to other issues of social justice to end other microinequities?

William Horner – Political Science
  1. Keep the Cameras Rolling!
    What happens when a young Cuban immigrant suffering from AIDS is cast on MTV’s, The Real World. This young man, Pedro Zamora, had a huge impact on viewers’ opinions about HIV/AIDS, same-sex marriage, and LGBTQ acceptance. Dr. Horner has conducted extensive interviews with members of the Real World cast, production team, friends of Pedro, family members of Pedro, figures from the world of entertainment and politics figures including Bill Clinton, Donna Shalala, and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
  2. I’m Gerald Ford and You’re Not – Saturday Night Live and the American Presidency.
    Over four and a half decades Saturday Night Live has become an American television institution. A key part of SNL’s success has been parodies of American presidents, which has had an impact on the outcome of elections and presidential behavior from the 1970s to today!
  3. Fighting to End Segregation in Higher Education – The Legacy of Lloyd Gaines
    Lloyd Gaines joined with the NAACP to file a lawsuit to desegregate the University of Missouri in 1935. It led to a landmark 6 to 2 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1938 in the case Missouri ex rel Gaines v. Canada. It could have been Brown v. Board of Education two decades sooner, but for several complicating factors. Nevertheless, the importance of Gaines, his fight, and the legal case which bears his name cannot be overestimated.
  4. Richard Nixon – The Media President.
    Richard Nixon is not regarded by anyone as warm and fuzzy, or a great presence on television. And yet, most of the media behavior of all the presidents who followed him, from Ford to Trump, begin with Richard Nixon. We can talk about Richard Nixon’s presidency if you want, but this is about the first twenty years of Richard Nixon’s political career: the lessons he learned and the strategies they inspired.
  5. Current Events and Politics in Missouri and Beyond!
    These are tumultuous and eventful times, both in the United States and in Missouri. After a brief discussion of the current state of events, the audience is invited to participate in a question/answer/discussion session.

Jamila Jefferson-Jones – Law
  1. Coming soon!

Joey Lightner – Nursing and Health Studies
  1. Why and how to exercise: Stating the science of physical activity
    This question and answer session will discuss why physical activity is important to prevent disease, dispel myths of exercise, and provide the scientific evidence of being healthy through activity. Bring your questions and let’s talk about the science of changing physical activity behavior.
  2. Running down the virus: How to reduce COVID-19 with physical activity
    The outcomes of COVID-19 are established before you are even exposed to the virus. Being healthy overall reduces the negative consequences of infectious disease. This talk will highlight the interaction of COVID-19 and physical activity behavior. Tips on being active during a pandemic will be highlighted.
  3. Why data should be your best friend: The importance of community-based participatory research in policy and environmental change
    Mothers, workers, church members, and all other Missourians are at the heart of research for UMKC, UMSL, Mizzou, and Missouri S&T. The University of Missouri System scientists are here to help solve problems of the citizens of Missouri. Scientists conduct studies to solve problems. Community-based participatory research is a technique that facilitates collaboration between scientist and community members. This workshop builds the capacity of Missourians to engage with scientists to add evidence and rigor to any project that advances the health and well-being of Missouri.

Joan McDowd – Psychology
  1. Happily ever after: the psychology of aging well
    The passage of time is inevitable, though few people look forward to becoming older. However, the science of psychological aging has identified some factors that support successful aging. Many of these factors invoive a degree of choice on the part of the individual, indicating that we have some choice in how we age. We will review these factors and the science behind them, and create a plan for aging well.
  2. Understanding aging through the gerontological imagination
    Myths about aging contribute to unnecessary anti-aging fears. The “gerontological imagination” provides a framework for understanding aging and underscoring its positive aspects.
  3. What is an age-friendly community?
    Changing age demographics in the United States and globally means that a higher proportion of our population is over the age of 65 than ever before. Communities are working to accommodate these population changes, but what really makes for an age-friendly community that supports the health and engagement of older adults? Groups around the world have worked to identify the components of an age-friendly community; these factors will be reviewed and we can assess how your community measures up.

Jerome Morris – Education/Educator Preparation and Leadership
  1. Rekindling Communally-Bonded Schools to Improve Black Student's Educational Experiences
    This talk unveils the historical and theoretical background of powerful African-American school communities, illustrates how social and educational policies weakened these relationships, and provides strategies that rebuild the relationships that contemporary Black students have with their schools and communities.
  2. Did the ends justify the means? Gains, losses and future directions for equitable schooling in St. Louis
    Dr. Morris shares key findings from a three-year study (2016-2019) that revealed a path forward after the St. Louis Voluntary Desegregation Plan ends. This community chat engages families, community members, educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders in collaborative ways to maximize academic success for students across race and social class in the St. Louis region.
  3. Cultivating high achievement in Black Students: race, class, place and student success
    Dr. Morris highlights how students and their family’s cultural/economic frameworks and institutional supports drive high achievement among African-American and Black immigrant students.
  4. More than Heroes and Holidays: Creating systemic equity beyond symbolic societal gestures
    Dr. Morris goes below the surface of current overtures by municipalities and institutions to address racial inequalities by removing statues, renaming streets and buildings, and even publicly affirming holidays and celebrations.
  5. Theory meets practice: Best practices for educating African-American children in the COVID-19 Era
    Dr. Morris details, from perspectives that are both research-based and experiential, success strategies for parents and educators navigating the challenges of hybrid education during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Kathleen Preble – Human Environmental Sciences and Social Work
  1. “It’s happening here?!”: Human trafficking in Missouri
  2. Moving toward a strategic anti-trafficking plan for Missouri
  3. Let’s NOT talk about sex: What we know about labor trafficking in Missouri
  4. Myths and Facts about human trafficking
  5. Domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking: Are they the same or different?
  6. I am more than my trauma: What survivors of trafficking want you to know

J. David Rogers– Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering
(Missouri S&T)
  1. Geology controls everything!
    Find out how Missouri has shaped the history of the United States and how the underlying geology has influenced those events and where people have settled over the past 300 years. This presentation varies with location within Missouri and is suitable for students and lay people.
  2. Lessons in geoforensics.
    What we do as engineers is serious business because people expect us to do it right. Geoengineers are a mix of science and engineering. They enjoy the highest job security of any engineering discipline. Their role is to define problems and resources accurately to effect resilient solutions. Individuals who can solve their client’s problems are always in demand.
  3. Natural disasters and national priorities.
    Why does it seem that catastrophes like firestorms, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis are on the increase? Should we be worried in Missouri? This presentation will explain the fascinating connections between theories, predictions, and the entities that ultimately decide what risks are acceptable.
  4. B-52s and freeways.
    It is amazing how many technical accomplishments have evolved from attempts to solve unrelated problems. This lecture describes how the public demand for better highways, followed several decades later by the military’s need for adequate runways for intercontinental bombers resulted in soil compaction standards and flexible pavement design; which were essential elements of the Interstate Highway Network launched in 1956.

Lee Slocum – Criminology and Criminal Justice
  1. Myths versus Reality: Crime and the Criminal Justice System in St. Louis, MO
  2. “We’re not bad kids”: Youth’s Direct and Indirect Interactions with Police in St. Louis County
  3. Consequences of Criminal Justice System Contact for People and their Communtities

Julija Šukys – English and Creative Writing
  1. How to Grow a Book: A Feeding and Watering Guide for the First-Time Nonfiction Writer
    In this conversational Q & A forum, we talk about the practicalities of writing from life experience: how to start, what it means to embark on a book-length project, and how to take the first steps toward publication.
  2. From KGB Files to Love Letters and Diaries: Using Every Kind of Archive to Write Nonfiction
    In this lecture, I offer stories, tips, and advice from my research experience in archives. Using examples from my recent books, Epistolophilia and Siberian Exile, I share how to go about piecing a life together, fragment by fragment.
  3. Honor for the Dead, Respect for the Living: How to Write True and Personal Nonfiction Without Burning Bridges
    In this talk, I address both personal and artistic anxieties, obstacles, and challenges that all writers face when mining family or other private histories for creative endeavors.

Dave Westenberg – Biological Sciences
(Missouri S&T)
  1. Outbreaks!
    Where do new and emerging infectious diseases come from? Why are animals so important for new diseases? How do disease spread? What can we do to protect ourselves? Topics on infectious diseases can be presented through a) engaging activities; b) organizing display of a DIY version of the Smithsonian “Outbreak” exhibit on the sources and spread of epidemics; and/or c) presentations on the types of organisms that can cause disease or strategies to reduce infections.
  2. Building Life.
    Learn and discuss how the field of synthetic biology/genetic engineering can change society. Topics can be presented through a) engaging activities that foster dialogue; b) public forums that promote dialogue between participants and presenters on topics such as genome editing and engineering mosquitos; c) presentations on how synthetic biology works and the kinds of grand challenges that can be addressed with this new and emerging technology and the ethics of using synthetic biology.
  3. Good ol’ Dirt. Discover how soil bacteria can promote plant growth for gardening, agriculture or environmental applications. Topics presented can include a) the role of soil bacteria in nitrogen fixation and how they support crop rotation or b) how soil bacteria work together with plants to help clean up environmental pollution.

Virginia Ramseyer Winter – Human Environmental Sciences/Social Work
  1. Tips for Raising Children with a Positive Body Image
    In this interactive workshop, we will briefly discuss some of the body image literature and then move into discussion of concrete tips for contributing to children’s health body image development.
  2. Body Image and Health: How are they related?
    This workshop will focus on the academic body image and health literature. We will discuss implications for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.
  3. Thinking about a college major? Why social work might be the right choice for you!
    A social work education can prepare you for a wide range of career options. MU social work graduates have gone on to work in child welfare, became therapists, work in hospital settings, teach sexuality education, work as school social workers, get elected to the State House of Representatives, work at the macro level on food insecurity, and much more. This workshop will explore social work education and potential career options.

Guirong (Grace) Yan – Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering
(Missouri S&T)
  1. Do We Really Need to Build Our Houses Like a Concrete Castle in Order to Survive a Tornado?
    Not necessarily. A closer examination of the observed damage onsite suggests that individual structural members were not even damaged, even though an entire structural system was destroyed. This indicates that the connections between structural members failed before structural members. Dr. Yan will talk about a new tornado-resistance design concept she developed based on the optimal relative design strength of connections to structural members.
  2. Are You Struggling in Making Decisions on Whether You Should Be Proactive for Tornadoes?
    According to the Protective Action Decision Model, people who have experienced disasters are more likely to take proactive actions to protect themselves. Thus, people who have experienced tornadoes are expected to be more inclined to take proactive actions. However, not everyone in a community has prior tornado experience. This talk will present how virtual reality animation of tornado disasters can provide people with a tornado experience that increases behavioral intentions for taking protective actions to achieve community resilience.
  3. Develop Community Resilience Bonds to Achieve a Quicker Community Recovery after Tornadoes/Hurricanes.
    This is a type of Bonds issued by government and bank. The profit can be used by the community to take proactive measures before a disaster; After a disaster, besides insurance claim and government support, the community will have one more resource to leverage to achieve a quicker community recovery.

>> Return to the Presidential Engagement Fellows homepage.

Reviewed 2021-01-06