Academics & Research News

Grand Challenges Forum moves online for fall semester

The Honors College moved their Grand Challenges Forum Speaker Series online due to coronavirus constraints. | File photo

The Grand Challenges Forum Speaker Series has taken on a new format and schedule for the Fall 2020 semester.

The new GCF have now gone virtual and is held on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. Students can expect to hear lectures centered around three different themes rather than one like in the past.

Offered as a two-credit-hour course and previously required for students on Honor College scholarships, the GCF series brought a variety of speakers to Cemo Hall to share their experiences with students via hour-long lectures on Friday afternoons.

The Honors College and the Division of University Advancement “welcome a diverse group of distinguished scholars, authors, activists and artists in an effort to further the University’s commitment to intellectual rigor, critical thinking and scholarly excellence,” according to the college’s website.

Before this academic year, GCF themes were more abstract and less focused on current events. In 2019-2020, the theme was “Just Keep Going.” Speakers included immigration judge Richard Walton, as well as Donald Downs, a political science professor from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. 

The new GCF Speaker Series coordinator and Honors College professor Christine LeVeaux-Haley said that this semester’s themes will be more immediately relevant to current issues that listeners can relate to. 

“We consider the new GCF a service to our students and to the entire UH and Houston community,” said LeVeaux-Haley. “So we want the time that people spend with us to be informative and worthwhile.”

For September 2020, all speakers will focus on plagues and pandemics. In October, the spotlight will be on justice and equity before shifting to mental health in November.

The first speaker for the Plagues and Pandemics theme was Dr. Ricardo Nuila of Baylor College of Medicine and Ben Taub Hospital, whose lecture was titled “To Fight the Coronavirus, You Need an Army.” Nuila has also taught classes in UH’s Medicine and Society program.

This past Tuesday, the speaker series welcomed Dr. Joshua Ellis, Honors College alum and current medical education fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency. Ellis discussed racism in medicine, or “the pandemic within a pandemic,” as he termed it.

LeVeaux-Haley emphasizes that the GCF series is open to the entire University and to the public, with Zoom links on the GCF webpage for those who can spare an hour to learn on Tuesday evenings and YouTube recordings for those who can’t.

LeVeaux-Haley said that once the University resumes normal operations, the GCFs will return to a weekly face-to-face format.

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