Campus Claire Wittlieff Jordan Fox

Scot speaker series: navigating change together




The Scot Speaker Series features a string of panels that aim to tackle one broad issue in the current day that will have an impact on society both now and well into the future. This year’s theme is “Navigating Change Together.” 

The three topics for the panels are “Art, Design, and Change” on Sept. 19, “How Will AI Change Our World?” on Oct. 17 and “How Military Service Changes Your Perspective” on Nov. 8. The last event will take place at 7 p.m. in the Wright-Leppien Opera House. 

Each panel features a unique selection of faculty, students and guest speakers chosen for their knowledge and diverse perspectives on the specific types of change we face in society today. 

The series committee in charge of curating the panels was headed by Benjamin Peterson, Lecturer of History and Political Science and co-director of the 3CE; Stephany Slaughter, Professor of World Languages and Culture; Bradford Westgate, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science; and Tim Rath, Director of College Communications, were the primary organizers. 

“This year the Scot Speaker Series committee was very interested in the concept of change. I think it is easy to ignore that we live in a time of nearly unprecedented change, and we wanted to explore that. …Each of the first three topics engages with change in a different way, and I think you will see how all of the events connect when we finish the series next year,” said Peterson. 

“One issue that I think we all feel is that there are few spaces available for discussions as a community. So much in our society drives us apart or keeps us from really engaging with each other on important issues. The Scot Speaker Series provides a venue to do just that,” said Peterson.

“Community is that fuzzy connective tissue of fellow feeling that makes us something more than we are individually. It is what keeps us from descending into the chaotic destructiveness of pure selfishness and gives us the ability to accomplish great things,” said Peterson. 

The goal of the Scot Speaker Series is to connect students and community members from various backgrounds and encourage them to challenge their worldviews. The changes society will see in the future, both near and far, are going to have a profound impact and it is how we navigate these changes that will determine the outcome. 

One such change is the increasing presence of artificial intelligence in everyday life. Westgate was the primary organizer of the “How Will AI Change Our World?” and is interested in the effects AI will have on both the economy and education. 

“Jobs may not exist in however many years so for any disruption like that it takes time to adjust. I am a little concerned that maybe jobs won’t go somewhere else this time because there will be so many things that can be done by AI. I’m not sure it’s obvious that humans will be needed in a different role like they typically are,” said Westgate. 

“I think we will all be surprised at how much AI is going to affect and already is affecting. Obviously from the [professor’s] angle, we’re thinking about cheating… which is an important issue. [However, there] are also positive spins, like how can AI be useful in learning as a tutor or in other ways… I hope we can think about it from that perspective too,” said Westgate. 

“[Change is] going to come and it’s going to come sooner than later, and we need to use it rather than just try to stop it somehow because it’s not going to happen,” said Westgate.

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