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Lincoln University, Missouri River Regional Library lecture series begins to grow

by Joe Gamm | April 4, 2021 at 5:05 a.m. | Updated April 4, 2021 at 5:05 a.m.
Liv Paggiarino/News TribuneLU anthropology professor Christine Boston and Madeline Matson, Missouri River Regional Library Reference and Adult Programming Librarian, sit down on Friday to discuss their collaboration to create the LU-MRRL Lecture Series.

The fledgling Lincoln-MRRL Lecture Series suffered a blow when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but it went online — and actually grew its audience.

Missouri River Regional Library has offered programs using Lincoln faculty over the years, but the collaborations have been sparse and sporadic, said Madeline Matson, the library’s adult programming librarian. Then, Christine Boston approached her.

And Boston, Lincoln University assistant professor of anthropology and sociology, had been running two other lecture series — one in Jefferson City and one in Columbia. In each, Lincoln faculty offered free public talks on anything they felt comfortable discussing. But both of those series folded because their venues closed in early 2019.

The series in Columbia had never really picked up steam, Boston said, but there was a following for the series in Jefferson City.

“We had a lot of speaker interest,” she said. “I had speakers booked up until the end of the year.”

The series was an answer, looking for a question. All it needed was a place to be (and maybe some help with marketing), so Boston contacted Matson.

The collaboration was a natural fit.

“Our audience was different,” Matson said. “It’s more of a general audience — in addition to faculty and students who attend.”

The partnership has created some interesting programming over the past year, MRRL marketing manager Natalie Newville said, with various professors offering their areas of expertise to the community.

“So, it’s like a super interesting college class without the homework,” Newville told the News Tribune in an email.

The program has inspired other area libraries to reach out to local colleges, to see if they can connect on similar programs, she said.

And in the midst of 2019, the monthly programs began at the library.

The first lecture featured Katrina Everhart, who discussed eight women pirates who sailed the seas from the 16th to 18th centuries.

And the series set sail.

Discussions ranged from “Naval Warfare during World War I,” by Bruce Scovill, associate professor of history, to “I’m Your Person: TV Narrates Female Friendships in the Workplace.”

During that first three-quarters of a year, Boston offered “Cursed: Archaeology and Mummy Curses.” And others discussed race, fat burning and other topics.

Faculty were signed up months in advance to provide the monthly talks when the pandemic broke out.

Lincoln faculty prepared for the prospect of holding online classes.

“We went through a very rigorous one-week boot camp, so to speak,” Boston said. “All of a sudden, we had to start offering classes online.”

Through a “pretty seamless transition,” faculty became familiar with Zoom, YouTube and various video programs, she said, so talks would no longer have to be in person.

“I think we’ve gotten a slightly larger audience with Zoom and YouTube,” she said. “I’ve been able to advertise to friends throughout the country.”

They, in turn, had let other friends know about the series.

And speakers wanted to continue.

Audiences were able to tune in from home to discussions that included “Fake News and You,” “Foamy and Delicious: Physics and Biochemistry of Beer,” “Politics of the Coronavirus,” “Get to Know Your Chickens,” “What Makes Good Poetry,” and “The Body as Evidence: Exploring Forensic Anthropology & Bioarchaeology.”

As the presidential election neared, Mick Brewer offered “Brotherhoods of Conservative White Men in Contemporary America.”

During the weeks immediately following the election, Darius Watson provided “The 2020 Presidential Election: A postmortem.”

And other topics continued — including the mechanization of Vietnamese rice farming, adoption basics, cholesterol concerns and most recently a discussion on what can or can’t be done with lasers.

Vianney Gimenez-Pinto, an assistant professor of physics and chemistry offered the discussion about the biochemistry of beer. Hers was the first discussion offered on Zoom.

“Obviously, a lot of people were interested just because you’re talking about beer,” Boston said. “It was at the beginning of the pandemic, with everyone quarantining, and all of a sudden, ‘quarantinis’ — the drink of the pandemic — became very popular.”

So, people wanted to know a little bit more about beer and brewing.

“We have a lot of fresh, new faculty who are very interested in public engagement and working out in the community. That’s been a little bit stymied because of the pandemic,” Boston said. “(The series) provides them that opportunity to do that.”

One former faculty member from a previous lecture series did a talk on workplace bullying. Several community outreach groups invited her to present the talk to their organizations, Boston said.

“The series offers a variety of speakers. We really do have a diversity of audiences,” Matson said. “Everyone comes to the library. That’s a plus for this series.”

The next speaker, on April 29, is to be Kurt Debord, professor of social and behavioral sciences at Lincoln, who will talk about what societal and academic influences shaped psychology nationally and at Lincoln University. He’ll discuss contributions from Theodore Bryant, a Black clinical psychologist who spent 33 years working at Lincoln. The discussion is to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the former Lincoln Institute moving to its present campus.

In June, James Smith, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at Lincoln (and a mental health counselor, educator and researcher), will return with “Marijuana: Just the Facts.” He’ll discuss the physical, emotional, behavioral and cognitive effects of marijuana in the body, based on neuroscience. His audience will critically examine claims used to support or oppose marijuana use.

This past December, Smith discussed “Understanding Addiction.”

Marijuana addiction was among the areas he covered.

People were shocked to hear marijuana is addicting, Boston said, especially since the state recently legalized using marijuana for medical purposes. They had a lot of questions.

“So many people are excited about (medical marijuana) but not realizing the risks as well,” Boston said.

Following that, in July, Boston is likely to offer “A-Maize-ing Origins: The Archaeology of Corn.”

And the tentative topic for September is “Children’s Literature.”

Information about the series is available on its Facebook page.

Links to video recordings of the previous speakers may be found on the MRRL YouTube channel. That’s where you might hear Tim Quinn, a Lincoln University professor of chemistry, talk about lasers. He said during the discussion he actually used lasers to study chemistry.

Quinn begins his discussion by explaining concepts of light and the kinds of work light may do.

Light, he explains, doesn’t have any mass but carries energy. If someone can put a lot of light together, they can make it do work.

He also explains the difference between lasers and light, and the history of lasers. Did you know Albert Einstein first theorized how lasers might occur?

Charles Hard Townes developed the first weak laser in 1954. And in the early ’60s, visible light lasers were developed and the first use of a laser to remove a tumor occurred.

And lasers in Star Wars or Star Trek? Well, you’ll have to watch the discussion.

Future events are to be hosted live at MRRL but will also be offered on Zoom.

“We encourage people to subscribe to MRRL’s YouTube channel because once the minimum number of subscribers as required by YouTube is reached, the library can start hosting live YouTube videos through that channel,” Boston said, “including — potentially — future LU-MRRL Lecture Series talks.”

To learn more about upcoming talks, watch the MRRL website or the Facebook page for the series.

Contact Matson at [email protected] or by phone at 573-634-6064, ext. 250.

Or contact Boston at [email protected] or by phone at 573-681-6193.

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