By Mike Foster
The annual gathering of University of Ottawa alumni is not just an opportunity to catch up with old classmates and have some fun. It is also a time to expand the mind and learn more about some of the biggest challenges facing the world today.
To this end, the 2015 Alumni Week, which runs from May 4 to May 9, features a unique line-up of thought-provoking lectures that Defy the Conventional.
Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and internationally renowned best-selling author Thomas L. Friedman will deliver a lecture entitled “The World in an Age of Terrorism: Balancing Freedom and Security” on May 8. This will be the first event launching the brand new Alex Trebek Distinguished Lecture Series.
“One of uOttawa’s many strengths is its focus on public policy and its outlook on the world. We provide well-recognized forums where expert academics and students constantly probe and debate Canada’s role in the world and how we should respond to global challenges,” says Louis de Melo, University of Ottawa Vice-President, External Relations.
“Over the past few years, we have seen Alumni Week become an opportunity for alumni to reconnect with their alma mater and for the Ottawa community to see just how much the University has grown. We also offer everyone a chance to refresh his or her mind with lectures that provide new insights or stimulate new ways of thinking. That’s why we are particularly pleased with the lineup this year, which includes a lecture by Thomas Friedman, an outstanding thinker and speaker.”
Friedman, who continues to write a twice-weekly column for the New York Times, began his career in journalism at the London Bureau of United Press International (UPI) on Fleet Street in London, England. He was dispatched to Beirut in 1979 as a correspondent and reported on the civil war and other regional stories until May 1981, when he joined the New York Times as a general assignment financial reporter. In April 1982, he was appointed Beirut Bureau Chief, weeks before Israel invaded Lebanon. His coverage over the next two years earned him the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1983.
He went on to serve as the Times’s Jerusalem Bureau Chief, where he was awarded a second Pulitzer Prize for international reporting in 1988. He then wrote his first book, From Beirut to Jerusalem, which won the 1989 National Book Award for nonfiction and was on the New York Times bestseller list for 12 months. His other books include The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (1999) and Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World after September 11. In 2002, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary for his insight on the impact of terrorism.
In The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century (2005), Friedman provides insight into the benefits and drawbacks of globalization in both the developed and developing world. The book has been translated into 37 languages and has sold over 4 million copies.
As a warm-up to the theme, Faculty of Social Sciences professor Peter Jones, an expert on Track Two Diplomacy and regional security in the Middle East, will host a panel of experts at the President’s Luncheon on May 7.
Professor Jones, who is a regular contributor to The Globe and Mail, is project director of the Ottawa Dialogue, a series of projects that aim to improve stability and communication in South Asia. He travels the world to meet with retired senior diplomats, former military chiefs and other influential people in an effort to find back-channel solutions to disagreements between rival nations, a process known as Track Two Diplomacy.
Professor Jones, who also served as a senior analyst for the Security and Intelligence Secretariat of the Privy Council of Canada, has authored many publications, including the book Open Skies: Confidence Building and Transparency at the end of the Cold War (2014), and his blog is featured on uOttawa’s Centre for International Policy Studies.
And the University will be providing more food for thought about the role the education system plays in ensuring a healthy democracy.
Faculty of Education professor Joel Westheimer, University Research Chair in Democracy and Education, will talk about how schools should move away from a “myopic interpretation” of what constitutes an education and instead nurture the kind of citizens that will enable democracy to truly thrive. His lecture on May 6, entitled What Kind of Citizen? Educating Our Children for the Common Good, sets out ground-breaking research on ways to stimulate critical thinking.
“Too many of our schools endlessly prepare students to take tests on a narrow set of subjects at the expense of teaching them how to think,” says Professor Westheimer.
A range of other events designed to refresh your mind includes the Telfer MBA Lectures: Does Corruption Destroy Freedom? and the Civil Law Section Conference on The Law and Social Media, both of which will be held on May 9. At the latter event, uOttawa Civil Law Section professors Mistrale Goudreau and Charles-Maxime Panaccio, as well as alumnus Jean-Sébastien Rochon (LL.L ʼ93), who is deputy director and senior counsel, National eDiscovery and Litigation Support Services, Litigation Branch, at Justice Canada, will delve into the uncharted legal waters of social media, where concepts of privacy and intellectual property are shifting.
Act now to register for these events to make sure you do not miss them.
The front lawn at Tabaret Hall will be the stunning location for a series of 2015 Alumni Week events, including a lecture by Thomas L. Friedman.