Past Shasha Seminars

The Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns is an educational forum for Wesleyan alumni, parents, and friends that provides an opportunity to explore issues of global concern in a small seminar environment. Endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues.

2014: The Novel

[Amy Bloom]“The Novel is not only the form of fiction I love and know best, but also a form that is still enormously popular and evolving with readers, whether they are e-readers, fans of the turning page or creators and readers of novels that emerge Tweet by Tweet. This will be a star-studded feast for readers and writers, a combination of pleasure, intellectual stimulation, with provocative questions, sublime readings and some unexpected answers.” —Amy Bloom

2012 (Fall): Music and Public Life

[Santigold]The eleventh annual Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns addressed the theme of “Music and Public Life,” which is year-long University initiative focusing on the role of music as a collective voice that enlivens communities, in good and hard times. The Shasha Seminar brought together experts from Wesleyan and Middletown, as well as the broader arenas of American and global music today, to explore the issues of music and society.

2012 (Spring): The Political Economy of Oil

[oil refinery]The tenth annual Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns on “The Political Economy of Oil,” was held on campus April 19–20, 2012 and addressed the political economy of oil.

2011: Histories of Race

[faces] Alumni, parents, students and friends attended this powerful and thought provoking educational forum lead by eight experts in the field. This year for the first time, Wesleyan offered a semester-long undergraduate course as a complement to the Shasha Seminar. The eleven students from the class joined seminar participants for discussion during this 3-day weekend.

2009: Defining American Culture: How Movies and TV Get Made

[The Graduate] The seventh annual Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns provided Wesleyan alumni, parents, and friends with an opportunity to explore issues of global concern in a small seminar environment. The seminar addressed the theme of “Defining American Culture: How Movies and TV Get Made” with experts in the fields of film and television.

2008: Food: Power and Identity

[apples] Few topics call forth more interest, concern, passion, joy, and outrage than the food we eat. Food may make us healthy or unhealthy. Food is an inspiration for artists, a delight for the connoisseur, a weapon in war-torn areas, and an immense worldwide business. The critical need for a safe food supply has spawned controversial science and political furor. Above all, food reflects our deepest cultural and personal identity.

2006: Triumph of the Sports Culture

[football players] From stadiums to television contracts to branded sneakers, sports account for countless billions of dollars in economic activity. Parents spend their free time nurturing children’s athletic progress, while top athletes command celebrity attention and staggering salaries. The keynote address was delivered by Frank Deford, contributing senior writer at Sports Illustrated, a commentator for National Public Radio, and a regular correspondent for Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

2005: Accessing Creativity

[illustration] From the earliest cave paintings to the Hubble Space Telescope, people have sought to express their innermost thoughts and transform their environments in ways that enlarge our understanding of ourselves and the universe. Individual creativity is the driving engine of our economy and our culture, but exactly what is it and how do we summon it? We are privileged to have as our keynote speaker Howard Gardner P ’91, P ’98, Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard University.

2004: Saving Our Planet

[seed pod] Policy makers have enormous responsibility to make sound judgments based on solid scientific and cultural information. Yet scientific results from environmental studies are rarely definitive. How then should policy makers proceed in the face of built-in error as well as ambiguity of significance? The Shasha Seminar will examine the role that uncertainty plays in reaching environmental policy and management decisions.

2003: Ethical Choices in an Interconnected World

[Peter Singer] In an increasingly interconnected world, challenges such as managing the environment, maintaining economic stability, protecting human health, and defending social justice must be tackled at a global level. How can our ethical thinking and political action keep pace with these challenges when different societies and cultural/religious traditions often disagree about what, if any, ethical principles are truly universal?

2002: Cultural Roots of Global Conflict

[globe] This seminar will explore the deep causes of conflicts around the world and assess U.S. perceptions of and reactions to these situations. We will go beyond the debate over the “war on terrorism,” looking at the range of conflicts around the world that are an enduring source of violence and suffering, questioning our assumptions, and reflecting on what should be done.