Announcing the 2017-2018 UNIFI President

As the ground begins to thaw and flowers start to bloom, it becomes time for spring but also time to hand off UNIFI into the hands of a new officer team. The official transition will take place on April 15 but before that can happen, I would like to introduce you all to the next UNIFI President for the 2017-2018 year: Ren Khonke.

While Ren is not the most active member in UNIFI and has not held an officer position, this was a very easy decision to make. She actively sought me out for this position and that alone says much about her personality and who she is as a whole. For those of you who do not know Ren very well, let me tell you a little bit about her: she is a very intelligent and driven individual and the passion that she has for science is incredibly inspiring to watch. She is incredibly compassionate, caring, and understanding- all of the traits of a great leader. When she sets her mind to something, she accomplishes it.

And this is exactly why I am excited to see what she accomplishes in her role as president.

Ren has volunteered innumerable hours of her time involved as a student leader within Green Project, a student organization committed to promoting sustainability and community involvement through local gardens. She is also a biology major and her desire to infuse UNIFI with more of a scientific viewpoint is incredibly inspiring. I am excited for the new perspective that she will bring to the table as a hard science major, and it is incredibly refreshing to see somebody so passionate about Darwin Week. She has already blown me away with the amount of dedication and tenacity she has shown towards being the best President that she can be, actively starting conversations with myself and other members of UNIFI to understand what she can do to help others. She inspires hope within myself and other members for the future of UNIFI.

She is an amazing human being and I am excited to watch her take the passion that she has for science, skepticism, and free-thought and transform UNIFI into the best that it can be. Thank you Ren, and I wish you the best; I believe in you and you have my full support. I know that everyone else believes in you too, and we are excited to see what you do with UNIFI this year.

MEET THE THURSDAY SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017

You’ve seen the schedule; now learn more about our daily speakers! Each day of Darwin Week 2017, there will be special presentations by people from the UNI community. All speeches will occur in the University Room, which is located on the bottom floor of Maucker Union.

12:30

Our 12:30 Thursday Speaker is Dr. Reza Lahroodi, an associate professor of philosophy here at the University of Northern Iowa. Dr. Lahroodi did his undergrad and master’s at Tehran University in Iran and began to study philosophy as a result of the Iranian Revolution and the explosion of freedom of speech it brought. He now teaches classes on epistemology, medieval philosophy, virtue theory, and philosophical psychology. He is currently working on a paper on the virtue of open-mindedness and its normative and psychological aspects.

Dr. Lahroodi’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “Are We Responsible for What We Believe?

2:00

Our 2:00 Thursday speaker is Dr. Evan Renfro. Dr. Renfro is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa. He received his masters from the University of Texas and his Doctorate in Political Science from the University of Nebraska. His research interests include international security, Middle Eastern affairs, counterintelligence, guerilla warfare, and critical realism. He teaches classes on international relations, international security and the Middle East.

Dr. Renfro’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “The Paradox of Skepticism: Fake News and the Politics of Credulity

3:30

Our 3:30 Thursday speaker is Dr. Edgar Boedeker, an associate professor of philosophy in the Department of Philosophy and World Religions. He is currently working on a new translation of Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time, which is regarded as one of the most important philosophical works in European philosophy of the 20th century. He is also working on a book entitled Wittgenstein’s Basic Demant, and has several other published works on phenomenology and Heidegger. He teaches classes on the philosophy of language, German philosophy, logic, and humanities.

Dr. Boedeker’s Darwin Week 2017 Presentation is entitled “Is God “Dead”? Friedrich Nietzsche on Nihilism”.

7:00

Our keynote speaker that evening is NASA aerospace engineer Kathryn CroweKathryn Crowe works as a propulsion systems engineer at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She received NASA’s Space Flight Awareness Trailblazer Award for her innovative thinking in support of human spaceflight. She works on evaluating design options and deciding on solutions to make the second configuration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) as flexible and adaptable as possible. The work Kathryn does will help make the rocket more powerful and open up new mission possibilities, opening the door to the first crewed mission to venture into lunar orbit since Apollo.

Her talk is entitled “Skepticism, Objectivity, and the Journey to Mars”.

 

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page.

MEET THE WEDNESDAY SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017

You’ve seen the schedule; now learn more about our daily speakers! Each day of Darwin Week 2017, there will be special presentations by people from the UNI community. All speeches will occur in the University Room, which is located on the bottom floor of Maucker Union.

2:00

Our 2:00 Wednesday Speaker is Dr. Jeremy Schraffenberger. J.D. Schraffenberger is the associate editor of the North American Review and an associate professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa. He is the author of the book of poems Saint Joe’s Passion, and his other work has appeared in Best Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Mid-American Review, Natural Bridge, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere.

Dr. Schraffenberger’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “The Necessary Poetics of Atheism

4:00

Our 4:00 Wednesday speaker is Dr. Scott Peters, an associate professor of political science here at the University of Northern Iowa and a prelaw advisor to the Daniel Webster Law Society. He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1998 and is interested in the effectiveness of various ethical restrictions that states place on judicial candidates. He teaches classes on constitutional law, analyzing politics, and civil rights and liberties.

Dr. Peters’ Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “Alternative Facts Are Stubborn Things

7:30

 

Our keynote speaker that evening is author and professor of religious studies Dr. Hector Avalos! He is the author or editor of ten books, including The End of Biblical Studies and The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics.

 

Dr. Avalos’ Darwin Week 2017 Presentation is entitled “Can Science Prove Prayer Works?” Check here for more info!

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page.

MEET THE TUESDAY SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017

You’ve seen the schedule; now learn more about our daily speakers! Each day of Darwin Week 2017, there will be special presentations by people from the UNI community. All speeches will occur in the University Room, which is located on the bottom floor of Maucker Union.

12:30

Our 12:30 Tuesday speaker is Dr. Jim Demastes, a professor from the department of biology.  Originally from Georgia, Dr. Demastes received his bachelor degree from Auburn University in science education in 1982.  After teaching middle and high school science for 4 years he attended Louisiana State University where he received his M.S and PhD degrees studying evolutionary biology.  After 2 years in a post-doc position, he and his wife, Dr. Theresa Spradling came to UNI in 1998 where they both teach and are currently collaborating on their federally funded research and the raising of two boys.

Dr. Demastes’ Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “Uncommon Sense and Testing the Obvious: Lessons from Biology.

2:00

Our 2:00 Tuesday speaker is Dr. Carolyn Hildebrandt, a Professor of Psychology. She did her Ph.D. and Postdoctoral Fellowship at University of California, Berkeley.  Her areas of expertise are social and cognitive development, musical development, and constructivist approaches to teaching and learning.

Dr. Hildebrandt’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “Superstition: Abnormal, Irrational, Pathological, or Adaptive?

3:30

Our 3:30 Tuesday speaker is Dr. John Burnight from the Philosophy and World Religions Department. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and World Religions. His research focuses on the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), with a particular interest in the Book of Job. His regular course offerings at UNI include Religions of the World, Old Testament, New Testament, and Judaism and Islam.

Dr. Burnight’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation’s topic is entitled “Biblical Skepticism: The Book of Job as Subversive Literature“.

7:00

Our keynote speaker that night at 7 p.m. is writer, editor, activist, and translator Hiba Krisht! She is a volunteer activist with The Ex-Muslims of North America, and has spoken about Islam, the Middle East, and women’s rights at secular humanist conferences all over the country w6aed7f. Her talk is entitled “Veils, Virginity, and (In)Visibility: On Being a Woman in Hezbollah Culture”.

Check here for more info!

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page.

MEET THE MONDAY SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017

You’ve seen the schedule; now learn more about our daily speakers! Each day of Darwin Week 2017, there will be special presentations by people from the UNI community. All speeches will occur in the University Room, which is located on the bottom floor of Maucker Union.

 

2:00

Our 2:00 Monday speaker is Dr. Tyler O’Brien, a Professor of Anthropology here at the University of Northern Iowa. He teaches several courses on the subject of physical anthropology, including human origins, forensic anthropology, and human biological variation. His research interests include Human Osteology, Forensic Anthropology, Cranial Modification, and Bioarchaeology.

Dr. O’Brien’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “Bones, Beetles and Birds: Darwin’s Contributions to Physical Anthropology.

 

3:00

Our 3:00 Monday speaker is Dr. Helen Harton, a Professor of Psychology as well as the graduate coordinator in psychology and the associate director of the center for academic ethics. She does research on academic ethics as well as on social influence, prejudice, and relationships. She is excited about the changes that scientists are beginning to make in response to the replication crisis she will address today and looks forward to the beneficial effects that increased methodological and statistical rigor will have on psychology, medicine, and other sciences.

Dr. Harton’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation is entitled “The Reproducibility Crisis in Science.”

 

4:00

Our 4:00 Monday speaker is Dr. Justin Holmes from the Political Science department. He is currently a professor of political science here at the University of Northern Iowa and teaches several courses related to political psychology, voter behavior, and public opinion. His research interests include presidential rhetoric, political communication, and American politics.

 

Dr. Holmes’s Darwin Week 2017 presentation’s topic is TBA.

7:00

Our keynote speaker that night at 7 p.m. is author and activist Kavin Senapathy! She’s the co-founder and director of international pro-science, pro-biotech movement March Against Myths, and co-author of “The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari’s Glass House”.

Her talk is entitled “Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt in Your Grocery Cart”.
Check here for more info!

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page.

MEET THE SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017: HIBA KRISHT

This year’s Darwin Week will be held February 13th-16th of 2017. We are so excited to host our fantastic speakers and enjoy their company and knowledge with the UNI community!

 

Today our keynote spotlight will feature Hiba Krisht who comes to us from Columbus, Ohio. She will be holding a lecture entitled “Veils, Virginity, and (In)visibility: On Being a Woman in Hezbollah Culture.” She will share her first person account of the realities of being an ex-Muslim woman from Hezbollah Lebanon. Come see her at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, February 14, 2017 in the University Room in the basement of Maucker Union.

 

Hiba Krisht is a writer, editor and translator who comes from Beirut, Lebanon. She has written for The Kenyon Review, Blackbird, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Mizza, and other journals. She has received many awards for her writing such as the 2016 Rebecca Mitchell Tarumoto Short Fiction Prize from Virginia Commonwealth University, the 2013 JoAnn Athanas Memorial Award in literature from the National Society of Arts and Letters, and the 2012 Jane Foulkes Malone Fellowship from Indiana University. She has worked from many years as a volunteer activist with The Ex-Muslims of North America. She is a seasoned speaker who speaks about Islam, the Middle East and women’s rights.

 

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page!

MEET THE SPEAKERS OF DARWIN WEEK 2017: DR. HECTOR AVALOS

We are so excited to have our 10th Darwin Week this year, which will be happening from February 13-16th, 2017.

Today’s keynote spotlight will be on Dr. Hector Avalos, a philosophy professor from Iowa State University. He will be giving a lecture titled “Can Science Prove that Prayer Works?” This lecture will tackle the assumed separation between science and religion as well as experiments in the past that looked to prove that. He will be speaking February 15th at 7:30 PM

Dr. Hector Avalos is Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University, where he was named Professor of the Year in 1996, and a Master Teacher in 2003-04. A former fundamentalist preacher and faith healer, Dr. Avalos is now one of the few openly atheist biblical scholars in academia. Born in Mexico, Avalos received a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Arizona in 1982, and a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School in 1985. In 1991, he became the first Mexican American to earn a PhD in Hebrew Bible and Near Eastern Studies at Harvard. He is the author or editor of ten books, including The End of Biblical Studies (2007). His most recent book is The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics (2015).

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page.

Get Excited for Darwin Week 2017!

If you’ve been following us on Facebook, you’re probably already aware that Darwin Week 2017 is in a few short weeks on February 13-16. We are incredibly excited as it is our 10th annual Darwin Week!

If you haven’t already, please “like” the Darwin Week Facebook page (and the UNI Freethinkers and Inquirers page, while you’re at it!) Also, click “attending” on the event to get quick Facebook access to the schedule as well as ask questions or add comments.

You can also join the ranks of the several dedicated UNIFI members who have changed their profile pictures and cover images to the ones on this page. 

Last but not least, darwinweek.com is up and running! Thanks to the gorgeous web design of former UNIFI Presidents Michael Dippold and Aaron Friel, and our wonderful graphic designer Cassie Beadle, you have a clear list of all the talks and sponsors in one place (and it’s mobile!)

Stay tuned to Facebook and unifreethought.com for more updates on Darwin Week 2017 speakers, sponsors, and important announcements. We sincerely appreciate all the support we continuously receive for putting on an event that allows so many students to be exposed to skepticism, scientific thought, and critical inquiry.

Announcing UNIFI’s 2016-2017 Vice President

I would like to start this post off by thanking Aaron Friel for appointing me as the next president of UNIFI. I have learned so much by working with him and he has left behind a clear definition of what a good leader truly is. I am looking forward to contributing my vision to UNIFI this year, and I cannot wait to see all that UNIFI becomes with our officer team.

That said, I would like to announce the Vice President for UNIFI’s 2015-2016 term: Oliverio Covarrubius. I went to high school with Oliverio and have had the privilege to watch him grow and mature through his time at UNI. Time and time again, Oliverio has impressed me with his intelligence and skeptical criticism of other people’s (often worrisome) ideas, even if we won’t always show to others how smart he truly is. I admire his quick wit, his determination, and his passion. He is incredibly dedicated to things that matter to him, and for which I respect him greatly for.

As Director of Finance last year, Oliverio surprised me time and time again with his dedication, professionalism and the way he handled his responsibilities. He contributed fresh ideas to the team and went above and beyond for what it means to be a director. One moment that strongly sticks out to me why Oliverio will be a great Vice President is his ability to combine his perspective on diversity with the vision of UNIFI. This is something he promised to bring to the officer team during interviews last year, and a promise he came true on. Back in the fall when the Ethnic Student Promoters and Black Student Union lead a boycott of the Panther Open House, Oliverio was the first person to suggest that UNIFI take a stance of solidarity and emphasize the importance of an inclusive environment for all students, and in particular multicultural students.

These are all things that he accomplished so far in the role of a director, and I look forward to seeing what he can accomplish as Vice President. I am so impressed already with all that he has done, both for UNIFI and the university itself. I know Oliverio is somebody that holds the utmost respect and dedication for UNIFI, which combined for his passion for freethought makes it a really easy decision for me to make. So congratulations Oliverio, looking forward to a great year working alongside you.

Keep an eye out for officer applications, which will be posted within the next two weeks.