Humanities Symposium

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Welcome to the 2021 Virtual Humanities Symposium! 

In 2020, the Center for Public Humanities had the remarkable opportunity to join “The Commonwealth Monument project,” a coalition of citizens, organizations, educators, and legislators dedicated to establishing a new bronze monument on the Pennsylvania State Capitol that honors Harrisburg’s rich African American history and pays tribute to the U.S. Constitution’s 15th and 19th amendments, which secured the vote for African Americans and for women.  The dedication of this new monument, “A Gathering at the Crossroads” (pictured above) took place against the backdrop of a global pandemic and protests that call us to recon with our nation’s legacies of slavery.  As this season of pandemic and protests continues, we are keenly aware, that depite the enfranchisements we gained 100 years ago, “freedom” continues to be one of the most cherished, contested, and elusive ideals of the American imagination. We are pleased to offer the Messiah University community and wider public the opportunity to engage in a robust, interdisciplinary conversation on freedom.  Please join us!

You can find listing of sessions for each day below. For the entire listing of sessions click here.

All virtual events are free and open to the public. To receive zoom link and ID to join any session throughout the week, REGISTER HERE.


Opening Conversations                        

6:00⁠–6:45 p.m.   Zoom                            

“A Conversation on Freedom at the Crossroads”  

(Performance) Students from High Schools on East and West shore. Jointly sponsored by the Center for Public Humanities and Sankofa African American Theatre Co. 


7:00⁠–8:30 p.m.   Zoom

“Freedom, Liberation and Igniting Activism for God’s Justice, Love and Deliverance, a Conversation with Drew G.I. Hart”

Dr. Drew G.I. Hart, Theology professor, church anti-racism leader, social change practitioner, and author of Who Will be a Witness: Igniting Activism for God's Justice, Love, and Deliverance and Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism. 

Jarrod McKenna, Australian pastor and justice activist, nonviolent social change trainer, co-founder of First Home Project and #LoveMakesAWay movement, and co-host “Inverse Podcast”     



Faculty/Student Panel

 3:30⁠–4:30 p.m.  .  Zoom

“The Road to Freedom is Fraught with Struggle”

Dr. Robin Lauermann, politics
Jill Cuervo (peace and conflict studies), Amani Monroe (politics), Daniel Smutek (English)
Students from Dr. Lauermann's "Gender and Politics " class will draw on the film Iron Jawed Angels as they discuss three distinct elements of the women's suffrage movement: the threat perceived by some members of society in granting the right to vote to women, the impact of the suffrage movement advancing white women's rights rather than those of all, and the relevance of political protests from the movement to the contemporary Black Lives Matter movement.


Faculty Lectures 

4:40⁠–5:10 p.m.   .   Zoom         

“Kant's Notion of Freedom” 

Dr. Timothy Schoettle, philosophy

This lecture will focus on Kant's notion of autonomy (i.e., freedom).                                                                                                                   

5:20⁠–5:50 p.m.  .  Zoom             

"What Does it Mean to be Free? Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, and John Milton in Conversation" 

Dr. Samuel Smith, English 

This lecture will identify the evolving meaning of the word/concept of "freedom" in the English language from Chaucer to Milton 


Guest Panel

7:00⁠–8:30 p.m.  .  Zoom 

“Finding Liberation in Misha Green’s Lovecraft Country: An Interdisciplinary Conversation” 

Rev. Shayna Watson, Associate Rector, St. James Episcopal Church, Lancaster, PA. Creator and founder of TheoCon

Rev. Canon Betsy Ivey, Canon for Support and Growth, Diocese of PA

Christina Thomas, (history alum ’14) ABD History, Johns Hopkins University. Lead Editor, Taller Electric Marronage

Alexis Jackson, (English alum ’13) MFA Columbia. Author of My Sister' s Country (Kore Press, forthcoming)

This panel will provide a historical, theological, and literary perspective on Misha Green’s miniseries, Lovecraft Country.

Faculty/Student Panels

3:30⁠–4:30 p.m.  .  Zoom

Literacy as Freedom”

Dr. Kerry Hasler-Brooks, faculty sponsor, English

Students from Dr. Kerry Hasler-Brooks' course, "Read Dangerously," will give short presentations from their major research projects on literacy as a tool for Black freedom in the United States. This panel will explore literacy in its fullest form as reading, writing, publishing, interpretation, critique, storytelling, artistry, and activism.

4:40–5:40 p.m.  .  Zoom

"A Conversation on the Perils and Possibilities of Writing for Social Change in a Polarized World"

Dr. Jean Corey, faculty sponsor, English

Olivia Bardo, (English), Marianne Fitzkee (Spanish and peace and conflict studies), Victoria Berrios (peace and conflict studies), Nate Castellito (English), Ned Kuczmynda (English), 

Drawing on Marshall Ganz's scholarship on "Public Narrative," students from Dr. Jean Corey's "Writing for Social Change" class will discuss the unique challenges and opportunities they encountered as they designed and developed campaigns for social justice (immigration policy, creation care, over incarceration, and gender concerns within the evangelical church) during this season of protest and pandemic.                         

Faculty/Student/Alumni Panels

6:15⁠–6:45 p.m.  Zoom   

What Freedom Means to Us”

Dr. Charlene Lane, sponsor, social work
Fall ’20 Students from the Center for Public Humanities’ Hoverter Course in the Humanities
7:00⁠–8:30 p.m.  .  Zoom          

“A Conversation on Education as Freedom Work”

Dr. Jennifer Fisler, Assistant Dean of Teacher Education and Director of  Graduate Program in Education

Cory Hulsizer, ‘15, Lauren Popeck, ’12, Ruthy Lopez-Cortes, ‘13, Cora Tayler, ‘15

Dr. Monique Morris, founder and leader of the National Black Women's Justice Institute, says that education is freedomwork. Responding to Morris's ideas, this panel of faculty, alumni, and students from Messiah University's undergraduate and graduate programs in education will discuss how their work as educators serves the cause of freedom for their students and/or themselves

Coffee and Conversation

9:30⁠–10:30 a.m.  .   Zoom

Coffee and Conversation on Digital/Public Humanities and Community Engagement with Dr. Jacqueline Jones Royster

Take a coffee break and come enjoy conversation with Dr. Royster about lessons learned though her vision and leadership establishing Georgia Tech’s Digital Integrative Liberal Arts Center, and more recently,  Communities Who Know, Inc., a non-profit focused on generating collaborative solutions for sustainable communities, as well as her decades of community engagement.


Faculty/student panel                                  

4:30⁠–5:30 p.m.   .   Zoom        

Freedom of Expression: Media, Censorship, and Human Rights in Malaysia”

Dr. Jason Renn, advisor, politics, “The Right to a Free Press and Protests in International Law”

Anastasia Couch, politics, “Elections, Press, and Human Rights in Malaysia”

Allela Gebremedhin, economics, “The Role of NGOs in Mobilizing for Human Rights” 



7:00⁠–8:30 p.m.  .   Zoom    

“Troubling the Narratives of a Democratic Nation:  Whose Stories Are These?"

Dr. Jacqueline Jones Royster, Professor Emerita at Georgia Institute of Technology and at The Ohio State University, former Dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and Ivan Allen Jr. Dean’s Chair in Liberal Arts and Technology (2010-2019).

This presentation focuses on African American women as rightful participants in the narratives of nation in the United States of America.  Suggesting a critical need for a paradigmatic shift in our analytical and interpretive frameworks for socio-political impact and consequence, attention is drawn to nineteenth century activist Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, an under sung American hero from Boston, Massachusetts.

* Approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for Act 48 Professional Development Credit

Student Panels

Please join students and their faculty sponsors for a discussion of their virtual presentations which will be available on symposium website throughout the week. 

3:00⁠–4:15 p.m.   Zoom  Stephanie Stolz (French), “Blasphemy and Freedom of Speech in France”                                                                                                                                                                        
Amy DePretis (psychology), “Forgiveness and Freedom: A Two-Way Street”

Abigail Ching Ern Poh (communications), “Cognitive Dissonance & Climate Action” 

Anastasia Couch (politics), “Foreign Freedom, Domestic War” 

4:15⁠–5:45 p.m.   .   Zoom

Chloe Kaufman (history) and Katie Heiser (history), “The Daughters of the Confederacy and Lost Cause Narratives: How Their Influence Still Permeates the 21st Century Struggle for Freedom” 

Lydia Pebly (English w/ Teaching Certification), "Critical Literacy, Community, and Freedom in the Narratives of Frederick Douglass and Anthony Ray Hinton"

Haley Keener (English w/ Teaching Certification), “Flawed Freedom: Conceptions of Race and Freedom in Uncle Tom's Cabin” 

Autumn Kritzer, (history) “Social Media and Freedom” 

Pedagogy Workshop 

 9:00 a.m.12:00 p.m.   Zoom 

"#Digital Humanities: Teaching and Engaging with A Black Past in the Digital Age.

Workshop led by Christina Thomas, (history alum ’14) ABD History, Johns Hopkins University. Lead Editor, Taller Electric Marronage 

This hands-on workshop will enrich participants’ digital toolkit as they explore Black history and literature in their classrooms. Participants will engage with the many rich digital collections available to students, as well as consider the many open access digital platforms students can utilize to recreate and showcase Black history.     


*Approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education for Act 48 Professional Development Credit

Jacqueline Jones Royster, 2021 Keynote Speaker

Keynote Lecture:

Troubling the Narratives of a Democratic Nation:  "Whose Stories Are These?"

Jacqueline Jones Royster

Date: Thursday, March 4th, 2021
Time: 7:00 p.m.–8:30 p.m.  
This virtual lecture is free an open to the public. Register here.

Jacqueline Jones Royster is author, co-author and editor of several books and numerous articles, including Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Traces of a Stream: Literacy and Social Change among African American Women.  Professor Emerita at Georgia Institute of Technology and at The Ohio State University, she most recently served as Dean of the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and Ivan Allen Jr. Dean’s Chair in Liberal Arts and Technology (2010-2019).

A leading scholar of rhetoric, literacy, and women’s studies, Dr. Royster has received several prestigious awards, among them:  The Mina P. Shaughnessy Prize and the Frances Andrew March Award from the Modern Language Association; the Braddock Award and the Exemplar Award from the Conference on College Composition and Communication; the Winifred Bryan Horner Award from the Coalition of Women Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition.

She remains an active scholar, and has recently completed African American Women at War and at Work: Legacies for Transformative Socio-Political Action and Leadership and is working on a second book that presents a model of campus-community engagement that draws on her decades of community engagement and the process of her establishing a non-profit organization, Communities Who know, Inc. (CWK).  As the chief executive officer of CWK, she manages research and education projects centered on developing collaborative solutions to address community-centered challenges and opportunities.

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