Turtlelog No. 7, www.TheGreatStory.org

On College Campuses

Michael at Public Speaking class at Wenatchee Valley College (WA).

Commentary by Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd

"Could you come by tomorrow and speak to my class?" Several times during our adventures this year, a college professor has approached us after a Sunday sermon at his or her church, asking us this question. "Sure!" is our usual response. Doing cold calls over the Internet in an attempt to line up speaking engagements for college students takes a lot of our time, and sometimes frustratingly ends in no invitation. So it is a treat when the invitations come spontaneously.

That's exactly what happened for 4 of the 18 colleges and universities in which we spoke during our second year of travels, including a Public Speaking class at Wenatchee Valley College (above) and videotaping modules for 400 students in an Introduction to Psychology class at University of Central Florida, Orlando.

Chip Balling in Wenatchee told Michael, "Speak on anything you want; I just want the students to experience your speaking style." For this rural, conservative region, Michael chose to speak on how science and religion need not conflict. A number of students were not only awed by Michael's presentation style but lingered afterwards to talk more about how science might mesh with their own religious views.

A half year later, down in Florida, Professor Jay Ellison told us that for his Introduction to Psychology class, he wants students to think about who they are in the context of the whole universe. The very next day, we spent several hours in front of a video camera at the Teaching Lab, recording a number of 10-minute modules that he could use as a talking point throughout the term for his class of 400 students (photographs below).

These opportunities to bring our message of realistic hope and empowerment to young people are immensely satisfying. The difference we know we can make for impressionable young minds is what compels us to offer our services in these sorts of circumstances entirely for free. For more time-consuming college efforts, scheduled in advance, we are very grateful for any honoraria that may be arranged. In particular, we thank Pat Siemen of the Environmental Ethics Institute of Miami-Dade Community College for not only organizing a speaking event for us at all four of its campuses, but also ensuring that anywhere from three to six teachers would bring their students to each of these special assemblies. Students outside of research universities are not regularly exposed to guest lecturers, so teachers in small colleges look for opportunities to expose students to people making a difference in the wider world, and to new ideas. Regularly scheduled classes of students that came to these assemblies included biology, education, math, social science, English comp., and ESL.

In eastern Canada, two professors who have long included the Universe Story in their work organized events not only at their own colleges but also arranged for us to speak in other colleges too. We thank Patricia Gordon in Montreal and John Coates in Fredericton for the tremendous effort they put into making these multiple events happen.

All together, our work in colleges and universities during our second year of travels reached 1550 students and perhaps 40 of their teachers. Following is a list of the 18 institution of higher education where we were privileged to speak, in chronological order:

  • Portland State University, OR, cosmology
  • Wenatchee Valley College, WA, public speaking
  • Lourdes College, OH, campus-wide event
  • Whittenberg University, OH, chapel service
  • Capital University, OH, chapel service & campus-wide
  • SUNY Buffalo, NY, political science
  • Thomas More Institute, Montreal, social science
  • Concordia University, Montreal, campus ministry
  • Vanier College, Montreal, philosophy
  • John Abbott College, Montreal, English literature
  • University of New Brunswick, religion, social work, and Christian Fellowship
  • St. Thomas University, NB, campus-wide
  • Miami-Dade Community College, FL 4 campus-wide
  • University of Florida (Gainesville), religion
  • University of Central Florida (Orlando), psychology
  • University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, environmental studies
  • Tennessee Tech. University (Cookeville), anthropology, sociology, campus-wide
  • Adams State College (Alamosa), CO, English composition

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