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ASU engineers have growing role in renowned Chautauqua dialogues

ASU engineers have growing role in renowned Chautauqua dialogues
Brad Allenby, an ASU President’s Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, has participated in Chautauqua’s summer events seven of the last eight years. Photographer: Clark Miller

Nationally prominent center’s lecture series and public forums explore society’s big issues

If there’s a place that can be called America’s summer mecca for communal dialogue on religion, politics, culture, science, technology, economics and other pillars of civilization, it’s the Chautauqua Institution in New York State.

Over the course of nine weeks each June through August, the not-for-profit, 750-acre education center – founded in 1874 beside scenic Chautauqua Lake – typically draws more than 100,000 visitors.

Some come for summer school courses in writing and the arts, recreation on the lake or the diverse performance arts offerings in a 6,000-seat amphitheater. But most visitors come for the series of lectures and forums that explore big-picture questions about modern life and society’s pressing issues.

Digging deep into issues

Arizona State University has had a growing voice at Chautauqua in the last several years. Through ASU’s Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, faculty members have joined experts in myriad fields from around the world as headliners for Chautauqua public lectures and forums.

“You get educated and intellectually engaged people who want to dig deep into the issues. So you have very challenging and very fun audiences,” said Brad Allenby.

Allenby is an ASU President’s Professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He’s also the Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics with the Lincoln Center.

He has participated in Chautauqua’s summer events seven of the last eight years and expects to expand his role in the future.

“It is a great way for ASU, and ASU engineering, to get its brand out in front of big groups of people who are community leaders across the country,” he said.

Expanding role in summer program

Allenby has lectured on the social and ethical implications of the development and use of emerging technologies – particularly those employed in national security and military defense operations – and on the ongoing co-evolution of humans and their technologies that is giving rise to the “digital self.”

This past summer he joined other Lincoln Center colleagues in presenting a series of talks titled “The Ethics of Privacy,” focusing on the erosion of individual privacy driven by the capabilities of today’s ubiquitous technologies.

Chautauqua Institution leaders are planning to broaden the involvement of ASU Lincoln Center professors, Allenby said.  For him, that likely will mean presenting a featured lecture and leading a week of classes based on his expertise in sustainable engineering and Earth systems engineering and management.

“It would be a rare opportunity to delve into the integration of engineering, public policy and law that I think ASU engineers and other Lincoln professors can bring to a discussion of current social, environmental and technological challenges,” he said.

Reaching new audiences

Amy Landis, an associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and a Lincoln Fellow of Sustainable Development and Ethics, wants to return to Chautauqua after her first stint as a lecturer there in 2013.

She spoke about issues of ethics and corporate and government responsibility related to the sustainability movement.

Landis focused on the question “What does green really mean?” and discussed the issue of “greenwashing,” in which business interests and other organizations make overstated or inaccurate claims about the environmentally positive impacts of their products and practices.

“It gave me a chance to open a dialogue in a venue that is very different than the ones I usually present in,” she said. “You feel like you can help get people outside of academia and industry to start thinking about these issues. That’s a good feeling.”

Sharing the experience

Landis and other Lincoln Center professors and fellows are sharing their experiences of the Chautauqua dialogues with students in Arizona.

The Lincoln Center presents a symposium each fall for ASU students and Arizona high school students that addresses various ethical issues. Last year Landis and Allenby gave talks similar to their Chautauqua lectures to hundreds of Phoenix-area high school students.

They are also slated to participate in this year’s Lincoln Center symposium on Nov. 17, titled “Should We Care About Privacy?” exploring questions of ethics related to privacy rights that Lincoln professors examined in the Chautauqua lecture series they led this summer. About 500 high school and ASU students are expected to take part in large group discussions and breakout interactions of smaller groups.

During the recent Chautauqua summer season,  Allenby was joined in leading dialogues and classes for the special “Ethics of Privacy” series by Jason Robert, the Lincoln Center director and Dean’s Distinguished Professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences, and by other Lincoln professors: Clark Miller, associate director of the ASU Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes and associate professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies; Joel Garreau, a research professor in ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law; and Adriana Sanford, a clinical associate professor of law and international management at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Together they covered privacy and ethics issues related to health care, national security, technology, love and money. Some of the same topics will also be covered in the fall symposium for Arizona students.

The Lincoln Center is also co-sponsoring an Arizona high school essay contest this fall. More than 2,000 students from 20 high schools are expected to submit essays to be evaluated by Lincoln professors.

Essays will focus on the theme of the November symposium on ethics and personal privacy. The top four essays from students in each school will receive financial awards. Four statewide winners will be chosen from among the writers of those winning essays.

Productive partnership

David and Joan Lincoln, who founded ASU’s Lincoln Center in 1998, began funding Chautauqua’s annual ethics-themed week in 1997. By 2002, the Lincoln Center had established a long-term collaborative relationship with the Chautauqua Institution.

David Lincoln is a long-time Chautauqua community member and supporter of the institution. Kathryn “Katie” Lincoln – David and Joan Lincoln’s daughter – has served on the boards of the Chautauqua Institution and the Chautauqua Foundation.

Participation in the Chautauqua Institution summer programs and the fall symposium in Arizona “are ways the Lincoln family and the Lincoln Center reach out into the community and classrooms to inspire ideas and conversations about applied ethics in our lives,” Katie Lincoln said.

From the perspective of his professional interests, Allenby sees collaborative endeavors between engineers and institutions such as Chautauqua and the Lincoln Center as increasingly important.

“Given the ever larger role of technology in society, it’s critical that the public better understand engineered systems, and that engineers better understand the public’s interests and concerns,” he said. “Chautauqua is giving us an opportunity to push the dialogue about all of this in a productive direction.”

Media Contact
Joe Kullman, [email protected]
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

About The Author

Joe Kullman

Joe Kullman is a science writer for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Before joining Arizona State University in 2006, Joe worked as a reporter, writer and editor for newspapers and magazines dating back to the dawn of the age of the personal computer. He began his career while earning degrees in journalism and philosophy from Kent State University in Ohio. Media Contact: [email protected] | 480-965-8122 | Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Communications

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