Seminar day at NU draws alums, Evanstonians

Katie Glueck

More than 60 years after graduating from Northwestern, Ginny Grant Blair still goes to lecture. At least she did Saturday, as a participant in “A Day with Northwestern in Evanston – 40th Annual Seminar Day” at Norris University Center.

“I come every year if I’m in town and well,” the Communication ’48 graduate said. “The variety of lectures is outstanding. I learn a lot and sometimes laugh a lot.”

The event, sponsored by the NU Alumni Association, featured lectures from speakers representing all six undergraduate schools as well as the graduate schools, said Lacy Schneider, assistant director of alumni education. Alumni, current students and community members had the opportunity to participate in the seminars.

“We wanted to create a program that showcases the academic excellence of NU,” Schneider said. “The day appeals to current students up through alumni.”

Schneider said more than 500 people attended the day’s events, a record-high attendance. She said a big draw for students and young alumni was Mike Greenberg, Medill ’89, the co-host of the ESPN show “Mike and Mike in the Morning.”

That’s why Barry Goldberg, SESP ’05, attended.

“I wanted to see Greenberg speak,” he said. “He was pretty much stand-up comedy – but I stayed for some other sessions, too. You’re bound to find two or three people you can learn something from (at this event).”

One session Goldberg stayed for was the afternoon keynote address, given by visiting professor and former New York Times foreign bureau chief Stephen Kinzer. He outlined foreign policy challenges facing the Obama administration to an audience of more than 360 people in Norris’ McCormick Auditorium.

“I hope people take away a new appreciation of what lies behind today’s news,” Kinzer said. “Everyone knows what happened today. But why did it happen? How does it connect to other things, and what are the implications for the future?”

He addressed the history of conflict in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mexico, Somalia and Iran and described them as countries which pose both challenges and opportunities for the new administration.

Kinzer cited American intervention in these countries as a major source of current diplomatic challenges and emphasized that American actions in one country have enormous implications for others. For example, he said, the presence of American troops in Afghanistan draws radical foreign fighters to Pakistan, destabilizing the country.

He went on to say that a further destabilized Pakistan would pose a particularly dangerous threat to global security.

“A splitting apart of Pakistan, armed with nuclear weapons and run by al-Qaeda ideology, is the worst nightmare,” he said. “On every diplomat’s forehead should be written, ‘Do nothing that will further destabilize Pakistan.'”

Kinzer also highlighted the critical role Iran plays in actions in the Middle East.

“Iran is the spoiler here,” he said. “No goal in the Middle East is possible without them. If they’re not involved, they can upset it.”

For Sijh Diagne, a Weinberg junior, Kinzer’s keynote was enlightening.

“He was one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard, period,” Diagne said. “It’s important for students to know the background on these issues because we’re going to be making decisions in the future.”

[email protected]

Related: Q&A with Professor Stephen Kinzer