Guest Speakers

The AGS guest speaker series features a wide variety of locally, nationally, and/or internationally renowned lecturers.  Speakers present on a variety of topics in the arts or sciences, answer questions from our students, and often visit classes for additional time with students.  Students and faculty gather twice a week to hear a presentation.  These speakers contribute to the educational process of AGS in three ways: (1) students hear the original views of outstanding thinkers and well-known public figures; (2) students are able to engage these visitors in conversation; and (3) the topics dealt with by the speakers are integrated into classroom discussions.  In these ways, these visits enrich the curriculum by communicating to students that community interaction is vital to a successful and productive life.

2018 Series

(Guest speakers will be added as information becomes available)

Jason Wiles

June 12 - Dr. Jason Wiles (AGS '92)

Jason Wiles is a native Arkansan and AGS alumnus. He earned his first degree in biology (with a minor in Bible) at Harding University and holds graduate degrees in biology, geology, and science education. Dr. Wiles is now a biology professor at Syracuse University, and he will be spending the coming academic year as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University in the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Among other areas of research, he is interested in why people often reject scientific information in favor of their prior beliefs. As someone who has personally navigated some of this difficult intellectual terrain, particularly around evolution, he studies important questions around how people may, or may not, change their minds on scientific issues. 

Jenna Elser

June 14 - Jenna Tamisiea Elser (AGS '03)

As a stage director, Jenna’s focus is on utilizing lyric theatre to enact social change. She is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Glow Lyric Theatre, a vocal arts company producing opera, operetta and musical theatre in direct response to the social and political climate of South Carolina.  Some of her ground breaking work in her community includes producing and directing The Wiz amidst the AME Charleston shooting, as well as an innovative production of Gounod’s opera Romèo et Juliette whose re-staging sparked dialogue about the treatment of immigrants and refugees in the south.  She recently completed her MFA in Directing at Florida State University, where she directed Alan Ball’s Five Women Wearing the Same Dress and A Chorus Line. With a passion for devised theatre, some of Jenna's original works include Cabaret de Cruaté, a musical piece centering on the sensationalism of violence in the media, Twenty Caged Nightingales Do Sing, a re-imaging of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew following a gender questioning Kate and Pulse, a physical theatre piece which reacts to the tragic 2016 mass shooting in Orlando. Jenna is a recipient of the Robert Porterfield Graduate Award from the Southeastern Theatre Conference and was recently named a finalist for the Drama League New Musicals Fellowship. She is proud to be an artist from Arkansas! 


June 21 - Nate Powell (AGS '95)

Nate Powell is the first and only cartoonist to win the National Book Award. Born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1978, he began self-publishing at age 14 and graduated from School of Visual Arts in 2000. His work includes March, the graphic novel autobiography of Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis; You Don't Say, Any Empire, Swallow Me Whole, The Silence Of Our Friends, The Year Of The Beasts, and Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero.

Powell’s work has received a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, three Eisner Awards, the Michael L. Printz Award, four YALSA Great Graphic Novels For Teens selections, the Walter Dean Myers Award, and is a two-time finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He has discussed his work at the United Nations, as well as on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show and CNN.

From 1999 to 2009, Powell worked full-time providing support for adults with developmental disabilities alongside his cartooning efforts. He managed underground record label Harlan Records for 16 years, and performed in punk bands Soophie Nun Squad and Universe.

2016.8.8 Plait

June 26 - Dr. Phil Plait

For as long as he can remember, Dr. Phil Plait has been in love with science.

“When I was maybe four or five years old, my dad brought home a cheapo department store telescope. He aimed it at Saturn that night. One look, and that was it. I was hooked,” he says.

After earning his doctorate in astronomy at the University of Virginia, he worked on the Hubble Space Telescope as a NASA contractor at the Goddard Space Flight Center. He began a career in public outreach and education with the Bad Astronomy website and blog, debunking bad science and popular misconceptions. The book Bad Astronomy was released in 2002, followed in 2008 by Death From The Skies! He can most recently be seen in “Crash Course Astronomy”, a 46-part educational web series he wrote and hosted that has over 20 million views. He hosted the TV show “Phil Plait’s Bad Universe” on the Discovery Channel in 2010 and was the head science writer for “Bill Nye Saves the World” on Netflix. Dr. Plait’s blog has been hosted by Discover Magazine and Slate, and is now on Syfy Wire.

Dr. Plait has given talks about science and pseudoscience across the US and internationally. He uses images, audio, and video clips in entertaining and informative multimedia presentations packed with humor and backed by solid science.


June 28 - Mark Camp

Mark Camp is the Director of the Keep Arkansas Beautiful Commission (KAB). KAB is a division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and a certified state affiliate of Keep America Beautiful. Before joining KAB, he worked as an investment banker for Crews & Associates in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he served as senior vice president.

2016.8.8 Newmani

July 10 - Haider Newmani

Haider's powerful and fascinating lectures include poignant and touching visuals from his experience in war-torn Iraq as a citizen of the country and a war journalist. His various capacities as a journalist, a civilian, an activist and a family man have given him a unique perspective about war. He examines the losses of both nations involved in a war. His presentation takes the audience into a journey through every-day-life in a war zone while highlighting the sufferings, challenges, bonds, ironies and human behavior of both; Iraqi civilians and US soldiers caught in the war.

Haider has made appearances in tens of media outlets worldwide, challenging people to think more critically of war. Today, Haider splits his time between the US and the Middle East & North Africa region as he has become strongly committed to raising awareness among young people about the long term effects of war, the universality of humanity, and sends messages of peace and reconciliation. Haider works with an international foundation helping Arab youth to become active members of political discourse through non-violent communication, advocacy and debate.

2016.8.8 Sebarenzi

July 17 - Dr. Joseph Sebarenzi

Dr. Sebarenzi, former head of the Rwanda Parliament, has endured tragedy most of us cannot fathom. He lost his parents, seven siblings, and numerous other relatives in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Yet, years later, as a senior government official in a position to exact revenge, he instead pushed for peace and reconciliation. “Revenge is like adding guilt to victimhood,” says Sebarenzi. “It solves nothing. At some point, we have to ignore the past and envision the future.”

Sebarenzi grew up in Rwanda, and as a child saw glimpses of the tribal violence which years later would engulf his country. In 1994, when Hutu extremists slaughtered more than 800,000 Tutsis; Sebarenzi, his wife and child were safely out of the country, but many of Sebarenzi’s extended family were not so lucky.

Returning to Rwanda, Sebarenzi rose through the ranks of Parliament, eventually becoming Speaker, third in power only to the country’s president. As the leader of parliament, Sebarenzi worked to improve good governance, speaking out for the independence of the legislature and against corruption in the government. Forced to resign, and informed of a plot to assassinate him, he fled Rwanda and found exile in the United States.

Dr. Sebarenzi is currently a visiting professor at the School for International Training where he teaches conflict resolution and human rights; a member of the Board of Directors of Karuna Center for Peacebuilding; a regular speaker on BBC and Voice of America; and he also serves as advisor to the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) in the United States Department of Justice.

2016.8.8 Maxwell

July 19 - Maxine Maxwell

Maxine Maxwell is a native of St. Louis and a graduate of Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts. As an actor, Ms. Maxwell has toured throughout the country. She has worked in New York as both a solo artist and as a member of performing ensembles.  Her past credits include the national tour of  “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide. . . . When The Rainbow Is Enough.” She originated the roles in “Voices of Hope” and “I Can Feel It In My Bones” and has also appeared as a solo artist at New York’s famous Apollo Theater.