Even the shortest programs can yield powerful lifelong learning.
That was undoubtedly the case recently when 116 alumni gathered in Houston Hall’s Bodek Lounge to catch Penn Arts & Sciences’ Alumni Weekend 60-Second Slam. The program featured 14 Arts & Sciences alumni, students, and faculty, each delivering a 60-second micro-lecture.
Often described as mini-TED Talks, 60-Second Lectures originated on campus 16 years ago. Featuring faculty and held outside during the summer months, the Arts & Sciences lectures were an immediate hit, and the series has grown every year since. Topics run the gamut from “Why Do Criminals Have Low Heart Rates?” and “Are Humans Still Evolving?” to “Language Change in Philadelphia.”
Today, 60-Second Lectures are the basis of several programs. Friends on campus can drop by the Franklin statue in front of College Hall for noontime 60-Second Lectures held throughout the spring and fall. The 60-Second Lectures – Alumni Edition and Alumni Weekend 60-Second Slam, designed for alumni participation, pack an even more powerful punch. At the Slam, Arts & Sciences students, faculty, and alumni speakers engage in friendly competition for two awards: one chosen by a panel of student judges and one determined through an audience vote.
In addition, more than 200 archived 60-Second Lectures are readily accessible to alumni—and viewers from all over the world—on Penn Arts & Sciences’ online 60-Second Lecture library.
“Our 60-Second Lectures give alumni a powerful and easy way to connect,” says Paul Sniegowski, the Stephen A. Levin Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and moderator of the 60-Second Slams. “For some, they are an introduction to a new topic; for others, a reminder of how exciting the Penn intellectual experience was, and still is.”
This year’s Audience Choice Award went to Jackie Friedland, C’99, L’00, a lawyer-turned-historical fiction writer, for her lecture on slave hymns that carried secret messages about the Underground Railroad. In 60 seconds, she deftly outlined the topic, decoded two familiar examples, and closed with the hope that listeners would be inspired to look into the topic on their own.
The experience was invigorating and entirely new for Friedland, who says the process of distilling her extensive research into the 60-second format challenged her in unexpected ways. So did listening to 14 back-to-back bursts of brilliance by Penn students, faculty, and fellow alumni last Saturday. “It’s amazing,” she says, “how much you can learn about a topic by listening to someone speak for only 60 seconds.”
Lifelong learning is part of the Power of Penn. Events such as the 60-Second Slam and resources such as the online 60-Second Lecture Library are among the many innovative ways that alumni can continue to engage and learn with Penn.
When You Have a Minute…
Check out these 60-second gems:
- Resurrect 11 now-obsolete medieval words with Professor of English Emily Steiner and doctoral student Aylin Malcolm, Gr’26.
- Join Charles Bernstein, Donald T. Regan Professor of English and Comparative Literature, for a high-velocity lecture on poetry—with an unexpected teaching turn at the very end.
- Explore “Why Achievement Isn’t Normal” with Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology and MacArthur Grant winner Angela Duckworth, G’03, Gr’06.