Presenters Speak Your Language

Published 09.21.2016

By Elaine Lambert.


You may have read about it in the newspaper. Or heard about it on campus. Or picked up a flyer in the community. Pennsylvania College of Technology is promoting its Technology and Society Colloquia Series.


Are you ignoring the invitation? Or just wondering what “colloquia” means?

Don’t let the word scare you. Colloquia simply describes a series of informal gatherings for the purpose of discussion. And, I can assure you, presenters in the Penn College series do speak your language. If you have any interest whatsoever in history, pop culture, or future trends, you will find a presentation that interests you.

The series explores the impact of technology on the past, present and future. Since 2014, renowned speakers – with very down-to-earth deliveries – have inspired audiences in the College’s Klump Academic Center Auditorium.

Best-selling authors Jaron Lanier (“You are Not a Gadget” and “Who Owns the Future”) and Alan Lightman (“Einstein’s Dreams” and “The Accidental Universe: The World You Thought You Knew”) set the right tone for the series in its inaugural year. Author and environmentalist Rick Bass followed this year. In between, a variety of Penn College faculty and regional community leaders also appeared as featured speakers.

Here’s some of what you might have missed:

Virtual reality pioneer and musician Lanier – who performed on the ACC stage – reminded us that middle-class workers, including musicians, writers and language translators, lose income when we do not pay for the content they create and we consume through open-source sharing on the Internet.

MIT physicist Lightman, whose novel about Einstein’s theory of relativity is one of the most widely read books on university campuses, called himself “a prisoner of the wired world” and described the heavy price we pay for technology obsessions: “I rarely goof off … I have lost something of my inner self.”

Rick Bass, according to The New York Times Book Review, is “one of this country’s most intelligent and sensitive short story writers.” At Penn College, he read from his collection “For a Little While,” which a reviewer said brings into focus “that Bass hasn’t been writing just to save our wild places, but to save what’s wild and humane and best within us.”

…save what’s wild and humane and best within us.

That is what this colloquia series is intended to do as well. It seeks to encourage audiences – in an age of technology and automation – to consider what is humane and what is best. That’s why I feel it is important that we fill the auditorium with free thinkers and individuals of all ages who want to look at current issues from a variety of perspectives.

Free Thinkers + Free Admission + Free Food = Enlightenment & Entertainment

And speaking of “free” thinkers … there is no charge to attend colloquia series. Events are free to students, faculty, staff and the public. I can’t think of a better deal than free admission to hear influential 21st century leaders. But, it gets even better. After the formal presentation, the speakers gather with the audience for informal receptions, which include free food and beverages. Tell me where you can get a better deal!

I admit that I am biased when it comes to promoting the Technology and Society Colloquia Series. I’ve served on the series’ planning committee since its inception in 2014. I was pleased when college leaders decided to continue the series in 2015 and name it in honor of Professor Emeritus and Master Teacher Daniel J. Doyle.

Biased as I might be, let me assure you that – no matter what you study in college, or what political views you hold, or whether you consider yourself a geek or a Luddite – you will be enlightened and entertained by the colloquia series.

Get out your bucket lists and plan to participate!

If you are a Penn College student, you should add the Technology and Society Colloquia Series to your bucket list and make sure you attend at least once before you graduate.

If you are a faculty and staff member, the series presents an opportunity for you to mix and mingle with colleagues and students – from Penn College and other campuses – in a relaxed setting. Take a minute of class time to encourage your students to attend. Take another minute and invite friends to meet you at the event. Share this experience with others.

Penn College is proud to share its colloquia series with the public. Anyone can attend to enjoy the presentations, ask questions, and have copies of the presenters’ books signed during the free receptions following each event.

I look forward to a day when we fill every seat in the auditorium for every event in the Technology and Society Colloquia Series. I know those who attend will be enriched by the experience. So, get out your bucket lists and plan to participate!

What’s Next

The next event in the series will help us understand the global challenges of food production. Former Bucknell University president Dr. Gary A. Sojka will present Feeding the Future: Can We Nourish 9.7 Billion People in 2015? on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. Remember, this event is free and open to all. Won’t you bring a friend and join us?

Catch up on past presentations in the series at