Symposium Q&A with Committee Member Spencer O’Gara ’16

What is your major/area of study?
My name is Spencer O’Gara and I am a senior at Westminster College this year, planning to graduate in the Spring of 2016. I am a History Major and Security Studies Minor.

What kind of duties did you have as a member of the Hancock Symposium committee?
I sat on the committee to provide input from the student body for the Hancock Symposium, along with Claire Gibby ’16. We are the committee’s experts on what students want. We also served as members in the discussion of what form the Symposium would take this year. Our insights were taken into account when discussing who to invite and what topics to highlight.

How do you feel about the topic this year, Security vs. Liberty?
When I first heard about the topic for the year being Security vs. Liberty, I was ecstatic. As a security studies student, the topic related to all of my classes. As a student of history, as well, the topic fascinated me. My parents always made certain that I was aware of the news and what was happening the world. I have used that background to propel myself into learning from the past to understand the present. One major debate in the present day is how powerful the government needs to be.

How were you involved in selecting the speakers for this year?
Any member of the committee could present a name to consider for the Symposium. In the early meetings, the goal was for each member to take an area of study on campus and look into potential speakers that would interest students in that field. We watched videos and did research about each name presented to the committee. Together, we all narrowed the list of potential invitees. Claire and I were the contacts for students if there was someone they really wanted to see. Overall, I was just as involved in the decision-making process as every faculty and staff member on the committee.

Who are you most looking forward to seeing speak?
I am most looking forward to Jeremy Scahill’s talk. All of the topics and speakers interest me in some way, but he excels at keeping the public aware of what our government does, and he does it in his own way. He does not rely on popular television news networks to get his word out, which I think is admirable. I also really enjoy his style of presentation. I am looking forward to seeing him in Champ Auditorium on Wednesday morning.

What advice would you give to new students who are interested in being on the Symposium committee in the future?
I received invitations to be on the committee from Dr. Mark Boulton and Dr. Tobias Gibson. I have no doubt that being involved in my department and going out of my way to get to know other faculty members on campus helped my selection. I would say that if the opportunity arises for you, as a student to serve on a future Symposium Committee, you should take it. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Visit for a complete list of speakers and schedule of events. The Hancock Symposium is open to the public. Select speakers will be live-streamed.

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