U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo Among 25 Accomplished Individuals to Present at Hancock Symposium

U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo of Tulsa, OK, is among 25 highly accomplished individuals who are a part of Westminster College’s three-day Hancock Symposium, Sept. 14-16, 2021.

The event will take place in a hybrid format on campus — with off-campus guests joining virtually — as a result of current COVID-19 precautions. Livestreaming is available on the College’s website and both its Facebook and YouTube pages.

Harjo will read poetry and perform music on Wednesday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m. in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury.

“We are thrilled for Joy to be joining us for this event, as she is one of many dynamic speakers that our students will have the opportunity to interact with,” says Dr. David Jones, 2021 Hancock Symposium Chair. “Given the timely nature of this year’s topic, everyone should find several engaging sessions to attend.”

Alumni Speakers

The packed three-day schedule includes a variety of Westminster alumni, including Shauna Aminath, ’08, who has repeatedly made the news and most recently made international headlines on May 5 after being appointed Minister of Environment, Climate Change, and Technology for the Republic of Maldives. Aminath will discuss “Environmental Policy Where It Matters Most.”

Other alumni speakers include R. “Flanny” Flanigan, ’12; Amy Laurel Fluker, PhD, ’08; Colin Kerr, ’06; Janice Mathews-Gordon, ’81; Hassaan Sipra, ’11 ΦΔΘ; Mahogany Thomas, ’13; and Donald Wood, ‘00 ΣΧ.

Other Speakers: A Pfizer Scientist, an Olympic Bronze Medalist, a Gaming Expert, and Much More

Jones stresses there is a little bit of something for everyone in this year’s Symposium, from scientists to artists to business and financial experts, including a recent addition to the speaker lineup: Brian Wesbury, Chief Economist with First Trust Advisors, LP.

The majority of the presentations kick off at 9 a.m. on Sept. 15 in Champ Auditorium with noted plenary speaker Justin Sperry, PhD, Vice President of Technology and Innovation for Biotherapeutics and Vaccines and head of Pfizer’s St. Louis R&D operations.

Sperry’s presentation, “Past, Present, and Future Insights into the COVID-19 Vaccine,” is central to this year’s Symposium theme, “Finding Opportunity in the Age of Disruption.”

The Symposium will also feature lectures by two-time World Wrestling Champion and Olympic Bronze Medalist J’Den Cox, a native of Columbia, MO. Cox will present “Taking a Stand: Moving Beyond BLM to Equity for All.”

Students will particularly want to catch gaming expert Abbie Heppe give her presentation on “Bringing the Outdoors into Your Living Room.” The Director of Live Service for Media Molecule will focus on how the company pivoted during COVID-19 to bring events directly to players in their own homes.

Ultimately, Jones says, speaker presentations should be highly educational, and the campus community can sincerely look forward to classes being suspended during the event so everyone can view the presentations.

“2020 was truly a year of critical disruptions, in public health, education, race relations, and politics, to name a few, and many remain with us today,” Jones reflects. “We have invited speakers from around the world to help us make sense of what happened and, more importantly, to help us find opportunity in the challenges to move forward with creativity and innovation.”

Launched in 2006, the Hancock Symposium is the College’s signature event, offering a highly diverse group of guest lecturers, panel discussions, and workshops on a particular subject of global interest. The Symposium is funded in perpetuity by a generous gift from alumnus David Hancock, ’67 FIJI, of Kansas City, MO.

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.