Virtual Hancock Symposium Astounds by Reaching About 2,000 Viewers

Westminster College’s 15th Hancock Symposium on Sept. 16, 2020, seemed fittingly futuristic as audiences throughout the country peered into their personal devices while NASA’s chief scientist kicked off the day-long virtual event.

[pullquote]Ultimately this year’s virtual format allowed viewers from across the globe to watch a total of five livestreamed presentations while the campus community viewed nine additional presentations via secure Zoom links. Green’s lecture attracted a virtual audience of approximately 2,000, making it among the most well-attended Symposium sessions on record.”[/pullquote]

“I firmly believe if this species is going to survive, we’re going to have to be a multi-planet species,” Dr. James Green said of the possibility of NASA traveling to Mars. His remarks followed an in-depth presentation that included information on NASA’s recent findings of possible evidence of life on Venus.

The virtual format — adopted as a safety measure during the COVID-19 pandemic — contributed a space-age feel to the wide range of innovative talks showcased throughout the event.

Launched in 2006, the Hancock Symposium is the College’s signature event, representing the finest aspects of a Westminster liberal arts education. The series is designed to illustrate how different academic disciplines can intersect within a single topic.

Addressing the theme of “Vision & Values,” the subject matter of Symposium 2020 ran the gamut. The search for life on other planets, COVID-19 in Missouri, stigmas surrounding mental illness, halting perpetual world wars, shaping a successful legal career to fit your values, and George Washington Carver’s revered but hidden influence on Fulton, MO, were just a few of the 14 presentations that featured nearly 20 speakers.

The event began with a prerecorded reflection on Westminster’s liberal arts mission by Vice President for Academic Affairs/Dean of Faculty Dr. David Roebuck and message of welcome from Interim President and Chief Transformation Officer Donald P. Lofe, Jr.

Dr. David Schmidt, who is responsible for the recent Westminster recovery of a 3,000-pound, 7-foot-long triceratops skull in the Badlands of South Dakota, introduced Green. The Associate Professor of Geology and Environmental Science drew a correlation between unearthing prehistoric life and discovering new planetary realms, which Green later expanded upon from his office at NASA headquarters in Washington, DC.

Ultimately this year’s virtual format allowed viewers from across the globe to watch a total of five livestreamed presentations while the campus community viewed nine additional presentations via secure Zoom links. Green’s lecture attracted a virtual audience of approximately 2,000, making it among the most well-attended Symposium sessions on record.

Included in the extensive list of speakers were five Westminster alumni: Betsy Sharp Lynch, ’02 ΚΑΘ, Tshering Yangzom, ’10 , Dr. Mary Nestor, ’14 ΚΑΘ, Jacob Marsh, ‘08 ΔΤΔ, Noelia Cerna, ’09.

Dr. Jeremy Straughn, Hancock Symposium co-chair and Director of the Churchill Institute for Global Engagement, said that the reenvisioned format of the event produced positive results. In all, the percentage of students who viewed the sessions was higher than in recent years, and students were able to access the recorded talks after the events ended. Non-student participation also increased.

“Although we usually attract off-campus viewers for our plenary and executive sessions, going virtual allowed for an even larger audience,” Straughn explained.

In addition to current students, faculty, staff, Westminster alumni, representatives from various news outlets, and other members of the public, the audience included a group of high school students from Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas who participated in a private webinar with Green and Regional Admissions Counselor Lane Hume, ‘10 ΚΚΓ.

Timothy Riley, Hancock Symposium co-chair and the Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout Director and Chief Curator of America’s National Churchill Museum, said Hancock Symposium 2020 celebrated what sets a Westminster liberal arts education apart.

“The ideas discussed in this year’s Hancock Symposium were very much rooted in the brand of education Westminster extols and upholds,” Riley reflected. “It is extraordinary to me that from the 350-year-old Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury, we can explore, using modern methods of communication, big questions about important topics of today and tomorrow.”

Complete presentations from Hancock Symposium 2020 are found on Westminster’s YouTube page and below.

The Hancock Symposium is funded in perpetuity by a generous gift from Westminster alumnus David Hancock, ’67 FIJI, of Kansas City, MO.

Complete List of Presentations for Hancock Symposium 2020: Vision & Values

The Search for Life Beyond Earth in Space and Time
Dr. James Green, Chief Scientist, NASA

COVID-19 Pandemic Response: The Story from Those Who Live It Daily

Bill Whitmar, Laboratory Director, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services

Grid of the Future: Finding a Way Forward!
Gunnar Shaffer, Founder of Agrownomics, Engineer at Southwest Energy Power Pool

How Illness Led to Insight: From Brain on Fire to the Great Pretender
Susannah Cahalan, Best-Selling Author and Mental Health Advocate

The Future of Perpetual Wars: Do Warring Parties Have an Obligation to End the Conflict?
Laurie R. Blank, Professor at Emory University, Distinguished Expert in Security and International Law

Imagining Climate Change Through Fiction
Dr. Amy Brady, Editor in Chief, Chicago Review of Books, Expert on Climate Fiction
Omar El Akkad, Egyptian Canadian Novelist

Spaces for Learning and Preparing for What’s Next
Jeanne Narum, Principal, Learning Spaces Collaboratory, Pioneer in STEM Education

Non-Linear Paths for the Non-Conformist
Betsy Sharp Lynch, ’02 ΚΑΘ

Bhutan: Gross National Happiness & Development with Values

Tshering Yangzom, ’10 ΚΚΓ, Bhutan Foundation

Finding Your Vision in Your Values: An Occupational Therapist’s Perspective
Dr. Mary Nestor, ’14 ΚΑΘ, Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Playabilities Clinic

The New American Dream – Vanlife, Social Entrepreneurship, and the Rehabilitation from Expectation

Jacob Marsh, ‘08 ΔΤΔ, Author, Business Owner, Sustainability Seeker

The Power of Owning Our Story
Noelia Cerna, ’09, Performance Poet

Building Hope, Building Homes
Alexis Lowery, Victim Advocate, Founder of Mary’s House of Hope

Our Buildings Shape Us: A 2020 Vision for Two Fulton Monuments
Timothy Riley, Sandra L. and Monroe E. Trout Director and Chief Curator; Churchill Fellow of America’s National Churchill Museum at Westminster College
Carmen Brandt, President, George Washington Carver Cultural Center Board of Directors
Victor B. Pasley, Retired Executive, Xerox Corporation
Dr. Gary Kremer, Executive Director, the State Historical Society of Missouri





Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.