Student Senate selects Last Lecture speaker
The Student Senate has selected Kathleen Underwood, director of the Women and Gender Studies program and associate professor of History at Grand Valley State University, to be the professor to speak at its annual “Last Lecture” event.
The Last Lecture event is held at universities all over the country and is inspired by a speech given in 2007 by Randy Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Pausch had cancer and gave a final lecture to students and his colleagues that focused on celebrating the life he’d always dreamed of, rather than concentrating on death.
Pausch’s speech received a large amount of media coverage across the U.S., and it even reached some international media outlets. He used the speech as the base for his book, “The Last Lecture.”
Every year, the Student Senate at GVSU accepts nominations for professors that people would like to hear give a lecture that is written as though it is their very last.
Nominations for professors are usually limited only to Student Senate members, but this year any student could provide input.
The Educational Affairs Committee of Student Senate considered all the nominations and decided which professor would give the lecture.
Unlike most elections, though, the person with the highest number of votes was guaranteed the position. In order to make sure every professor at GVSU had a fair chance to give their “Last Lecture,” the EAC also took other factors into account when making a decision.
Since the lecture is meant to emulate what the professor would actually say in his or her last lecture, their proximity to retirement is a big factor. The professor’s influence on students and activity on campus are two other criteria discussed.
Scott St. Louis, vice president of the EAC, said Underwood has made some big changes since she started at GVSU.
“(She’s) played a huge role in the creation of the LGBTQ minor,” St. Louis said.
Underwood is also the academic adviser for Iota Iota Iota, a student organization for the Women and Gender Studies program’s academic honors society. She teaches many different courses in the Women and Gender Studies department, as well as two history courses.
“She’s very friendly and outgoing and welcoming to students,” said Danielle Meirow, vice president of the Senate Resources Committee.
The Last Lecture will be held Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. in the multi-purpose room on the atrium floor of the Mary Idema Pew Library. The event is approved by LIB 100 and LIB 201 courses, and food will be provided to attendees.
At last week’s Student Senate meeting, President Ricardo Benavidez discussed the decision of the University Academic Senate not to pass Student Senate’s resolution for a fall break. Benavidez said he is still optimistic that the break will eventually be instated at GVSU.
“I don’t see this as the end of the fall break; it’s something the students want,” Benavidez said.
Tim Layer, vice president of Campus Affairs Committee, briefed the senate about plans to reinstate the pendulum by the end of the fall semester. Layer said students will see a construction fence around the site of the pendulum this week, as it is prepared for the return of the sculpture. Most repairs of the actual pendulum will be done off-site, but the pendulum is expected to return to campus by Dec. 6.