Robert Bly, controversial poet and a founder of the men's movement, is the keynote speaker of a three-day gathering at University of Alaska Southeast on "Sustaining Culture, Community and the Environment."
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Educators, artists, scientists and community leaders gather at 9 a.m. today in the Egan Lecture Hall to launch the university's spring forum on sustainability. The forum runs through Saturday and is free and open to the public.
The line-up for the forum is impressive. Besides Bly, winner of the National Book Award, it includes Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, Athabascan artist George Holly Jr., poet Dave Zoby and Rep. Andrea Doll.
Bly will give a poetry reading at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the lecture hall.
"It's not often we get a poet and an intellectual of that stature in Juneau, and we get to hear from him twice on Thursday," English professor Kevin Maier said.
Maier said he is particularly excited about several presentations that will discuss keeping endangered languages alive.
University spokesman Kevin Myers said the event evolved out of the former Humanities Forum and Pacific Rim Forum into an discussion that draws in students and professors from multiple academic disciplines.
"This is really the first year that it is UAS-driven again and is interdisciplinary," he said. "It's not just humanities. It's all across the campus."
Professors in humanities, natural science and social science disciplines collaborated to find a subject relevant to current society, Myers said. It is one of the largest events the university will host this year.
"That's sort of part of the liberal arts education, is learning outside of the classroom, learning on different point of views," Myers said.
The university strives to get people of different backgrounds, from academia to business, engaged in conversation on the same topic, he said.
"It's sort of fun to watch them talk about the same concepts, but they all have different lexicons," Myers said.
Maier said the overall goal is to start a conversation on sustainability through presentations by students, faculty and prominent members of the community. The forum will look at what sustainability means in a broader context, he said.
"The big thing for me is I want it to be a big community conversation," Maier said.
Both Maier and Myers said they hope members of the community will attend and enrich the forum by offering multiple points of view.
"Just seeing what comes form these conversations is really neat," Myers said. "You tend to find that people have a lot in common."
A comprehensive list of presentations is on the university's Web site at www.uas.alaska.edu.
Eric Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.