Festival of Ideas begins Monday

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ETSU’s second annual Festival of Ideas kicks off this week, with tonight’s speaker Melissa Fitzgerald beginning in the Millennium Center ballroom at 7 p.m.  

“The committee has worked diligently for the last year to put together a slate of events under the theme of Dreams and Discord,” said Susan Epps, professor and festival co-chair.

The festival runs Monday through Friday with events each of the five days.

“Hidden Challenges: Understanding Invisible Disabilities” with Mandy Harvey takes place Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Millennium Center ballroom. A community panel discussion, “By the People, for the People: Campus and Community Perspectives on Voting,” will take place Wednesday at noon in the Reese Museum. “Songs of America” with Jon Meacham will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the Millennium Center ballroom. Finally, Mike Wiley will perform his play “Breach of Peace” on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Millennium Center ballroom. 

All events are free for students, though they will need to pick up a ticket from the CPA for Meacham’s “Songs of America” on Thursday. Students can also use their student ID to get up to four general admission tickets for $20 plus tax.  

Fitzgerald and Wiley will also meet with student groups in addition to their own individual events.  

The Mandy Harvey event is part of the Evening of Health, Wellness and the Arts co-sponsored by the College of Public Health and the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts. 

“We are fortunate to have the opportunity to host speakers and performers the likes of Melissa Fitzgerald, Mandy Harvey, Jon Meacham and Mike Wiley at ETSU,” said Epps. 

Fitzgerald, who is best known for her seven-year role as Carol in the TV series “The West Wing,” joined the National Association of Drug Court Professionals as senior director of Justice for Vets in 2013. She has since expanded her role as director of NADCP’s recently launched Advancing Justice Initiative to lead justice reform.  

Harvey, a singer/songwriter, overcame profound deafness to compete in “America’s Got Talent,” finishing in fourth place. 

Meacham is a Pulitzer prize-winning presidential biographer, historian and TV commentator. He co-authored “Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation” with Grammy-winning singer Tim McGraw.  

Wiley is a playwright, director and actor. “Breach of Peace” is based upon true accounts of surviving participants of the Freedom Rides and others involved in the early struggle for African-American equality.  

Jodi Polaha Jones, Stephen Hendrix, Joy Fulkerson and Nathan Farnor will speak at Wednesday’s panel discussion. WJHL’s Josh Smith will moderate the event. 

The festival was held for the first time last year and focuses on the university’s role as a leader in the region and beyond. Sponsored by the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost and the Division of Student Life and Enrollment, it aims to spark the exchange of ideas, information and experiences between speakers, faculty, staff, students, community members and alumni.  

“Last year, for the first annual Festival of Ideas, we were fortunate to have Jennifer Palmier and Doris Kearns Goodwin as our speakers,” said Epps. “We also had a faculty panel discussion on politics, the media and the presidency. It was incredible to have so many people from the community on campus for these events and to hear people talking about what they had heard during the talks and panel discussion.” 

Epps encourages students, faculty, staff and members of the community to attend this year’s events and continue to have conversations about what they heard in the classroom and beyond.  

“As those who attend these events leave, how great it is to hear them say, ‘I can’t wait until next year’s Festival of Ideas,’” she said. 

Students can find more information online at www.etsu.edu/festival.  


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