CORRECTION: The original version of this article was published with a graphic including Bob Woodward, Vint Cerf and Kathleen Parker. In fact, those speakers were not brought to Elon University by the Liberal Arts Forum. Elon News Network regrets the error.
From artists to scientists to authors to lawyers, Elon University students have opportunities this year to meet and listen to professionals from different backgrounds and careers.
These events might only take a few hours for most students, but for Emily Hayes, copresident of the Liberal Arts Forum, and other students in the class and club, these events take months of planning and thousands of dollars.
“The Liberal Arts Forum is a student-run organization on campus that plans all academic speaking events at Elon,” Hayes said. “We decide which speakers to bring and then we host the speakers when they come.”The process for deciding which speakers to invite to campus is strenuous for the small club. Each meeting begins with members pitching people they would like to see come speak.
The club proceeds to narrow the original list of 25-30 speakers by watching TED Talks, YouTube videos and reading passages from books or articles about the possible guests.“We really just try to learn as much as we can about the individual so that we make sure we are bringing in somebody that everybody will be really excited about,” Hayes said.Once the list of speakers is finalized and agreed on by members of the club, Patti Gibbons, the associate director for Cultural and Special Programs and staff adviser for the Liberal Arts Forum, steps in.
“When they know who they want to invite for the fall or a spring series, they will ask me to get in touch with them,” Gibbons said. “I’ll contact the individuals directly or I’ll work with their representatives and present the idea of a visit and what it might include. Then we go from there to draft a letter of agreement.”
With this long process of deciding which speakers would be the most interesting for Elon students, comes the equally important task of figuring out the budgeting for each speaker.
“The Liberal Arts Forum is a student-government funded organization,” Gibbons said. “Every year, they go to a budget hearing like all of the other organizations and they present a proposal for guests that they want to bring, they are then awarded a sum of money to use and once that is approved they know how they are going to divide that up across the different guests that they are bringing.”
That budget varies each year but according to Hayes the budget for the club is usually around $40,000.
“The most expensive speaker that we will bring is about $20,000, but if we do bring a really expensive speaker that usually means we can’t bring two more speakers,” Hayes said. “We try to have two-three speakers each semester, so if they each are less expensive we can usually bring three.”
This year, the most expensive speaker that the Liberal Arts Forum brought to campus was Molly Crabapple, who came on Feb. 9, to give a talk on “The Connection Between Art and Politics.”
Since Crabapple is an award-winning artist and her journalistic work has been published by major news organizations such as The New York Times, Newsweek and CNN, she merited a high price.
“Usually the more well-known a speaker is, the more expensive he or she will be,” Hayes said.
Both Hayes and Gibbons believe that the Liberal Arts Forum not only provides opportunities for the entire school, but also trains the students in the club how to deal and network with high-profile speakers.
“In an interview, I’ll talk the most about the Liberal Arts Forum because what we do is really impressive,” Hayes said. “We work directly with speaking agencies, we meet these authors, we spend time with them. It is a really good way to boost your experience at Elon and also to have something unique to talk about in an interview.”
The Liberal Arts Forum welcomes all students to join their meetings every Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. in Alamance 207.