USF Launches Phi Beta Kappa Faculty Series

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2010) – America’s leading astrophysicist, a noted economist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and a cultural theorist are among the seven speakers scheduled to take the stage this year in the inaugural Phi Beta Kappa Faculty Lecture Series organized by USF’s College of Arts and Sciences.


Drawing from a wide-range of disciplines, the unique lecture series has been designed in partnership between USF faculty who are members of Phi Beta Kappa, the Mayor of Tampa’s Office and the USF’s Provost Office in an effort to extend the liberal arts and sciences to USF students, faculty and staff as well as the larger Tampa Bay community.


The 2010 series will begin on Thursday, Feb. 25, with an appearance by astrophysicist and best-selling author Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History and Visiting Research Scientist and Lecturer at Princeton University. Tyson will appear at 6:30 p.m. at MOSI’s IMAX Theater.


Tyson's book, The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America's Favorite Planet, is the basis for the new PBS/NOVA documentary "The Pluto Files." He also serves as  co-host of the NSF-funded pilot program Star Talk, which combines celebrity guests with informative science talk.


“Over the past two decades the mission and purpose of the research university has shifted dramatically, from an isolated ivory tower to an engaged institution that partners with its communities to promote civic culture, drive economic development, and improve the quality of human life,” said Eric Eisenberg, Dean of USF’s College of Arts and Sciences.


“We created this series as a joint project of USF faculty and the City of Tampa aimed at raising the level of intellectual discourse in our community. We will do so by inviting nationally and internationally known thought leaders to visit us and create opportunities for interaction between these visionary individuals and our best and brightest citizens.”


The inspiration for the series came from an outstanding community response to lectures on campus by such luminaries as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and feminist activist Betty Friedan, Eisenberg said. Four of the seven lectures in the 2010 series are scheduled off campus to make them available to as wide an audience as possible, Eisenberg noted.


Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest academic honor society, formed to celebrate and advocate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. USF boasts more than 100 PBK faculty alumni and is currently in the process of making application to shelter a chapter of its own. 


All lectures are free and open to the public. No RSVP is required.


Other upcoming speakers are:


March 17 – Tom Gjelten, an award-winning NPR intelligence and national security reporter, whose latest book, Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: A Biography of a Cause, was released last year. Gjelten will speak at 6:30 p.m. at the Tampa Bay History Center, TECO Room.


April 15 – George Ritzer, a leading social theorist and cultural commentator from the University of Maryland, whose books on consumption behavior in western society have spurred important debates about the nature and value of globalization. Ritzer will speak at 6:30 p.m. in Traditions Hall at USF’s Gibbons Alumni Center.


Sept. 14 – Taylor Branch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63, and most recently The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President. Branch will speak at 7 p.m. in the Jaeb Theater at the Straz Performing Arts Center (formerly the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center).


Sept. 23 – Eric Foner, an American historian and faculty member in the Department of History at Columbia, who is the leading contemporary historian of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period. Foner will speak at 6:30 p.m. in the Oval Theater of USF’s Marshall Student Center.


Oct. 13 – Julianne Malveaux, a respected economist and writer, who is a recognized commentator on politics, economics, national affairs, race and gender. Malveaux will speak at 7 p.m. in the atrium of the Tampa Museum of Art.


Nov. 30 – Martha Nussbaum, an American philosopher, author and essayist, whose work on political philosophy and ethics was once described by the New York Times as “required reading for those with a taste for intellectual combat.”  Nussbaum will speak at 6:30 p.m. in Traditions Hall at USF’s Gibbons Alumni Center.



The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.