Current Schedule

Saving the Enlightenment One Speaker at a Time

2017-18 Season

 Tuesday, September 5 | 6:30 p.m. | Bennett Auditorium

James McBrideJames McBride and the Good Lord Bird Band

James McBride is an award-winning author, songwriter, and screenwriter. His memoir, The Color of Water, spent two years on The New York Times bestseller list and his novel, The Good Lord Bird, was the 2013 recipient of the National Book Award. His musical compositions have earned him the American Music Festival's Stephen Sondheim Award and the American Arts and Letters Richard Rodgers Award. When he was presented with the 2015 National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama, he was applauded for “humanizing the complexities of discussing race in America” and for “his moving stories of love” that “display the character of the American family.”

One of America’s most distinguished writers and musicians, James McBride will bring his Good Lord Bird Band to Southern Miss to present a special night featuring material from the novel and music inspired by the life of John Brown.



Tuesday, October 24 | 6:30 p.m. | Bennett Auditorium

Dan-el Padilla Peralta

Dan-el Padilla Peralta

Author of Undocumented, Dan-el Padilla Peralta rose from poverty as an undocumented immigrant from the Dominican Republic to become a classics professor at Princeton.  

Today, he is considered one of the finest classicists of his generation. In 1989, when Dan-el was four years old, his family migrated to United States from the Dominican Republic. Their temporary visa soon expired, his father returned to Santo Domingo, and his mother raised him. For much of his life, from growing up in homeless shelters in New York to his arrival at Princeton University, Peralta hid the fact that he was an undocumented immigrant. In 2006, he made the momentous decision to come out as an undocumented student in the Wall Street Journal. At the University Forum at Southern Miss, Dan-el Padilla Peralta will share his life story, from a self-described streetwise, potty-mouthed child of housing projects to a successful Ivy League graduate.  Peralta hopes his story will further the discussion of immigrants’ roles in the building of modern America.


Tuesday, November 14 | 6:30 p.m. | Thad Cochran Ballrooms

Yuval Levin

Yuval Levin

Yuval Levin is the founding editor of National Affairs and a contributing editor at the National Review. He has authored four books, is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a recipient of the 2013 Bradley Prize, and a former associate director of the Domestic Policy Council in the George W. Bush White House. His most recent book, The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism, argues that both liberal and conservative Americans' nostalgia for a lost past has led to today's polarized politics.

Known to Washington insiders as “probably the most influential conservative intellectual of the Obama era,” Yuval Levin will explore the relationship between political philosophy and public policy when he addresses the University Forum at Southern Miss.




 Tuesday, February 20 | 6:30 p.m. | Bennett Auditorium

John Asher Johnson

John Asher Johnson

Harvard astronomer John Asher Johnson leads a program that introduces black and Latino students to science. 

Johnson (and his research team) have discovered three exoplanets, planets outside our solar system that orbit a sun, including the smallest exoplanet identified to date. An astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Johnson is the principal investigator for the Miniature Exoplanet Radial Velocity Array (MINERVA), an earth-based robotic search for exoplanets. Johnson is also a leading advocate for diversity in the sciences.

In 2014, after leaving CalTech for Harvard, he established the Banneker and Aztlán Institute, “an ambitious new program meant to increase the number of black and Latino astronomers in the field—and to ensure that they are equipped to grapple with the social forces they will face in their careers” (  Recent surveys have shown that eighty percent of physicists and astronomers in the United States are white, fourteen percent Asian, and only five percent black or Hispanic. Johnson will bring his story of challenging the lack of diversity in the sciences to Southern Mississippi when he speaks at the University Forum.


 Tuesday, March 6 | 6:30 p.m. | Bennett Auditorium

Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas is The New York Times bestselling author of The Hate U Give, a young adult novel inspired by the Black Lives Movement and newspaper accounts of violent encounters between African Americans and the police.  Born in Jackson, Mississippi, Thomas earned a Bachelors in Fine Arts from Belhaven University, and was the inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant in 2015. The Hate U Give, her first novel, has been called “a stunning, brilliant, gut-wrenching novel that will be remembered as a classic of our time” (The New York Times).  It is currently being made into a movie starring Amandla Steinberg.

At Southern Miss, Angie Thomas will explore how writing can turn the merely political into the deeply personal, inspiring action and the courage to speak truth to power.




 Tuesday, April 10 | 6:30 p.m. | Bennett Auditorium

Nicholas Kristof

Nicholas Kristof

Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize seven times and twice the winner, The New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristof has spent a lifetime reporting on and writing about human rights abuses and social injustices. Kristof “has lived on four continents, reported on six, and traveled to more than 140 countries… During his travels, he has had unpleasant experiences with malaria, mobs and an African airplane crash. (” Legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin has said of Kristof: "I’m not surprised to see him emerge as the moral conscience of our generation of journalists. I am surprised to see him as the Indiana Jones of our generation of journalists.”

Mr. Kristof and his spouse, former Times correspondent Sheryl WuDunn, have authored four books, including the number one New York Times bestseller, Half the Sky: From Oppression to Opportunity for Women Worldwide.

At Southern Miss, Kristof will discuss the hundred thousand underage girls that are trafficked into the sex trade each year in the United States and share insights about a global crisis in human trafficking that hits closer to home than most want to believe.



And the Armstrong-Branch Lecture on February 27 in Bennett will feature the author of The Butler and Showdown Wil Haygood! To learn more about this year's University Forum and Armstrong-Branch Lecture, visit Southern Miss Now.



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