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Robert Elde, Saturday Morning Seminar speaker and dean of the College of Biological Sciences asks, "Are We Intrinsically Violent?"

Thumbnail image for Robert P. EldePh.D.jpgWarfare and violence have been part of human society for so long that one might wonder if they are inevitable, an intrinsic characteristic of the human mind. From the Crusades to the French Revolution, from the Holocaust to today's suicide bombers, it seems that a propensity towards violent behavior can be found in cultures throughout history and around the world.

So, is there hope for us? Are we an intrinsically violent species? And if so, does the answer lie in mitigating our behavior, our genetics, or something else entirely?

Dr. Robert Elde, dean of the U's College of Biological Sciences (CBS), tackles those questions and more at the Saturday Morning Seminar, Are We Intrinsically Violent on April 13, on the St. Paul campus.

mondale_jacobs_original.jpgThe LearningLife Forum: Witness to History series will kick off 2011 with a true Minnesota luminary: former U.S. Vice President, Senator, and Ambassador Walter Mondale.

Mondale will be interviewed by the Humphrey Institute's Larry Jacobs. Jacobs is director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, an expert in American political history and policy, and the author of 10 books.

Many LearningLife participants will know that this will not be the first time the two have teamed up: Mondale and Jacobs have been Headliners and Great Conversations presenters, and each spring for the last several years, Mondale and Jacobs have co-taught a popular undergraduate course at the U focusing on national security issues and public policy.

Says director of LearningLife programming Margy Ligon, "When [they] spoke at a Headliners event last year, the audience gave them a spontaneous standing ovation. As one participant said, 'the Mondale/Jacobs Headliners event was simply extraordinary. I actually had tears in my eyes because of the privilege of hearing Mondale speak in such an intimate, informal setting.'"

Ever look around and realize you now know full well the meaning of phrases like "Youth is wasted on the young," and "If I only knew then what I know now," and "Hindsight is 20/20"?

If so, you're certainly not alone. As we get older, most of us discover one of the great age-acquired wisdoms of the world: that maybe we DIDN'T actually know everything when we were in college.

So maybe you majored in French lit, but secretly yearned to argue passionately about politics and foreign relations. Or perhaps you were elbow-deep in frog carcasses in biology class, and couldn't take the courses in ancient history you would have liked. Or even (shudder to think it) you may have, accidentally (but only once, of course), fallen asleep during that history of Western religion course...only to become intrigued by that very subject matter as an adult.

Whatever the reason, you can now head back into the classroom for a crash course in topics you always wished you had studied (or wished you had paid more attention to) with LearningLife's new 101 series of courses.

MinnPost on "Birth of Jazz"

MinnPost's Pamela Espeland: "I like the idea of a physicist playing 78s and talking about Louis Armstrong, Sydney Bechet and Bessie Smith." Check out her blog post about our Birth of Jazz class, taught by theoretical physicist Johan Dirks!

In a special Homecoming edition of Great Conversations, University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks will discuss the future of American high education - what makes it great and how to sustain its global stature - with Jonathan Cole, former provost and dean of faculties at Columbia University and author of the comprehensive new book The Great American University; and University of Minnesota alumnus Robert Berdahl, former chancellor of The University of California, Berkeley, former president of the University of Texas, Austin, and current president of the Association of American Universities.
A dessert reception with the speakers follows the conversation.
The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 30, at Ted Mann Concert Hall. Tickets are $22.50. More information and online ordering is available through the Northrop Box Office.
Media sponsors for Great Conversations are: Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Minnesota Public Radio, and MinnPost.com

Jack El-hai.jpgSplit Rock Arts Program instructor Jack El-Hai has made a successful career out of "telling the great untold stories" in science and medicine. For the author of many medical science books, articles, and essays, writing scientific nonfiction is a spellbinding form of storytelling.

"Medical science is inherently dramatic--you have at least two engaged protagonists: the sick person and the one helping. You have a host of interesting conflicts...between the protagonists and their own internal conflicts, and between the medical personnel and the community. Stories about medical science really are true-life, life-and-death tales."

It was during the writing of one such dramatic tale, his most recent book, The Lobotomist: A Maverick Medical Genius and His Tragic Quest to Rid the World of Mental Illness (John Wiley & Sons, 2005), that El-Hai became interested in the intersection of an individual's career and his or her personal life. "Here was this story of a brilliant medical mind [Walter Freeman] who became obsessed. The story shows a real parallel between the rise and fall of Freeman's career and of lobotomy as a common medical practice, with the rise and collapse of Freeman's personal life.

Galapagos.JPG"Ask a historian, a biology buff, and an avid traveler to make a "bucket list," and chances are all three will share a common destination: the Galápagos Islands.

Situated on the equator, about 620 miles west of Guayaquil, Ecuador, the islands and their unique flora and fauna gained widespread public notoriety after being described by Charles Darwin in his 1839 book, The Voyage of the Beagle.

The archipelago is young, geologically speaking; it also is distinctive in that it is one of the few places in the world without an indigenous human population. Those attributes, coupled with the multitudes of endemic species found there, have made it a wonderland of information for biologists, historians, geologists, and others.

Barco Xpedition 117.jpgThe islands are so valuable that Ecuador has set aside virtually the entire archipelago as a national park and UNESCO made the Galápagos its first World Heritage Site.

Says Randy Moore, U professor of biology and LearningLife short-course instructor for Galápagos! Walking in Darwin's Footsteps, "words cannot fully describe the richness of the place. It's hard to take it all in. Discovering new places, new things, new animals and plants, exploration...that stuff isn't ancient history--it's right there in Galápagos.

Justus_Ramsey.jpgA journalism major in college, Laura Weber has spent decades in the writing and editing field. She got her start as a freelancer covering the Minneapolis arts community, continued writing articles and reviews as she worked for a variety of nonprofits, and is now serving as the director of communications for the U's College of Design.

In many respects, it was her vocation that opened the door to her avocation. Weber's writing on the arts segued into writing about history--which led to her graduate degree in history. It also piqued her interest about many of the buildings and structures in the arts district. Now, when she is not at work at the U, she is a writer and historian specializing in Minnesota vernacular architecture

Weber, a past president for the Minnesota Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, will lend her expertise to the July 20 Curiosity Camp, Chapels, Cottages, and Ivy-Covered Halls: Preserving Historic Gems.

Space Camp for Grown-Ups (Thursday, July 8, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.)

Finding Creativity and Meaning Through Mindfulness (Tuesday, July 13, 2:30 - 9:30 p.m.)

Reaching a Sustainable Future: Design/Community/Art/Action (Thursday, July 15, 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.)

Chapels, Cottages, and Ivy-Covered Halls: Preserving Historic Gems (Tuesday, July 20, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.)

China's Art Treasures (Wednesday, July 21, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.)

Subterranean Twin Cities: Caves, Mines, and Underground Spaces (Additional session added, due to demand! Thursday, August 5, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.)

Late Roman and Byzantine Art: From the Daily to the Sacred (Tuesday, August 10, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.)

Great news: Due to popular demand, the sold-out "Subterranean Twin Cities" Curiosity Camp will be offered again on August 5! Thanks to instructor and guide Greg Brick for being so flexible!

If you're interested in exploring the maze of caves beneath our streets, we urge you to sign up quickly--chances are, this event will sell out fast! Registration is available here.

More info about Curiosity Camp