Neil Ty, The Science Guy

Collegiate life provides some pretty stellar opportunities to meet great minds and learn from powerful figures in the global academic community. And when those same figures just happen to have their own meme, well, that’s just pretty awesome.

This week marked the latest in the Bucksbaum Lecture Series at Drake where influential figures in a wide variety of fields come to campus to speak to students, faculty, and members of the Des Moines community. In past lectures, I’ve seen Vicente Fox, Garrison Keillor, and one of my personal heroes, Jimmy Carter. So for a small school in Iowa, we do certainly attract some world-class names. Tuesday’s talk presented the famed astrophysicist and pop culture icon, Neil deGrasse Tyson.  While astrophysics may not seem like the most marketable subject matter on a campus full of 20-somethings, it was actually a really huge deal.

Every student I talked to was just genuinely really excited for Tyson to speak. And that excitement manifested itself in a packed house in the Knapp Center…I mean really packed. People were standing. To hear a guy talk about astrophysics. Even today, the general topic of conversation on campus was what Tyson had to say. Naturally, his speech was geared toward a more general audience, but still, students were pumped to hear about science and its cultural implications.

While this event illustrated the power of intellectual curiosity on this campus and the authenticity of the learners here, it also marked a good step forward for the university in terms of diversity of learning. Sometimes in academia, especially in a liberal arts environment, we get so focused in that we lose the larger context around us. Drake is increasingly trying to break us of that habit by ensuring that we have a wide array of academic experiences. In that vein, I put aside my literary theory and writing assignments to hear a little about science, and it was a lot of fun. But diversity extends beyond subject matter, it’s also about those who are presenting the talks. While I’ve been at Drake, we’ve had a solid array of speakers from various backgrounds and perspectives. However, I think more can, and will, be done to expand our horizons. Following the success of Tyson’s lecture, I’m hoping for a female presenter next and maybe someone from the humanities. Whoever’s next, they’ll definitely be another great hallmark in the Drake experience.

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