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CHESS Speaker Series

  • Reinventing Right NowGannon University's College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences prepares students to positively impact the world around them by engaging them in opportunities for meaningful knowledge-building, critical and innovative thinking, and exploring some of today's complex global challenges through an array of educational programming experiences.

    A hallmark of the College's work in carrying out this mission is its annual CHESS Speaker Series, which engages both Gannon and broader Erie community members in important and timely conversations that impact our neighbors across the world.

    As we navigate a world altered by the unprecedented events of the past year and a half, it can be difficult to know how to begin healing.  The College of Humanities, Education, and Social Sciences presents this year-long series with events centered on artistic expression, exploration of our varied heritages, and emphasis on the self as well as our connections with one another. Together, we will regain our footing in a changed world.

    Las Magnificas Performance

    Monday, September 20th | 8 p.m. | Schuster Theatre

    Women Guitar Player

    Returning to campus for another indelible show in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the CORE Ensemble continues its mission of intercultural dialogue. This performance will feature Nadya Encarnacion in the roles of Chavela Vargas, Celia Cruz, and Violetta Parra, three transformative and influential figures in Latin American cultural history.

    Co-sponsoring with the Schuster Theatre through the Clemente fund

    Equitable Erie Walk

    Thursday, September 29th |  4:30 p.m., | AJ's Way

    Join members of the Gannon community as we explore and ask questions about spaces on our campus and the larger downtown community. This guided walk will visit several downtown staples such as the Warner Theatre, the Erie Playhouse, the Erie Art Museum, and Perry Square among others all while asking who these places and spaces are perceived to be in service of and accessible to. Does everyone desiring to experience these assets and amenities have equitable access? Does what we offer through programming reflect the racial and cultural diversity of our community? Does everyone feel welcomed and accepted? These are the questions that Gannon and Erie Arts & Culture are interested in answering in both the university’s setting and in Erie as a whole.

    Frenemies: How to Interact with Those We Love but Disagree With

    Thursday, October 7th, | 7 p.m. | Yehl Ballroom

    Berny and Geston

    Friends since middle school, Berny Jacques and Geston Pierre are both children of Haitian political refugees who fled political instability that put their families at risk.  Despite their shared family immigration story, they clash on just about everything to do with social and political issues in the U.S.  Join Berny and Geston as they show us how people who profoundly disagree can maintain beautiful "frenemy-ships" through love, respect, honesty, and humor.

    View Recording

    Food as Healing with Shane Bernardo

    Thursday, October 28, | 3 p.m. | Palumbo Academic Center (3rd Floor Open Space)

    Shane Bernardo

    Creating local food systems and sustainable foodways are important entry points into the realm of food justice.  "Food as Healing" seeks to unearth how cultivating, celebrating and practicing food-based rituals nourishes us emotionally, intellectually and spiritually in ways that conventional comfort foods cannot. Shane Bernardo will present virtually to a live audience on Gannon’s campus as well as to those who join via Zoom. Attendees will learn how reclaiming our sense of tradition, culture, identity and ancestry can root our movements centered upon healing and increase our capacity to resist and push forward.

    Shane Bernardo is co-founder of Food As Healing, a grower, facilitator and food justice organizer based in Detroit, Michigan that uses food and storytelling as mediums for healing and decolonizing.

    If you are planning on attending the event via Zoom, please contact Emily Cummings in the CHESS Dean’s Office at to register. This event is presented in partnership with the Erie Food Policy Advisory Council.

    Register Today

    Unpredictability and Presence in Creative Action

    Saturday, November 6th | 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. | Grounded Printshop (1902 Cherry Street, Erie, PA)

    Ashley Pastore

    We begin with an artist talk by master papermaker Ashley Pastore and printmaker Alex Anthes. They will show some of their work, share their artistic philosophy, and talk about “being present” through creative action in the form of printmaking as a counter to the unpredictability of life. They will then give a printmaking demonstration, explaining specific presses and processes. Finally, they will lead a printmaking workshop with up to 20 participants (RSVP required). In the first part of the workshop, participants will create a print on the letterpress. In the second part, participants use the monotype process, which involves painting onto a sheet of plexiglass and then running the letterpress print. Each participant in the workshop will get to keep a copy of the print they make. All are welcome to attend the talk and to watch the demonstration, both of which are free and open to the public; however, the printmaking workshop costs $5 per person and is limited to 20 people.

    Alex Anthes
    • 1:00 – 1:40   Artist talk with Ashley Pastore and Alex Anthes.
    • 1:40 – 2:10   Demonstration of printmaking process.
    • 2:20 – 5:00   Participants create their own prints using the presses.
    • All are welcome, but RSVP required to participate in the printmaking (limit 20).

    Registration for Gannon Community Members

    Registration for Non-Gannon Community Members 

    Global Summit

    The Jefferson Educational Society invites speakers from around the world to speak on a broad range of globally important issues each year as part of our Global Summit Speaker Series. A President of the United States will headline the Jefferson Educational Society’s Global Summit XIII speaker series.

    Register Today

    The Impact of Systemic Racism in Communities of Color: Featuring Clayola Brown and Dewitt Walton

    Monday, November 1, 2021 | 7:30 P.M. | Jefferson Educational Society

    An Evening with Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center

    Wednesday, November 3, 2021 | 7:30 P.M. | Yehl Ballroom, Gannon University

    The Power of Policy Reform to Address Racial Justice in Erie: Featuring Camille Busette

    Thursday, November 4, 2021 | 7:30 P.M. | Jefferson Educational Society

    The History and Role of First Ladies: Featuring Barbara Perry, Stacy Cordery and Anita Mcbride

    Monday, November 8, 2021 | 7:30 P.M. | Yehl Ballroom, Gannon University

    American President Night

    Tuesday, November 9, 2021 | 7 P.M. | Bayfront Convention Center

    Including Governor Tom Ridge, Senator Pat Toomey, Global Summit Chairman Steve Scully and a special keynote speaker

    A Conversation with Former White House Chiefs of Staff: Featuring Andrew Card and Mack Mclarty

    Wednesday, November 10, 2021 | 7:30 P.M. | Yehl Ballroom, Gannon University

    A New Deal to Great Society: FDR and LBJ

    Thursday, November 11, 2021 | 7:30 P.M. | Yehl Ballroom, Gannon University

    Holding the Line: Political Violence in America and the Implications for Democracy

    Friday, November 12, 2021 | 7:30 P.M. | Yehl Ballroom, Gannon University

    Past Lecture Series Events Spring 2021

    Where do we Go From Here? Howard Thurman, MLK and the Beloved Community Today

    Tuesday, February 23 | 7 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    Howard Thurman

    Prominent Interpreter of both Howard Thurman and Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, author, pastor and theologian Dr. C. Anthony Hunt will present the promise of Dr. King’s “Beloved Community” in light of the perils of covid-19 and structural racism. A panel of Erie respondents will be moderated by Rev. Dr. Charles Mock, pastor of Community Missionary Baptist Church and past president of Inter-Church Ministries of Erie County, a sponsoring partner in this presentation.

    View Event Recording

    Sponsored by the Inter-Church ministries of Erie County, Gannon Philosophy Department and the College of Humanities, Education and Social Science

    Ain’t I a Woman!

    Thursday, Feb. 25 | 7 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    Shinnerrie Jackson

    Multi-talented actress Shinnerrie Jackson, a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, heads this one-woman theatrical performance where she plays historical figures Fanny Lou Hammer, Clementine Hunter, Sojourner Truth and Zora Neal Hurston. Jackson has headlined this show in performances all across the country.

    Sponsored in part by Gannon University’s Alex Clemente Fund for the Performing and Related Arts

    A Conversation with Samantha Fuentes: Uplifting the Voices of the Silenced

    Tuesday, March 2 | 7 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    Samantha Fuentes

    On Feb. 14, 2018 a gunman wielding an AR15 entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and fired on students, faculty and staff. Seventeen people lost their lives, and many others were wounded. Samantha Fuentes was among the injured in the Parkland tragedy. While fortunate to be alive, she is still battling the physical and mental ramifications of that day. Despite these tragic events, Fuentes is committed to delivering a poignant message in today’s conversation: to make sure that no child or adult is devastated by senseless and preventable gun violence ever again.

    Sponsored by Aetna and the Crime Victims Center

    Madam Vice President: How the Election of Kamala Harris Changes – and Doesn’t Change  – the State of Race in America

    Wednesday, March 10 | 7 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    Daniella Gibbs Leger

    Daniella Gibbs Léger, executive vice president for Communications and Strategy at American Progress, will analyze the implications of the election of Vice President Kamala Harris. Léger has written for Essence ,, and Huffington Post and has served as a special assistant to the president and director of message events in the Obama administration.

    View Event Recording

    Dr. Uche Blackstock

    Uche Blackstock

    Wednesday, March 24 | 7 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    This discussion features emergency physician and founder of Advancing Health Equity Uche Blackstock, Ph.D. Blackstock is committed to advancing equity in health care and addressing specific racial inequalities within the health care system. Her work has been featured on a national scale in publications and in the media.

    Co-sponsored by the Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences

    44th Gannon Writing Awards Program: Featuring Distinguished Poet Sherwin Bitsui

    Friday, April 16 | 7:30 p.m. | Zoom Livestream

    Sherwin Bitsui

    Sherwin Bitsui is the author of three books of poetry and the winner of the 2010 PEN Open Book Award, an American Book Award, and a Whiting Writers Award. He has been published in Narrative, Black Renaissance Noir, American Poet, The Iowa Review, LIT, and elsewhere. “...The only way to read Bitsui is to trust his poetic momentum and embrace his brilliant work.”— Booklist

    Bi-Cultural, Mixed-Race, and Returnee Experiences in Japan and the US


    Past Lecture Series Events Fall 2020

    From 1619 Virginia to 16503 Erie: The Constitutional Path to Black Lives Matter

    Tuesday, Aug. 25, 7 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Longtime Gannon faculty member Parris Baker, Ph.D., examines how racism was ingrained in the founding of the United States and the historical events that have led to the current Black Lives Matter movement. The focus on making reflective and reflexive change and the desire to re-evaluate processes at the micro and macro level are two areas Baker believes can result in significant change.

    Co-sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns. 

    View Event Recording

    Post Globalization: The Struggle for a Post-Pandemic Future

    Wednesday, Sept. 9, 10:10 - 11:05 a.m., Zoom Livestream

    Renowned professor Walden Bello of the State University of New York at Binghamton will speak on the COVID-19 pandemic, why 'connectivity' is a second stage of globalization, and how it has facilitated the spread of the novel coronavirus. Bello will go on to discuss three post-pandemic scenarios and why exclusionary forces have the political advantage.

    View Event Recording

    Congress on Campus: Racial Justice Conversation

    Monday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Join Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Congressman Charles Boustany (R-LA) in a wide-ranging discussion about "Racial Justice." These long serving former members of Congress will offer context and wisdom on this most important issue. Sponsored by the School of Public Service & Global Affairs, the duo are speaking to Gannon as part of the Congress to Campus program. The mission of Congress to Campus is to engage students to increase civic literacy and participation by directly connecting them with former members of Congress in the hopes of strengthening their participation in the democratic process.

    View Event Recording

    Defund, Disarm, Dismantle: Examining the Movement Against Police Violence

    Friday, Sept. 25, 11:15 a.m. - 12:10 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Dr. Judah Schept, Associate Professor at Eastern Kentucky University, will examine the uprisings against police violence in every state, sparked by the killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. Drawing from more than a decade of research into the re-formation and expansion of, as well as opposition to, the carceral state in both the Midwest and Appalachia, his talk examines and contextualizes the call to defund the police and offers some insights into the broader politics of abolition.

    View Event Recording

    From Slavery to Police Brutality: The History of United States Racist Policing

    Thursday, Oct. 8, 3 - 4 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Dr. Jason Williams, an Assistant Professor at Montclair State University, will present US Policing as Racialized Social Control: Canvassing Baltimore and Ferguson. His talk will intersectionalize our understanding of policing and recommend the need for a more historical and complicated approach toward policing practice and understanding. Dr. Viviane Saleh Hanna, Professor and Chairperson of Crime and Justice Studies at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, will examine police and vigilante white supremacist violence using her research on black feminist hauntology and abolitionist theory of crime.

    View Event Recording

    Champions of Justice

    Wednesday, Oct. 28, 11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Social Work and Criminal Justice students will present their character synopsis of diverse individuals, including but not limited to, Victoria Earle Matthews, Carrie Steele, and Mohammed Ali, who have made often unrecognized or under-appreciated contributions to creating a more just and equitable society.

    43RD Annual Gannon Writing Awards featuring Distinguished Poet Allison Joseph

    Friday, Oct. 9, 6:30 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    View Event Recording

    Walking with Pope Francis: Encouraging Dialogue and Friendship at Gannon

    Tuesday, Oct. 27, 7 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    Join three Gannon leaders for a discussion of justice, diversity, and inclusion at Gannon, in the context of Catholic Social Teaching from Fratelli Tutti.  Gannon faculty, staff, students, and alumni are invited to participate in the conversation.

    The Annual St. Albert the Great lecture sponsored by the Philosophy Department invites colleagues to present their current research in the spirit of interdisciplinary learning and exploration in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.


    Dr. Lori Lindley, Dean of the College of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences

    Rebecca Perry, Director of the Center for Social Concerns (Co-chairs of Gannon's Justice, Diversity, and Inclusion Steering Committee)

    Dr. Eric Dart, Chair of the Theology Department and the Liberal Studies Task Force

    View Event Recording

    Building an Equitable Community: A Discussion on Inclusive Programming in the Arts

    Thursday, Oct 29, 7 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    As part of an initiative with Erie Arts & Culture promoting an equitable community, this virtual roundtable event offers a space for open discussion on inclusive programming and diversity in the arts. This discussion will be moderated by William Steadman (Concert Band Director, Gannon University) and features a panel from the artistic community throughout the city of Erie and the broader region:

    Robert Deemer, Professor of Music Composition, State University of New York @ Fredonia; Director, Institute for Composer Diversity

    Patrick Fisher, Executive Director, Erie Arts & Culture

    Kate Neubert-Lechner, Executive Director, Erie Playhouse

    Ceasar Westbrook, Freelance/Teaching Artist; Art Teacher, Erie School District

    Bill Williams, Immediate Past President, Erie Playhouse; Vice President, Martin Luther King Center

    View Event Recording

    The 2020 Election: Where are we? Where are we headed?

    Thursday, Nov 5, 7 p.m., Zoom Livestream

    The Jefferson Educational Society and Gannon's School of Public Service & Global Affairs are teaming up for a moderated discussion about the 2020 election, its results, and the path forward. Ben Speggen will moderate a discussion featuring experts on the recent history of the Republican and Democratic Parties. Plus, a diverse range of students will offer their experiences and observations.

    View Event Recording