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Bakersfield College

Levan Center for the Humanities at Bakersfield College

Lectures and Events

Public Lectures/Events


Gadfly Cafes

Reggie Williams facilitates a debate between BC students over important philosophical ideals

  • Postponed until Fall 2020.

Renegade Roundtable

Michael Harvath, Steven Holmes, Erin Miller and Neal Stanifer discuss various contemporary sociopolitical issues.

  • Postponed until Fall 2020.

Deep Cuts and Conversation

Josh Ottum, Kris Tiner and Reggie Williams host a discussion on the ways that music reflects society.

  • Postponed until Fall 2020.


Thomas Blackwell

Motivation| Language | Inspire

The Liberty of Our Language Revealed

Monday, September 9, 2019
10 a.m. | Levan Center
10 a.m. | Livecast to Delano, DST 118
7 p.m. | Indoor Theatre

Our state of being dictates our destiny. When we are joyful, we bring more joy in to the world. When we are certain, we create more certainty. When we are intentional, we get from life what we intended. And, if there is a single, indicative guidepost to how we are feeling, what we are thinking, and what we are creating, it is that which we speak. As you read, understand, and begin to implement the framework of language outlined in this book, it will unlock a new potential and a new reality in every area of your life.

Thomas Blackwell website
The Liberty of Our Language Revealed Book cover.
Speaker Biography

Thomas Blackwell travels the world as a keynote speaker and trainer inspiring people to change their language in order to change their results. He has given more than a thousand talks and workshops to corporations, executives, entrepreneurs, sales teams, athletes, religious groups, and students.

While attending Northern Arizona University on a music/voice scholarship, Blackwell competed in tennis and soccer and later coached tennis at the Division I Level. His business experience runs deep as he has owned and operated a successful seven-figure insurance agency with more than one hundred agents in three different locations. While realizing some significant success in business in 2004, he was asked to tell his story in seven minutes to a group of more than ten thousand people. His being requested to speak and inspire as a keynote and facilitator has never stopped since. This inevitably led him to this vocation he didn't even know was an option.

Above it all, Blackwell's greatest blessings from God are being married to his high school sweetheart, and being the father to four precious daughters.

Thomas Blackwell Author Portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Dr. Jennifer Garrett, Professor of Music
Brought to you in collaboration with the BC Performing Arts Department.

Dr. Paula Green

Tranquility | Community | Resolution

Peacebuilding in Divided Communities

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
5:30 p.m. | Levan Center

What makes Karuna Center and this training guide different from a large number of other organizations working in similar areas, and many other training manuals, is that Karuna Center combines the insights and wisdom of psychology, sociology, and politics in a holistic fashion. This approach generates respectful and effective dialogue, reconciliation, and collaborative problem solving between warring parties. Green invites the reader into the philosophy behind peacebuilding efforts, sharing the details of workshop designs, the countries in which Karuna Center has taught them, and useful materials for the tasks of teaching and learning. The tools for peacebuilding need to be disseminated widely, so that skills for transforming conflict can be taught worldwide to current and future generations.

Karuna Center

Peacebuilding in Divided Communities book cover.
Speaker Biography

Dr. Paula Green is the founder, former Executive Director, and now Senior Fellow of Karuna Center for Peacebuilding.

She also serves as Professor of Conflict Transformation at the School for International Training, where she founded and directs CONTACT (Conflict Transformation Across Cultures), an annual peacebuilding institute and graduate certificate program for peacemakers from around the world. She directed, designed, and implemented multi-year programs in peacebuilding, inter-communal dialogue, and reconciliation for diverse stakeholders for the first 15 years of the organization’s existence.

Green has extensive international experience in peacebuilding and conflict transformation as an international consultant, and brings a sense of social responsibility and spiritual awareness to her work as a psychologist, educator and leader in the peacebuilding field.

Paula Green portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Nick Strobel, Professor of Astronomy
Brought to you in collaboration with the Levan Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series and the Astronomy program.

Samuel H. Sternberg

Genetics | Scientist | Research

Crack in Creation:
Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution

Thursday, October 24, 2019
10 a.m., 2 p.m., & 7 p.m. | Levan Center
2 p.m. | Live cast to Delano, DST 118

Not since the atomic bomb has a technology so alarmed its inventors that they warned the world about its use. That is, until 2015, when biologist Jennifer Doudna called for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the gene-editing tool CRISPR—a revolutionary new technology that she helped create—to make heritable changes in human embryos. The cheapest, simplest, most effective way of manipulating DNA ever known, CRISPR may well give us the cure to HIV, genetic diseases, and some cancers. Yet even the tiniest changes to DNA could have a myriad, of unforeseeable consequences—to say nothing of the ethical and societal repercussions of intentionally mutating embryos to create “better” humans. Writing with fellow researcher Sam Sternberg, Doudna shares the story of the enormous responsibility that comes with the power to rewrite the code of life.

Samuel H. Sternberg website

A Crack in Creation book cover.
Speaker Biography

Sternberg is an Assistant professor at Columbia University in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, where he runs a research laboratory. Sam is a protein-RNA biochemist and CRISPR expert. He was a featured TEDMED 2015 speaker on the transformative potential of CRISPR—Cas9, and is actively involved in public discussions on the ethical issues surrounding genome editing of human cells.

Sternberg received his B.A. in Biochemistry from Columbia University in 2007, graduating summa cum laude, and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2014. He received graduate student fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense, and was awarded the Scaringe Award from the RNA Society and the Harold Weintraub Graduate Student Award from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

His doctoral research in the laboratory of Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Dr. Jennifer Doudna, focused on the mechanism of DNA targeting by RNA-guided bacterial immune systems (CRISPR—Cas9) and on the development of these systems for genome engineering applications. His work has been published in the journals Nature, Science, and Cell, and been covered in The New York Times, Science News, The Scientist, and various other news outlets.

Samuel H. Sternberg author portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Joe Saldivar, Professor of Biology, PH.D. / Department Chair
Brought to you in collaboration with the Levan Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series, the Biology Department, and Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA).

Jason Beardsley

Veteran | Consultant | War

An Apotheosis of America

Thursday, November 7, 2019
10 a.m., 2 p.m., & 7 p.m. | Levan Center
2 p.m. | Live cast to Delano, DST 118

Speaker Biography

Former Master Sergeant Jason Beardsley is a senior consultant and advisor. He has 22 years of experience with the U.S. military, recently leaving the government after 15 years with Army Special Operations and Joint Special Operations. A recipient of two Bronze Stars for his achievements and sound use of judgment during sustained combat operations, he was part of a select group of individuals trusted to accomplish some of the most dangerous and covert tactical missions in support of U.S. military action and the Global War on Terrorism.

An expert in military intelligence, diplomatic security, foreign internal defense, unconventional warfare, and counter-terrorism, Beardsley also has expertise with advanced communications systems and communication theory. Beyond being highly trained, he has the creativity, individuality, and determination that facilitated his escalation to the highest levels within Special Operations. He possesses strong leadership skills and his superiors commended him for having the unique ability to develop approaches that blend both strategies with tactical plans to achieve mission goals. With a keen understanding of the ramifications of every decision, he has the ability to effectively plan and execute complex missions, adapt easily to working in different environments, and overcome any obstacles.

Beardsley has advised at a senior level on activities involving the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies, including the State Department, as well as government entities of Host and Allied Nations. This experience brings a solid and highly successful approach to working with all levels and agencies within U.S. and foreign governments. His involvement with joint intelligence and special operations included developing and executing plans to achieve strategic initiatives, establishing relationships with defense and intelligence groups of both the U.S. and our partner nations, unifying resources from disparate commands, and leading combined forces in accomplishing multifaceted operations. He led task force operations involving planning and execution of special operations missions in hostile environments and in remote locations.

As a measure of his success, Beardsley took on some of the most difficult assignments, using his creativity, charisma, and doggedness to gain buy-off from senior commanders to execute these missions successfully. Despite the extreme challenges, he has proven his ability and passion for the intricacies of determining resource needs, identifying and assembling the best possible teams, and accessing the right assets needed to execute the work anywhere in the world.

Jason Beardsley author portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Paul Beckworth, Professor of History
Brought to you in collaboration with Veterans Resource Center.

Patrisse Khan-Cullors

Police Brutality | Community Organizer | Social Justice

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

Thursday, February 6, 2020
10 a.m., 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. | Indoor Theater
2 p.m. | Live cast to Delano, DST 118

Khan-Cullors’ first book co-written by Asha Bandele, is a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity. A New York Times Best Seller – necessary and timely, Khan-Cullors’ story asks us to remember that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love. Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. But in truth, they are loving women whose life experiences have led them to seek justice for those victimized by the powerful. In this meaningful, empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience, Khan-Cullors and Bandele seek to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable.

Patrisse Collors website

When they call you a terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir book cover.
Speaker Biography

In 2013, Patrisse Khan-Cullors co-founded the global movement with the viral twitter hashtag #BlackLivesMatter which has since grown to an international organization with dozens of chapters around the world fighting anti-Black racism. She’s received many awards for activism and movement building, including being named by the Los Angeles Times as a Civil Rights Leader for the 21st Century.

Khan-Cullors has always been traveling on the path to freedom. Growing up with several of her loved ones experiencing incarceration and brutality at the hands of the state, she has since worked tirelessly promoting law enforcement accountability across the world while focusing on addressing trauma and building on the resilience and health of the communities most affected. At 16, Khan-Cullors came out as queer and moved out of her home in the Valley. She formed close connections with other young queer woman who were dealing with the challenges of poverty and being Black and Brown in the USA. She has also been on the front-lines of criminal justice reform for the last 20 years and is leading Reform LA jails, a ballot initiative that will be voted on in March 2020.

Faculty Coordinator: Reggie Williams, Professor of Philosophy
Brought to you in collaboration with the Levan Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series and the BC African-American Initiative Committee.

Elaine Weiss

Women | Voting | Suffrage

The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote

Soon to be a major television event, the nail-biting climax of one of the greatest political battles in American history: the ratification of the constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote. Nashville, August 1920: Thirty-five states have ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, twelve have rejected or refused to vote, and one last state is needed. It all comes down to Tennessee, the moment of truth for the suffragists, after a seven-decade crusade. The opposing forces include politicians with careers at stake, liquor companies, railroad magnates, and a lot of racists who don’t want black women voting. And then there are the “Antis”–women who oppose their own enfranchisement, fearing suffrage will bring about the moral collapse of the nation. They all converge in a boiling hot summer for a vicious face-off replete with dirty tricks, betrayals and bribes, bigotry, Jack Daniel’s, and the Bible.

Elaine Weiss website

The Woman's Hour the Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss book cover.
Speaker Biography

Elaine Weiss is an award-winning journalist and writer. Her magazine feature writing has been recognized with prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists, and her by-line has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, New York Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as reports and documentaries for National Public Radio and Voice of America. She has been a frequent correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.

Her long-form writing garnered a Pushcart Prize “Editor’s Choice” award, and she is a proud MacDowell Colony Fellow. Her first book, Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army in the Great War was excerpted in Smithsonian Magazine online and featured on C-San and public radio stations nationwide.

Weiss holds a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University. She has worked as a Washington Correspondent, congressional aide and speech writer, magazine editor, and university journalism instructor, speech writer, magazine editor, and university journalism instructor.

Elaine Weiss author portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Erin Miller, Professor of History
Brought to you in collaboration with the Levan Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series & WHAM Foundation.

Dr. Tony B. Iton

Healthy | Living | Initiative

Building Healthy Communities

Zip code or Genetic code: Which is a Better Predictor of Health? Where you live shouldn’t determine how long you live, but it does. In fact, research shows that your health has more to do with place and where you live, than a doctors’ visits. Dr. Iton’s commitment to improving the fundamental conditions of people’s lives was profoundly shaped by when he moved to East Baltimore, Maryland to attend medical school, where he witnessed the inequities in the United States compared to what he grew up with in Montreal Canada. He found it problematic that health-promoting resources such as health care, childcare, and higher education were available to everyone in Canada, whereas he attended a world-renowned medical school that was situated in what he calls “one of the worst slums in America”. Propelled by this experience, Dr. Iton is using data to study how and when zip codes become more important than genetic codes when it comes to people’s health.

Dr. Iton’s primary interest is the health of disadvantaged populations and the contributions of race, class, wealth, education, geography, and employment to health status. He has asserted that in every public health area of endeavor, be it immunizations, chronic disease, HIV/AIDS, STDs, obesity, or even disaster preparedness, public health practitioners must recognize that they are confronted with the enduring consequences of structural poverty, institutional racism and other forms of systemic injustice.

Tony Iton website

Speaker Biography

Anthony Iton, M.D., J.D., MPH is Senior Vice President for Healthy Communities at The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation whose mission is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. Prior to that Dr. Iton served for seven years as the Alameda County Public Health Department Director and Health Officer where he oversaw an agency with a budget of $112 million with a focus on preventing communicable disease outbreaks, reducing the burden of chronic disease and obesity, and managing the county’s preparedness for biological terrorism.

Dr. Iton received his medical degree at Johns Hopkins Medical School and subsequently trained in internal medicine and preventive medicine at New York Hospital, Yale, and Berkeley and is board certified in both specialties. Dr. Iton has also received a law degree and a Master’s of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley and is a member of the California Bar. His experience practicing both medicine and law independently has enabled him to blend both disciplines in the day-to-day practice of public health and in responding to recent public health emergencies such as SARS and anthrax.

Dr. Tony Iton author portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Charles Daramola, Professor of Public Health Sciences
Brought to you in collaboration with with the Levan Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series, and the California Humanities.

Faculty Colloquia

Fall 2019: Dr. Bernadette Towns

  • Concept Building: A Systematic Approach for Improving Instruction
  • Friday, October 18th, 2019
  • Levan Center: 10:30 a.m. - Noon

Fall 2019 Faculty Colloquium flier.

Developed through extensive research and study, as well as over twenty years of teaching experience, The Concept Building System Theory unveils an innovative approach to facilitate a deeper level of understanding in the classroom. Join Dr. Towns as she takes participants on an interactive and thought-provoking journey that is designed to enrich instruction of any subject at every level. Each individual will be challenged to evaluate current teaching strategies and will have the opportunity to explore practical ways to incorporate the System Theory into personal instruction.

Caribbean food will be served during the event, and no registration is required.

For more information or to request accommodations in advance, please contact Erin Miller.

Faculty Biography

Bernadette Towns has been a Professor of Child Development at Bakersfield College since 2000. She holds a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction and a PhD in Education with an emphasis on Technology. Bernadette has worked in education for over 25 years and has taught at every level from infant care to college. Dr. Towns has trained and presented at numerous educational conferences throughout the United States, Europe, and China on various educational topics: like concept building, developmentally appropriate practices, and cultural harmony. For the past three summers Bernadette has worked in China, training adults in western educational theories and teaching children English by utilizing the concept building approach.

Past Colloquia

Fall 2018: Rae Ann Kumelos

  • Animal Advice: Are You Listening?
  • Friday, November 2, 2018
  • Levan Center: 10:30 a.m. - Noon

Fall 2018 Faculty Colloquium

Are you look for love, joy, wisdom, inspiration, connection, or advice? Then listen to the animals. And if you don't? According to the fairy tales around the world, you are doomed!

Animals give us unconditional love, inspiration, wisdom, guidance, and joy - all elements vital to living a full and happy life. The enduring influence and importance of the human/animal relationship, both to ancient people and cultures and to our 21st Century lives, is examined through stories and scholarship from myth, fairy tale, literature, science, popular culture and life. Rae Ann will discuss how to avoid doom, and instead appreciate timeless animal wisdom as it applies directly to our own lives through the appearance of the animals that share our homes, backyards, and the wilderness.

Vegetarian food will be served during the event, and no registration is required. For more information or to request accommodations in advance, please contact Reggie Williams.

Faculty Biography

Rae Ann Kumelos holds a Ph.D. in Mythological Studies, a Masters in Literature and Mythology, and a B.S. degree in marketing. She has written both academically and as a columnist in a variety of national publications about the human/animal relationship in myth, literature, astronomy and popular culture, and lecture at various conferences, including Oxford University. her radio program, Voice of the Animal, is broadcast on Sirius XM Satellite Radio and recorded by the Commercial Music program at BC. Her 2016 book, "Wild Wisdom: Animal Stories of the Southwest", received a national award as gift book of the year. Rae Ann grew up in Bakersfield, and lived in beautiful destination places in Arizona, New Mexico and California Gold Country for many years before returning home in 2012 to teach English and Mythology at Bakersfield College.

Fall 2017: Rafael Espericueta

  • Deep Learning and the Advent of Sentient Machines
  • Friday, November 3rd, 2017: Levan Center, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Deep Learning and the Advent of Sentient Machines

AI is increasingly affecting all of our lives. It now seems likely that machines may soon actually attain sentience, or at least act as though they were as sentient as you or I. Automation will certainly continue to eliminate jobs at an accelerating rate.

The ethical ramifications of this technology are vast and will be increasingly pertinent. Our very species' survival may well hang in the balance. But whether you are terrified at imagined dystopias this technology may engender, or excited by utopic visions of the future this technology can make possible, artificial intelligence is evolving at an exponential rate. The day of the sentient machine is coming, whether we like it or not.

Though it may sound like science fiction, deep learning is an engineering reality right now.

For more information about the colloquium, download the flyer for this event.

About the Lecturer

Decades ago, Rafael was advanced to candidacy for a PhD in mathematics from UC Irvine, and was awarded an MS in mathematics. Parallel to his interest in mathematics has been a lifelong interest in artificial intelligence, and in the past few years this interest has become an increasingly focused study. Last December, Rafael completed his MS in ComputerScience with a machine learning specialization at Georgia Tech, and this past summer he pursued research at the Graz University of Technology Institute of Computer Graphics and Vision, applying deep learning to problems in computer vision. Now, as Rafael nears retirement after teaching mathematics at BC for almost 30 years, he's considering going for a PhD in machine learning, focusing on deep learning.

Spring 2017: Dr. Ronald Kean
Song-Catching: Honoring Great Poetry and People Through Music

Friday, March 31, 2017; 10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Dr. Ronald Kean will discuss his composition process in three recent commissions including a live performance of the Bakersfield College choirs singing, “Follow the River/The Journey of Harriet Tubman.” This is a five-movement work that incorporates eight African American spirituals in a West African musical framework. “The White Birds,” by W. B. Yeats, is composed in a traditional Irish musical style. “The Rose That Bare Jesu” is a setting of a 14th century English poem using antique style features. These techniques will be discussed and demonstrated in a presentation that is dedicated to the artist in all of us.

Dr. Kean is a highly-published composer, sought after clinician, and frequent guest conductor. He retired from Bakersfield College in 2013 after teaching Choir and World Music for 19 years. He received the Shirley Trembley Distinguished Teaching Award in 2013, the Norman Levan Scholar of the Year Award and the California Music Educators Association Multicultural Educator of the Year Award in 2006. His passion is conducting and composing music that honors the diversity of Bakersfield College. This is partially the reason for six commissions from professional, university, and high school choirs in the last two years.

Fall 2016: Anna Poetker
The Struggles and success of Undocumented Latino College Students

Friday, November 4, 2016; 10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Anna examines the experiences of undocumented Latino/a college students through critical theory, critical race theory, and Latino critical theory to highlight experiences of oppression and discriminatory practices many undocumented students face.

Struggles and Successes of Undocumented Latino College students

Spring 2016: Erin Miller
Death of Virtue: Citizenship, Race, and Manhood in Colonial America"

Friday, Feb. 26, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm

Colonial American food will be served

Erin discusses how Absalom Jones and Richard Allen obtained their freedom, fought to uplift free blacks by establishing the first black self-help fraternity and African Church, led relief efforts during the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793, and defended blacks from attacks upon their character.

She also explored their subsequent realization that race, not virtue, would define citizenship in the New Republic.

Most importantly, she extolled Jones' and Allen's refusal to allow others' definitions of them to define their self-perception and behavior.

Levan Faculty Colloquia: Erin Miller

Spring 2015: Joe Saldivar

Joe Saldivar, Ph.D., is a proud faculty member and current faculty chair of the BC Biology Department. His primary professional goal is to provide students with the tools to think critically and encourage and foster their imagination to find answers to problems facing the future our community and humanity.

Human Survival: The Blue Frontier

Worldwide, humanity is experiencing an increase in life expectancy, food yields, literacy and democratization. Unfortunately, humanity is also experiencing increased concerns regarding climate change, loss of natural resources, overfishing, species extinction as well as several countries facing political unrest.

Homo sapiens are landlocked. With human population estimations at 11-15 Billion people by the year 2100, how will humanity resolve these environmental and political concerns?

» Download the poster for more information

Joe Saldivar Faculty Colloquium Poster - click to download PDF

Fall 2014: Jerry Ludeke

Download the poster for more information.

When Jerry Ludeke began working in the Bakersfield College Archives in 2002, and going through materials from and on Miss Grace Van Dyke Bird - Bakersfield College's first president - she joined the ranks of those who were in awe of this Renaissance woman. Jerry has consulted numerous sources, including the BC Archives, UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library, and Grace Bird's family. By walking us through Miss Bird's photo album and life, Jerry hopes that we will be amazed at how multi-faceted she was and grateful that Bakersfield College was so fortunate to have been directed and nurtured for 31 years by this awesome woman.

Humanities Essay Scholarships

Each semester the Norman Levan Center for the Humanities awards $1,000 to $2,000 scholarships to eligible students, who major in a humanities or science discipline and who write an outstanding essay on a topic related to the humanities. The essays are between 750 and 1,000 words in length and are judged anonymously by a committee of BC administrators.

Kern Community College District