Student Programming Association announces spring 2017 distinguished speakers

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., – The Student Programming Association lectures committee has announce its spring Distinguished Speaker Series, which features Ibtihaj Muhammad (Feb. 23), Laverne Cox (March 28) and Jean-Michel Cousteau (April 10).

Muhammad, a stereotype-busting trailblazer and inspirational role model, is best known for being the first Muslim-American athlete to medal at the Olympics. Muhammad will speak at 8 p.m. on Feb. 23 in the HUB­-Robeson Center’s Heritage Hall. As a young athlete, Muhammad struggled with the restrictions wearing a hijab imposed on the requisite sport uniforms, until she discovered fencing, where she finally felt she could be true to herself. Muhammad attended Duke University, where she became a three‑time All‑American and the 2005 Junior Olympic champion. A member of the U.S. National Fencing Team, Ibtihaj jousted her way into the history books at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Outside of competing, Muhammad is an official sports ambassador, serving on the U.S. State Department’s Empowering Women and Girls Through Sport Initiative and talking with young women around the world about the importance of sports and education. Tickets will be available to Penn State students with a valid Penn State ID in the SPA Office, located in 226 HUB, or during SPA tabling hours starting Feb. 9. Any remaining tickets will be available to the public on Feb. 16. Special requests for tickets can be sent to spa.lectures@gmail.com  

Cox, an Emmy-­nominated actress and Emmy‑winning producer, will at 8 p.m. on March 28 in Eisenhower Auditorium. Known for her groundbreaking role of Sophia Burset on “Orange is the New Black,” Cox is the first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show. Cox’s work as an actress and advocate has landed her on the cover of Time magazine, as well as an Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actress in a comedy series. Over the past few years, Cox has had standout appearances on TV shows, including the hit Fox comedy “The Mindy Project,” Bravo’s “Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce” and MTV’s “Faking It.” Most recently, her documentary “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word” aired on MTV & Logo. The hourlong documentary explored the lives of seven transgender youth from across the country and their determination to lead their lives as the people they are meant to be. Laverne was the host and executive producer of the groundbreaking documentary, which won a Daytime Emmy Award and was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. Penn State Students with valid ID will be able to pick up tickets at all Center for the Performing Arts (CPA) ticket locations at a date closer to the event. 

Cousteau, best known for dedicating himself and his vast experience as an explorer, environmentalist, educator and film producer to communicate his love and concern for our water planet, will speak at 8 p.m. on April 10 in the HUB‑Robeson Center’s Alumni Hall. The son of ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, Cousteau has investigated the world’s oceans aboard Calypso and Alcyone for much of his life. Honoring his heritage, Cousteau founded the Ocean Futures Society in 1999 to carry on this pioneering work. As chairman of the board and president of Ocean Futures Society, Cousteau travels the world, meeting with leaders and policymakers at the grassroots level and at the highest echelons of government and business. He is dedicated to educating young people, documenting stories of change and hope, and lending his reputation and support to energize alliances for positive change. He has produced more than 80 films, received the Emmy, the Peabody Award, the Sept d’Or, and the Cable Ace Award. Penn State Students with valid ID will be able to pick up tickets in the HUB-­Robeson Center and the Student Programming Association office at a date closer to the event. 

Last Updated April 19, 2017