Distinguished Speaker series begins Sept. 26, five dates announced

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — This year's Distinguished Speaker Series lineup at Penn State will include Michael Sam; Jill Biden; a diversity panel featuring Noor Tagouri, Sonia Nazario and Brian Mosteller; W. Kamau Bell; and, in partnership with Penn State Reads, Lynsey Addario. One additional speaker will be decided by a community vote.

The speaker series is a part of Penn State's Student Programming Association's (SPA) events.

Michael Sam, a University of Missouri football star primed for an early-round selection in the 2014 NFL draft, was nearly sidelined when he came out as gay during an ESPN interview. Sam emerged as a powerful and prominent icon for inclusion, a pioneer for the LGBTQ community, and an exemplar of the resilience and tenacity of the human spirit. The event will take place at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26, in the HUB-Robeson Center’s Heritage Hall on the University Park campus.

Tickets will be available to Penn State students with a valid Penn State ID in the Student Programming Association Office, located in 226 HUB, or during Student Programming Association tabling hours starting Tuesday, Sept. 12. Any remaining tickets will be available to the public one week later (beginning Sept. 19). Special requests for tickets can be sent to spa.lectures@gmail.com.

Jill Biden is a mother and grandmother, a lifelong educator, a proud military mom, and an active member of her community. She also is the wife of Joe Biden, former vice president of the United States. SPA and the Gender Equity Center will host Biden at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10, in Eisenhower Auditorium on the University Park campus.

With the February 2017 launch of the Biden Foundation, Jill Biden and her husband continue their commitment to strengthening the middle class, protecting women and children against violence, and supporting community colleges and military families. As second lady, Biden worked to bring attention to the sacrifices made by military families, to highlight the importance of community colleges to America’s future, and to raise awareness around areas of particular importance to women, including breast cancer prevention, all while continuing to teach as a full-time English professor at a community college in Northern Virginia.

Penn State Students with a 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. 

On March 20, SPA will host a panel of speakers for "A Discussion of Diversity on a College Campus" at 8 p.m. in Alumni Hall in the HUB-Robeson Center on the University Park campus.

Noor Tagouri had a history-making appearance in the October 2016 “Renegades” issue of Playboy, in which she was the first woman ever within its pages to wear a hijab. Tagouri has achieved game-changing breakthroughs on her journey to become the first hijabi journalist on commercial U.S. television. As she continues to break barriers with gusto, Tagouri inspires audiences to pursue their passions, stay true to their identity, embrace their differences, and let their light shine.

Sonia Nazario is a leading advocate responsible for generating national attention to critical social issues including immigration, hunger and drug addiction. With more than 20 years of reporting and writing about social issues for the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, she is best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning Enrique's Journey, her story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S. In 2015, she was honored with the Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award from the Advocates for Human Rights.

Brian Mosteller has had a front row seat to the presidency of Barack Obama, for whom he served during the entire eight-year administration. Described by the Washington Post as the “anticipator in chief” and the “unsung hero of the administration,” Mosteller was tasked with seamlessly orchestrating the behind-the-scenes details of the president’s daily work life, including the planning and implementation of White House functions, speeches, state visits and meetings. In 2016, Mosteller made history of his own when he married his partner in a ceremony officiated by former Vice President Joe Biden. An important representation of the Obama administration’s staunch dedication to championing and advancing issues around diversity and equality, Mosteller offers firsthand insight on these critical issues. 

Penn State Students with a 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. 

As host of the CNN docu-series “United Shades of America,” W. Kamau Bell travels the country, offering viewers a rare yet eye-opening look inside the various subcultures of American life. This event will take place at 8 p.m. April 3 in Alumni Hall in the HUB-Robeson Center on the University Park campus. Bell first captured audiences’ attention with his thought-provoking one-man show, “The W. Kamau Bell Curve: Ending Racism in About an Hour,” and later, with his widely praised FX comedy series, “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell.” His edgy yet level-headed view of the world leaves you with a more hopeful understanding of our country’s challenges, as well as conversation-stoking takeaways on humanity and social change that will have you contemplating the state of the union long after he has left the stage.

Penn State Students with a 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. 

The final speaker of the 2017-18 Distinguished Speaker Series has not yet been decided and SPA is looking for the input of the Penn State community. A survey has been created in order to help the SPA lectures committee more accurately gauge interest in genres and specific speakers. Penn State students can take this survey at http://bit.ly/PSUDSS2018.



In addition to the Distinguished Speaker Series, The Student Programming Association is partnering with Penn State Reads to bring Lynsey Addario to campus. Lynsey is an American photojournalist. She has photographed events in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as human rights issues. The presentation will be held at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 16, in Schwab Auditorium on the University Park campus. Tickets will be available to students on Oct. 2 and to the general public on Oct. 10, at all Center for the Performing Arts locations.

About the Student Programming Association

The Student Programming Association exists to serve the student body of the Pennsylvania State University by providing diverse activities, programming assistance and resources, which enhance a student’s overall co-curricular experience.

SPA prides itself on recommending programs for the benefits of undergraduates, graduates, and returning students and secondarily for others in the University community. The Student Programming Association attempts to enhance the educational, social, cultural and recreational experiences at Penn State; promote outreach and collaboration of student organizations that will foster leadership and organizational development; recognize diverse backgrounds of students; and strive to provide a slate of programming that reflects and celebrates our similarities and differences.

For more information about the events described above, contact Amelia Drexel, SPA lectures chair, at spa.lectures@gmail.com. The SPA lectures committee is actively recruiting students to join its programming efforts. Students interested in being involved in the selection process of speakers should reach out to Drexel to learn more about the application process.

To learn more about the Student Programming Association, visit www.spa.psu.edu or contact Nick Esposito, SPA outreach marketing chair, at spa.outreachmarketing@gmail.com

Last Updated September 11, 2017