Southern Culture, the Science of NASCAR and Gay Marriage among Fall 2015 University Forum Topics

Southern Culture, the Science of NASCAR and Gay Marriage among Fall 2015 University Forum Topics

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The following is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi

The story of the modern South, the intersection of NASCAR and science and the litigation of one of the most important legal struggles of this century are among the featured topics of The University of Southern Mississippi's fall 2015 University Forum.

For more than 40 years, University Forum has provided students, faculty, staff and the general public with a wide range of cultural and artistic experiences that include stimulating lectures from some of the best-known authors and thinkers in the country. Dr. Andrew Haley, associate professor of American cultural history and director for the 2015-2016 University Forum, expects this year's speakers to continue that tradition.

"Our speakers are some of the top thought leaders in the country, and have the ability to engage us in conversations about the big ideas and issues of our time," Haley said. "University Forum is also a great platform to bring our campus and the Hattiesburg area together to advance our understanding of the world we live in."

The fall University Forum events will be presented on the Hattiesburg campus and include the following presentations, dates, times and locations:

*Tuesday, Sept. 22 at 6:30 p.m., Bennett Auditorium - Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter, will share his literary examination of his native region of the country in "Writing the South." His most recent work is a bestselling book on musician Jerry Lee Lewis, and has also written about one of USM's most famous benefactors, Oseola McCarty, a washerwoman who left her life savings to the University.

*Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 6:30 p.m., Bennett Auditorium – Physicist and author Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, an accomplished nanomaterials researcher and educator, will talk about how science drives the country's most popular motorsport - the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) - in "The Physics of NASCAR."  She is a former professor of physics at the University of Nebraska.

*Tuesday, Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m., Thad Cochran Center Ballrooms - Roberta Kaplan, lead attorney in the landmark U.S. v. Windsor Supreme Court case that helped make gay marriage legal in the United States, will discuss it and more in her presentation "The Gay Rights Revolution." She is recognized as one of the top lawyers in the U.S., and was named "Most Innovative Lawyer of the Year" in 2014 by The Financial Times.

University Forum also announced its Spring 2016 speakers. In February, Jerry Mitchell, the McCarthy "Genius" Award-winning journalist at The Clarion-Ledger, will speak about Civil Rights-era cold cases. He will be followed by Lilly Ledbetter, the inspiration for the landmark 2009 Fair Pay Act, in March and Barbara Ehrenreich, the muckraking reporter and author of Nickel and Dimed, in April.

For more information, contact the Southern Miss Honors College at 601.266.4533; or e-mail Dr. Haley at