UCSD lecture series to explore the human experience


If you go


The Making of the Modern World: To Be Human lecture series


UCSD Great Hall, International House, 9500 Gilman Drive, building 0550


Wednesdays, Jan. 18-March 14




By Pat Sherman

What defines the human experience? Are there essential human qualities and characteristics? And how did we acquire them?

People have grappled with these questions since our ancestors first began creating systems to explain their place in the mysterious world around them.

Eleanor Roosevelt College at UCSD will delve into the topic during a free public lecture series, “The Making of the Modern World: To Be Human,” Wednesday evenings Jan. 18 to March 14.

The weekly series, which approaches the question from a religious, historical, anthropological and religious perspective, will be held on campus in the Great Hall of the International House, 9500 Gilman Drive, building 0550.

“We want to get an educated, interested public thinking about some very basic, important issues,” said series founder and UCSD Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, Steven Cassedy. “The question, ‘What does it mean to be human?,’ has been around for a very long time. … I think we’re offering a variety of approaches to the question, in a variety of fields.”

UCSD Professor of Anthropology Margaret Schoeninger will lead the first lecture, “

How Food Fueled Human Origins,”

Jan. 18 at 6:30 p.m. Schoeninger’s research on the evolution of the human diet spans from the Pliocene era (3.9 million years ago) to that of present day U.S., Mexico, Kenya and Tanzania.

The second through fourth lectures, which look at human existence from a Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist and Taoist perspective, begins Jan. 25 with

“In His Image and Likeness: Being Human in Ancient Israel,”

by history professor William H.C. Propp.

“William is probably the world’s top scholar on the book of Exodus from the Hebrew bible,” Cassedy said.

Steve Kay, UCSD’s Dean of the Division of Biological Sciences, will discuss

“Humanity’s Greatest Challenge: Food, Fuel and the Future.”

This lecture only will be held Thursday, Feb. 23 in the campus Faculty Club, Building 0121.

Cassedy, who is also a Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature, launched the series in 2003. It went on hiatus last year when he took a leave of absence.

The series loosely follows the multidisciplinary Making of the Modern World program, Roosevelt College’s core course requirement for students.

Cassedy said he encouraged the lecturers to “wax philosophical” in their presentations, moving beyond the confines of their curriculums.

“It’ll be more along the lines of what current scholars in their fields are thinking about when they step back from the questions they’re asking in their immediate fields and get reflective,” Cassedy said.

The series is being presented in conjunction with UCSD Alumni, the Chancellor’s Associates and the university’s Parent and Family Giving group.

Light refreshments and appetizers will be served prior to select lectures. For a complete lineup, visit