Eager to learn about the dangers of diabetes in squirrels, as well as what it’s like to grow up as a Christian Scientist, students crowded into the Chandler Room in Hawthorne-Longfellow Library on a recent evening to listen to talks given by Bowdoin seniors Carl Spielvogel and Daisy Alioto.
Spielvogel and Alioto were the two debut speakers of Food for Thought, a new lecture series that invites students to talk about whatever they want in front of their peers. Organized by Bowdoin Student Government, the series is meant to draw out the many unusual or enlightening stories students have to tell.
“The thought process was essentially that there are a lot of people around campus who have really fascinating interests or experiences, or are passionate about things that most of us might not even be aware exist,” Jordan Goldberg ’14 said. “And so we’re taking the opportunity to bring some of these interests and experiences to the campus at large, while providing students with a fun study break (and snacks!).”
In the minutes before 9 p.m. on Monday night, students flooded the Chandler Room to secure a seat. During the next hour, Spielvogel and Alioto captivated the audience’s attention. Though Spielvogel’s original interest in diabetes in squirrels had been an academic one (he considered completing an Honors’ Project on the subject), Monday’s speech was pure comedy. He presented a series of photographs depicting squirrels finishing off half-empty beer cans and blueberry muffins, as well as shared with the audience his conspiracy theory about the recent disappearance of squirrels on campus.
Alioto’s presentation, “Go Away, I’m Having a Healing: Growing up as a Christian Scientist,” provided students an opportunity to learn and ask about a religion with which few are personally familiar. Her anecdotes and reflections on life as a Christian Scientist on a college campus inspired a stream of questions from the audience, as well as a discussion about the presence of religion in the Bowdoin community.
Though she has not been particularly vocal about her religious beliefs during her time at Bowdoin, Alioto said has always found her network of friends and acquaintances to be open-minded and supportive. She finally decided to share her story with the Bowdoin community to encourage conversations focused around topics such as religion — ones that students tend to view as taboo or uncomfortable. Alioto sees these conversations as crucial to fulfilling Bowdoin’s commitment to diversity. “We have to embrace the differences we were born with, and we have to embrace the difference we’ve ascribed to in the course of our lives, in order to create the type of diversity Bowdoin aspires to,” she said. “People like that multiplicity, they crave that, though they might not be the first in line to offer up whatever beliefs or ideas are closest to their heart.”
Alioto said she was pleased with the reception she received, as well as students’ interest in hearing more about her beliefs and experiences. “I think people really appreciated the personal nature of my talk and my desire to think critically about something I love and believe in — something I was born into but also, along the way, I chose,” she said. In turn, Alioto appreciated the audience’s willingness to “[ask] incredibly thoughtful questions and basically [give] the gift of intellectual exchange back to me.”
Both Spielvogel and Alioto’s speeches left the audience and Bowdoin students-at-large wondering: what would I talk about given the opportunity? All students are encouraged to sign up to share their perspectives (or interest in campus wildlife) with their classmates, and even though the calendar might limit the number of speakers this year, Goldberg pointed out that “everyone can participate by showing up to the events and enjoying the talks and food!”
Food for Thought will be held every other Monday at 9 p.m. in the Chandler Room in Hawthorne-Longfellow library. Interested students can sign up, or nominate a friend, by filling out this online form.
Story and photos by Lidey Heuck ’13