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Distinguished University Professorship Lectures

Tuesday, March 2, 3:00 pm to 4:30 pm EST

The Distinguished University Professorships recognize senior faculty with exceptional scholarly and/or creative achievements, national and international reputations for academic excellence, and superior records of teaching, mentoring, and service. At this virtual event, three recipients will present on their career work and answer audience questions.


Paul Courant, Edward M. Gramlich Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Economics and Public Policy, Provost Emeritus, Howard T. Shapiro Collegiate Professor Emeritus of Public Policy, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Emeritus, Professor Emeritus of Information

Leading policy economist and former University of Michigan Provost Paul Courant is nationally recognized for his groundbreaking research in urban economics and public finance, including such topics as tax policy and the impact of racial discrimination on housing markets. Among other contributions, he led the development of a transparent, intellectually coherent academic budgeting model used at Michigan and by many other universities, and he was instrumental in defining the role of university libraries in the digital age.

“Society, the University, and How I Spent the Last 40-Odd Years”
Harold Shapiro has pointed out that the university is both a servant and critic of society. Professor Courant will take the perspective of a policy-oriented economist in this lecture, to talk about what universities do and how well they do it. He will use his own career to illustrate how policy-oriented economics can help to achieve the purposes of the university (very much including the humanities) while guaranteeing a splendid time for all.


Deborah Goldberg, Margaret B. Davis Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Emerita, Professor Emerita of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Pioneering plant ecologist Deborah Goldberg elucidates the fundamental processes that control the dynamics, structure, and function of ecological communities, including the impacts of anthropogenic drivers such as climate change and invasive species. Among other contributions, she developed a new paradigm for mechanisms of interactions among plants by distinguishing between effects on and responses to intermediates such as resources, pollinators, herbivores, and microbial symbionts, leading to greater predictability of the outcome of competition. Professor Goldberg also developed several model programs to increase the number and success of underrepresented young people going into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

“Ecology of the Anthropocene”
The current geological era has been dubbed the Anthropocene because of the dominance of human influences on climate and the environment. Understanding how ecological systems are being affected by human activities and the underlying processes is critical for predicting and managing the consequences. In this talk, Professor Goldberg describes some of her work on the mechanisms driving ecological responses to global change, including addressing the challenges of prediction in ecology.


Judith Irvine, Edward Sapir Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Linguistic Anthropology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Linguistic anthropologist Judith Irvine is an internationally recognized leader in anthropological theory and analysis. Famous for her groundbreaking research on the relationship between language and other social forms, she redefined key conceptual frameworks in linguistic anthropology, such as formality in language use and ideology of language. Her work demonstrates that language is a critical resource that organizes social relations. Throughout her career, Professor Irvine has stressed the importance of combining ethnographic research with linguistic investigation, challenging cultural anthropologists to bring linguistics into their understanding of face-to-face political interaction and linguists to seriously consider the political underpinnings of language diversity.

“Linguistic Difference and Social Stereotyping”
This talk is about sociolinguistic stereotypes: how they are built, and what people do with them—the linguistic part of social stereotyping. Sociolinguistic stereotypes are not built independently, one by one. Instead, they are always comparative; they always presume a system of contrasts. That system organizes how the linguistic behaviors are embedded in a social and political world. Cross-cultural research shows that perceived differences in ways of speaking contribute to stereotyping and social categorization, and that linguistic and social behaviors that don’t fit in the preconceived system are ignored, considered as marginal exceptions, or actively suppressed. In this talk, Professor Irving uses brief examples, drawn from the United State and West Africa, to illustrate: regional stereotypes; linguistic enactments of social hierarchy; multilingualism, language mapping, and ideologies of ethnicity; and nonstandard language as anti-elite politics.

Watch via Zoom


Tuesday, March 2
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm EST


United States


Event Type
Livestream / Virtual