When Peter Gelb took the helm of the Metropolitan Opera, he was determined to re-energize America’s premier opera house, even at the risk of upsetting the establishment. “It’s a mistake for any cultural institution — or any institution that is older — to think that change isn’t necessary,” said Geld to an audience at the CUNY Graduate Center. “That’s a recipe for stagnation or demise.” Since being named general manager in 2006, Gelb has launched a number of initiatives including staging new productions by directors from the film and theater industries and the popular, live high-definition transmissions of broadcasts to movie theaters. Gelb appeared with Bill Kelly, president of the Graduate Center, as part of the Extraordinary Lives Series.
Before advertising’s creative revolution in the late 1950s and 60s, the TV commercial landscape was filled with dull, repetitive images — like dancing cigarettes — lacking wit and originality. “People were bored and sick of the jingles,” says Andrew Cracknell, author of The Real Mad Men: The Remarkable True Story of Madison Avenue’s Golden Age. “After the revolution they began to treat consumers with intelligence and give them something with substance,” referring to work by agencies such as Doyle Dane Berbach, who created the groundbreaking “Think Small” campaign for Volkswagon in 1959. At a Graduate Center event, Cracknell was joined by Barbara Lippert, former advertising critic for Adweek, and Amil Gargano, advertising executive and a founder of the agency, Ally & Gargano, to discuss how these real life “Mad” men and women inspired others in the industry.
Some charter schools get funding from Wall Street, and the support may be there for reasons that ultimately benefit business, says Michelle Fine, a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the Graduate Center. In the continuing debate over the effectiveness of charter schools versus traditional public schools, the source of support is an important factor that people should be aware of, according to Fine. Two-thirds of the Harlem Children’s Zone is funded by private money, “some of that from Goldman Sachs,” said Fine, referring to the Harlem-based charter school. “It’s a tax write-off, a way into the privatization of all things public, and a way to break up the unions,” said Fine in her lecture, “Charter Schools: The Promise vs. The Evidence,” part of the CUNY Science Cafe lecture series.
Progressives tend to see the Great Recession as the result of the untrammeled free market. Tea Party conservatives argue that government gone wild is the real story. Who’s right? Listen as Peter Beinart of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism joined by Richard Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review magazine and Josh Marshall, editor of the liberal political blog, TalkingPointsMemo.com, deconstruct the 2012 presidential campaign in a lively discussion at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Twenty years ago Barnes & Noble introduced super stores that “specifically targeted venerable independents and undermined them with discounts,” says literary agent Eric Simonoff. Now e-books and online sales are targeting both the Barnes and Noble giants and the few remaining niche booksellers. Simonoff, author Jonathan Ames and others gathered at the CUNY Graduate Center to consider the future of neighborhood bookstores, once fixtures throughout the city. “The e-book is here to stay, and Amazon is the big bully on the block,” says Simonoff.
For every dollar earned by a man in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, a female counterpart earns 14 percent less, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. It’s a statistic that City College professor Maribel Vazquez says must change. “Women in the workforce lack strong negotiation skills, Vazquez says, “because female aggression is perceived negatively by both men and women.” Vazquez delivered the keynote address at “Women in Science: Negotiating a Successful Academic Career,” a panel discussion at the CUNY Graduate Center. An associate professor of Biomedical Engineering, Vazquez also presented her research on the use of micro and nanotechnology in the study of cell migration in the brain.
How will today’s green initiatives to combat worldwide climate change alter the world for future generations? For an answer, Thomas McGovern, anthropology professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, has spent more than a decade studying how Viking settlers in Greenland managed to avoid destroying the land for centuries. “In Greenland they [the Vikings] got it right, but the environment changed on them again,” says McGovern in his lecture, “Sustainability and Collapse: Lessons from the Vikings,” part of the CUNY Science Cafe lecture series. “Their robustness to deal with one problem made them vulnerable to another.”
One of the bedrocks of the Jewish religion is a belief in the coming of the Messiah, but for some it can seem at odds with the history of the faith. “It is a fact of singular importance that the people who created the Messiah have never accepted one,” said Leon Wieseltier, who was the keynote speaker at the 16th Annual Irving Howe Memorial Lecture at the Graduate Center. Wieseltier, literary editor for the New Republic since 1983 and author of Kaddish, among other books, delivered a lecture entitled, “Steady Work: The Unmessianic Nature of Jewish Messianism.”
With the right strategy, community colleges could increase their graduation rates sharply — to 50 percent by 2010, from the current 16 percent to 22 percent, according to the head of the primary advocacy group for two-year colleges. “We need to redesign our learning environments and develop the ability to use 21st-century tools to our best advantage,” said Walter Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, at a National Colloquium: Reimagining Community Colleges, hosted by CUNY at the Graduate Center. “The focus has to be on high-impact, resource-generating innovations, and we must ensure our relevance in our communities.”
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New York City’s enduring love for live theater has long nurtured companies, both on and Off Broadway, that have not only survived, but in many cases thrived despite the recent recession. “Theater will never die, as long as there is one person to tell a story and two people to listen,” says Casey Childs, executive producer of Primary Stages, a company he founded in 1984 dedicated to new plays. Casey was joined by Robert LuPone, artistic director of MCC Theater, and Jeffrey Horowitz, artistic director of Theatre for a New Audience in a discussion entitled, “25 Years of Off Broadway Theatre: Founders Look to the Future,” at the Graduate Center.
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