Last week, so many people showed up to hear Dr. Gabor Maté speak at UFV that I saw disappointed people turned away at the door. Evered Hall reached capacity. Earlier in September, Elizabeth May drew big crowds when the UFV Greens invited her to speak. At the beginning of the year, a crowd lined up out the doors to hear Margaret Trudeau tell her life story, with members of the public even required to pay for tickets. And every week, UFV students, professors, and guests from a wide range of academic disciplines give talks to no-doubt disappointingly small audiences.
Of course the big names, the nationally (or internationally) famous people draw more crowds. Members of the general public, by and large, aren’t looking to spend their afternoon going to a university to hear a lecture from somebody they’ve never heard of. But we aren’t members of the general public, we’re students at this university, supposedly here to learn and expand our minds, and yet we pass up chances almost every day to hear experts talk about their fields.
I was Culture & Events Editor here at The Cascade for the past year, and a big part of that job was knowing what was happening at this school. Sometimes an event slipped by, or snuck up on me, but on the whole I think I did a pretty good job at keeping the pulse of what was happening and when. And let me tell you, there is no shortage of speakers giving presentations at this school. Sure, they might not be exactly in line with your discipline, they may not easily tie into your classes, but you’ll learn something.
Knowledge can’t be grouped into simple categories, despite our efforts. There’s a massive overlap between fields that you might not be able to see from the outside, but dip your toe in, and suddenly the dots start to connect. Last January, I went to a talk at UFV by George Jacob, a museologist (that is, someone who designs museums). I’m a media and communications student, so I went mostly for the purpose of covering it for The Cascade. But even in that event, I found conversations relevant to my studies — museums are a form of communication in their own right, and one uniquely able to shape the context of a person’s exposure to a topic. A library sciences student might get something completely different from that same talk and the discussions on the value of archiving even the most mundane objects. A political science student might consider how the museums Jacob showed from around the world reflect their locations, and a business student might enjoy the talk about the massive industry of running museums.
But most people did not get any of those things from Jacob’s talk; there were only 20 people in the audience, and that’s if my memory is feeling generous.
By all means, let’s keep bringing in these high-profile, famous speakers now and then to drum up some excitement. Their knowledge is by no means less valid than anyone else’s, purely because of their notability. But, at least once this semester, try to look at the events page on UFV’s website, some club’s events on Facebook, or even an event preview here in The Cascade, and then actually go to an event. Yeah, we’re all busy, but stay at school for a couple hours after class, and help fill up the audience for these speakers. They may show you your field of studies from an entirely new perspective.