The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Bryan Series: a frequently missed student opportunity

When I signed up to cover Robert Gates’ presentation at the Bryan Series, I didn’t know what to expect. Surrounded by people in suit-and-tie and dresses, I felt underdressed in my jeans. I tried to find a fellow Guilford student, but other than a Guilfordian photographer and a friend, I couldn’t find anyone else.

When I attended the Elizabeth Alexander presentation, the lack of Guilford students felt even greater, as I didn’t have a photographer with me.

Throughout both presentations, I couldn’t help but wonder, “Where is everyone?”

“There is a lot of competition for students’ time, both academic and nonacademic,” said Kent Chabotar, president and professor of political science. “People complain that there is nothing to do. But if you look at all the activities for one day, there is a lot to do.”

Like, you know, attend the Bryan Series.

Tickets are free. Transportation is provided. What else do you want?

“If you don’t have a lot of work to do, then why not?” said Early College junior Thomas Barnett. “You have nothing better to do.”

The most popular event with students this year was the Robert Gates presentation with 56 tickets distributed, and the least, Elizabeth Alexander with a paltry 11.

Keep in mind, not all the tickets distributed are used.

Student sessions with speakers are held around 3 p.m. the day of the Bryan Series presentation at the Community Center, so even if you can’t make it to the night lecture, you can still meet the speaker. This is an on-campus event, yet even fewer students attend the evening sessions.

The Bryan Series is not only free for students, professors and faculty, but it brings undeniably distinguished speakers to Guilford, something many large universities do not have.

“We brought Elizabeth Alexander … chair of African American studies at Yale,” said Associate Vice President of Communications & Marketing Ty Buckner. “She’s a poet, an author, a middle-aged African-American woman, and we really had difficulty getting people interested in her visit. It surprised me that people weren’t more interested in her. She was the speaker that most resonated Guilford’s core values and some of its commitments.”

Senior English major and former Guilfordian writer Laura Hay covered the Bryan Series debate between former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2013.

“I was nicely surprised,” said Hay. “I thought it would get ugly and aggressive, but it didn’t at all.

“I did notice that there was a lack of young people at the Bryan Series. It’s a great opportunity. You don’t have to go to all of them, but at least try it once.”

Previous Bryan Speakers include prominent politicians and heads of state, journalists, musicians, poets, authors and scientists, among others.

There is no excuse stay away simply because of the background of the speaker. Just because their area of expertise isn’t your cup of a tea doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. Plus, the speakers are often diverse enough for everyone to find at least one presentation to get interested in.

The bottom line is this: opportunities like these aren’t available to most college students in America. Take a chance, and go to at least one next year.

Did I mention they’re free?

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