Key Conversations Past Episodes

Episode #1: Harold Hongju Koh

In our first episode, Fred Lawrence chats with his longtime friend, Professor Harold Hongju Koh from Yale Law School. Their intimate and revealing conversation covers Koh’s expansive knowledge of foreign affairs, his views on the state of our nation, and the lasting influence of a father whose curiosity and capacious mind still inspire him.

Read the transcript Here

Episode #2: Ayanna Thompson

In our second episode, Fred Lawrence welcomes professor Ayanna Thompson. She specializes in Renaissance drama and issues of race in performance. She discusses the universality of Shakespeare while homing in on how he would have reacted to racialized readings of his work. Would he recognize that race plays a role in his plays? Would he agree with Thompson that one of his characters delivers “the first Black-Power speech in English”? What would he think of “Hamilton” and its non-traditional casting? These and other fascinating questions make for a memorable conversation with one of the country’s premiere Shakespeare scholars.

Read the Transcript Here

Episode #3: Amy Cheng Vollmer

In this episode, Fred Lawrence welcomes professor Amy Cheng Vollmer from Swarthmore College. A microbiologist whose research centers on how bacteria react to different types of stresses, discusses her ongoing fascination with bacteria, why failure is important in her field, the need for STEAM, not just STEM, and what it means to her to be a Chinese-American woman in the sciences.


Episode #4:  Paula Stephan

As a college student, Professor Paula Stephan fell in love with economics as a way to understand and influence systems that impacted many people's lives. Years of documenting and analyzing the role of gender in academic performance and the impact of monetary and status incentives on scholars and universities have led her to startling conclusions. In this episode, PBK's Fred Lawrence asks the Georgia State University Professor to go beyond the research.


Episode #5:  Ed Larson

Jefferson, Adams, Washington. Their names are synonymous with the bold experiment that was the United States in the late 1700s. But there is so much more to these men who wrestled with the notion of building a nation and battled one another politically. A Pulitzer Prize winner, Larson tears into the pages of history to offer insight into what made these presidents tick. And what today's leaders can learn from them.


Episode #6: What Should We Make of the College Admissions Scandal?

In this special extended episode, Phi Beta Kappa Secretary and CEO Fred Lawrence invites two experienced colleagues to a frank discussion about the unfolding college admission scandal that has rocked higher education. There are no easy answers, and responsibility is spread around generously, but the exchange is one that will certainly spark discussions at home, in the classroom, and in vaulted academic halls around the country.


Episode #7: Lisa Anderson 

Her passion for Middle East studies was ignited during a college course with an intense teacher. She immersed herself in the region’s history and language--and has never looked back. For this episode, Professor Anderson retraces her growing enthusiasm for and deepening knowledge of the Arab world, which saw her break scholarly ground in Libya, take up residence as a professor at The American University in Cairo, and eventually landed her in the president’s office mere weeks before the upheaval of the Arab Spring.


Our Host

Our Host

Frederick M. Lawrence is the 10th Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. An accomplished scholar, teacher and attorney, he is one of the nation’s leading experts on civil rights, free expression, and bias crimes. Learn More.

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