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 honing 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.


Key Conversations Trailer

The Phi Beta Kappa Society presents Key Conversations with Phi Beta Kappa, a podcast that features intimate and in-depth conversations with scholars and experts across many fields, including international law, Shakespeare, microbiology, economics of science, and astronautics. Listeners get a seat at the table to learn about the featured scholar’s background, research, and how their respective paths have led them to where they are today.

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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