Berkeley Forum announces fall 2016 speaker lineup

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The Berkeley Forum, a student-run organization that hosts prominent speaking events on campus, announced its fall semester lineup Sunday night.

Berkeley Forum President Daniel Ahrens said the lineup this semester is its most expansive yet. It will include tech entrepreneurs, journalists, advocates and artists.

The organization was founded in 2012 as a platform to engage students with controversial ideas through events with key influencers. The forum has previously hosted UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich, Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.

Berkeley Forum events have since grown in popularity and prestige, as well as controversy — a speech by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and a panel featuring Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, among others, have been interrupted by student protesters.

“We understand that there are people who want to be included in the dialogue, and we want to be cognizant of that,” Ahrens said.

This semester, Ahrens said the forum is seeking to elevate students voices within the forum through the inclusion of more panels and debates. He added that he hopes to reach new audiences with guests like Mark Morris — a renowned choreographer who will collaborate with Cal Performances for his event.

Ahrens said he encourages students to challenge speakers with hard questions.

“What I think makes the Berkeley Forum a unique venue for that type of engagement is that the Berkeley Forum is the only organization on campus that regularly hosts these kinds of speakers that’s run by students,” Ahrens said. “It’s by students and for students, and the speakers are on board.”

Gun control debate: ‘The United States should amend the Second Amendment” (Aug. 31)

In light of an ongoing national discussion on mass shootings and the way they’re covered by media outlets, the forum will begin its fall lineup with a debate on the constitutional right to bear arms, featuring legal scholars and students.

The event will feature UC Berkeley students Sebastian Miller, of the Debate Society of Berkeley, and Alexandra Tran, president of Cal Libertarians. They will join David Kopel, a Denver University law professor and analyst with the libertarian Cato Institute, and Darrell Miller, a Duke University professor and author of “Guns as Smut: Defending the Home-Bound Second Amendment.”

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD (Sept. 6)

With a background in high-end magazines and a drive to promote pride, Sarah Kate Ellis will speak on LGBTQ progress in the media.

Her expansive media history includes high-level positions at New York magazine, In Style and Vogue. Since January 2014, she has been president and CEO of GLAAD, which monitors LGBT media coverage and is the largest advocacy organization of its kind.

In her first year at GLAAD, Ellis was vocal during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in regards to the country’s LGBT community. She also focused on the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade’s ban on LGBT organizations.

Deepak Ahuja, former CFO of Tesla (Sept. 12)

Deepak Ahuja, who oversaw the unveiling of the market’s first luxury electric sedan and the world’s first dual electric motor car during his seven-year tenure as Tesla’s CFO, is coming to the Berkeley Forum in September to present on innovations in the automotive industry.

Ahuja, Tesla’s first financial chief, was with the company during its initial public offering and retired in June 2015. Prior to working with Tesla, Ahuja earned a master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon University and worked as a finance executive at Ford Motor Company for 15 years.

Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, is one of the most requested speakers on the Berkeley Forum’s website, prompting the organization to choose Ahuja because of his affiliation with the company.

Sanjay Poonen, general manager of end-user computing at VMware (Sept. 20)

Sanjay Poonen, the general manager of end-user computing at VMware, will be addressing the concept of a digital workspace this fall at the Berkeley Forum.

With more than 20 years of experience in the tech industry, Poonen is responsible for strategy, products, engineering and sales for VMware’s end-user computing solutions. In March, Poonen took over the global marketing and communications for VMware.

As an undergraduate, Poonen studied computer science and engineering at Dartmouth College. He went on to earn a master’s in management science and engineering from Stanford University and then an MBA from Harvard University.

Alix Generous, founder of Podium and mental health advocate (Sept. 22)

A 23-year-old neuroscience researcher who, for a time, struggled with undiagnosed Asperger syndrome, Alix Generous will address vaccines and autism.

She has spoken on topics ranging from mental health to women, and her resume includes several TEDx talks and a presentation before the United Nations, where she described her award-winning research on coral reef deaths.

Unsurprising given her extensive science background, Generous is a major advocate of women pursuing science, technology, engineering and math, and works with youth through a peer-mentorship program at Podium, a tech company she co-founded in 2013.

Mark Morris, artistic director of Mark Morris Dance Group (Sept. 26)

Mark Morris, the mastermind behind the famed modern dance group that bears his name, is twirling his way to the Berkeley Forum this fall. In 1980, he founded the Mark Morris Dance Group in New York City.

Morris was influenced by music and dance at an early age, growing up as a flamenco and ballet dancer in Seattle. He is a decorated choreographer, with awards including the New York State Governor’s Arts Award and multiple Critics’ Circle Dance Awards.

The choreographer has collaborated with stars such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who called MMDG “the preeminent modern dance organization of our time.” Morris also serves as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.  

Adriana Kugler, public policy professor at Georgetown University (Sept. 29)

This fall, Georgetown University public policy professor Adriana Kugler will be delivering a talk on the impact of social insurance programs on the mobility of labor.

Kugler previously served as chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor under secretary Hilda Solis and helped advise and craft labor policy for the Obama administration. She received her doctorate from UC Berkeley in 1997, where her advisers included Nobel laureate George Akerlof.

Her research has been featured in outlets from the New York Times to NPR, and she is on the boards of multiple major economic journals.

Mina Kim, journalist, PM anchor and KQED Forum Friday host (Oct. 5)

Mina Kim got her start in public radio as an intern with KQED more than 10 years ago, where she rose to prominence and eventually became the evening news anchor and Friday host of Forum, the most popular Bay Area morning radio show.

The Napa, California resident has covered heavy-hitting Bay Area issues such as homelessness and seismic safety.

Kim’s local news coverage has earned her recognition by various professional journalism societies, including the Asian American Journalists Association.

Timothy Hwang, CEO and co-founder of FiscalNote (Oct. 10)

Timothy Hwang earned his place as one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” in 2016 after he co-founded FiscalNote, a data analytics firm, while pursuing an undergraduate degree at Princeton University.

FiscalNote aims to predict the outcomes of pending legislation based on statistical analyses of previous decisions.

Hwang, the son of Korean immigrants, began his career in business at 14 and his career in politics at 16. His ongoing advocacy efforts focus on issues facing youth, entrepreneurs and the public education system.

Julissa Arce, immigrant rights advocate and former Wall Street executive (Oct. 11)

Julissa Arce, who rose to success at Goldman Sachs as an undocumented woman, will speak about her unconventional, arduous path to the “American dream” and her work with immigrant-rights advocacy.

After experiencing the pain and sacrifices that accompanied her journey up the corporate ladder, Arce co-founded the Ascend Educational Fund for immigrant students living in New York City.

She also is the author of “My (Underground) American Dream” and has given TEDx talks on citizenship and undocumented immigration.

Amy Ziering, producer of “The Hunting Ground” and “The Invisible War” (Oct. 12)

Academy Award-nominated producer Amy Ziering, who helped create the documentaries “The Invisible War” and “The Hunting Ground,” will come to Berkeley Forum in October. 

Ziering’s 2015 documentary, “The Hunting Ground,” covers the crisis of sexual assault on college campuses, while 2012’s “The Invisible War” covers sexual assault in the military.

“The Invisible War” was lauded for helping start a national discussion on sexual assault in the military and was nominated for the Academy Award for best documentary feature.

Walt Mossberg, technology journalist and founder of Recode (Oct. 20)

Walt Mossberg, executive editor of Vox Media’s culture and tech news website The Verge, will address the intersection of journalism and technology.

At the culmination of the Cold War, Mossberg developed an affinity for computers — then a budding industry with startups popping up across Silicon Valley. He switched his Wall Street Journal beat from national and international affairs to tech review, and wrote his column at the Journal for 22 years.

“I tried to explain things without jargon, and I was very critical of the industry,” Mossberg said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “Not that many people had (computers) at home, and I thought it was going to explode.”

After leaving the Journal, he co-founded Vox’s Recode — a tech news site that focuses on the business of tech, whereas The Verge covers tech lifestyle. Mossberg now writes a column for The Verge titled Ctrl-Walt-Delete.

Joshua Kors, investigative reporter for The Nation (Oct. 24)

Known for exposing a multibillion-dollar veterans’ benefits scandal, The Nation reporter Joshua Kors will give a talk about investigative journalism and military conspiracies.

In 2007, he rose to prominence for a three-part series on misdiagnosing wounded Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers with personality disorder to strip them of medical care and disability pay. He first became interested in the complex story while volunteering with a veterans’ group in New York.

“When you don’t understanding something, that’s where you dig,” Kors said in an interview with the Daily Cal. “I started digging and found out this was not an isolated case.”

Kors has also given a TEDx talk on his investigation and is excited for the chance to speak for 40 minutes on the topic at his Berkeley Forum event.

Noah Alper, founder of Noah’s Bagels (Nov. 16)

The Noah of Noah’s Bagels, Noah Alper, will be giving one of the last talks of Berkeley Forum’s fall slate, telling the story of Noah’s Bagels.

Founded in Berkeley by Alper; his brother Dan; and a mutual friend, Bob Polsky, in 1989, the company grew rapidly. After taking the company public, Alper sold Noah’s Bagels to Einstein Bros Bagels for $100 million in 1996.

After selling Noah’s Bagels, Alper became a consultant and motivational speaker, lecturing at universities across the country and promoting the role of social consciousness in business.

Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist for Apple and Silicon Valley venture capitalist (Nov. 30)

Pioneering marketer and one of Apple’s first chief evangelists, Guy Kawasaki will give the Berkeley Forum’s final address of the semester on lessons from late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

In his role at Apple, Kawasaki helped market the Macintosh, one of the first widely used personal computers.

Kawasaki now serves as chief evangelist at Canva, a graphic-design company, and is an executive fellow at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Contact the Daily Californian news staff at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Berkeley Forum’s fall lineup was released Wednesday. In fact, it was released Sunday.

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