Schemel Forum Courses Explore the Universe and Two Icons Who Helped Shape Our World

Aug 1, 2011

From Abraham Lincoln and Friedrich Nietzsche to our vast universe, the Schemel Forum at The University of Scranton has lined up a series of fascinating evening courses for local residents during the fall semester.

Taught primarily by University of Scranton professors, this year’s lineup of Schemel Forum courses includes “Exploring the Universe: Stars, Galaxies and Beyond,” “Nietzsche’s Influence on 20th Century American Political Thought: Left and Right,” “Lincoln Speaks on Slavery and Race,” and “The Impact of the Civil War on Lincoln’s Evolving Approach to Emancipation.”

Jeremy Sepinsky, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics and electrical engineering at Scranton, sees the universe as a laboratory.

“Astronomy is a discipline that encompasses all the sciences: from physics to chemistry to biology and more,” said Dr. Sepinsky. “I’ve always been fascinated by how the pieces come together and integrate into the fascinating whole that is all of creation. I’m hoping to reach out and share that wonderment in the complexity, and simplicity, that is the universe.”

Guided by popular science articles and books, the class will discuss the nature of the entire universe from the Big Bang until today. Participants are encouraged to guide the conversation to their areas of interest. “Exploring the Universe: Stars, Galaxies and Beyond” will meet on Mondays, from Sept. 19 through Oct. 31, excluding Oct. 10.

During “Nietzsche’s Influence on 20th Century American Political Thought: Left and Right,” Matthew Meyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy at the University, will explore the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche and the impact of those ideas. The course traces his influence on the political philosophies of two prominent American intellectuals, Ayn Rand and Richard Rorty, and examines the issue of how one thinker can have a following that spans the political spectrum. At the center of this investigation will be Nietzsche’s controversial positions on topics that concern us all: love and truth.

“Thinkers such as Rorty and Rand have appropriated Nietzsche in a piecemeal fashion,” said Dr. Meyer. “Rorty agrees with Nietzsche on truth, i.e., that all truth is relative, but takes an opposing stance with respect to love. Alternatively, Rand agrees with Nietzsche’s views on love, but remains committed to the idea of there being some absolute truth.” The course will meet on Wednesdays, from Oct. 5 through Nov. 9.

The Schemel Forum also offers two three-session courses titled “The Man and the Times: Lincoln and the Civil War.” These courses link Abraham Lincoln’s actions vis-a-vis slavery and race with the influence that the Civil War had on them. They will feature a portrait of the man, through his rhetoric and the impact of the war on the evolution of his thoughts and actions – followed by a joint session. Local residents can register for either or both three-session courses, as well as for the joint session.

Taught by Morey M. Myers, of Counsel Myers, Brier & Kelly, “Lincoln Speaks on Slavery and Race” examines the legendary orator’s views on the institution of slavery and on the whole issue of race through his speeches. Participants will study some of his most famous orations along with several other relevant documents. The course will meet on Tuesdays, from Sept. 27 through Oct. 11.

During “The Impact of the Civil War on Lincoln’s Evolving Approach to Emancipation,” Kathryn S. Meier, Ph.D., assistant professor of history at The University of Scranton, examines how Lincoln’s views on slavery and race were affected by the realities on the front lines of the war. These realities include the self-liberation of enslaved peoples, the influence of black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and controversies within Congress. The course will meet on Tuesdays, from Oct. 18 through Nov. 1.

In their joint session, Attorney Myers and Dr. Meier will moderate an informal discussion on “The Man and the Times,” guided by the interests and insights of the group, on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

“We’re excited to turn to some of our talented new faculty this fall, to offer new perspectives and new opportunities,” said Sondra Myers, director of the Schemel Forum.

All classes will be held in the Weinberg Memorial Library, room 305, from 6 to 7:15 p.m. Fees vary and reservations are required to attend. Space is limited and registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.

            To register for the courses, contact Kym Fetsko, Schemel Forum events coordinator, at (570) 941-7816 or For more information on Schemel Forum programs and memberships, contact Sondra Myers at (570) 941-4089 or

The Schemel Forum is a program of participatory learning experiences aimed at cultivating the intellect and the imagination through study and discussion of classical texts and current policies, from the arts, history and philosophy to technology and theology. Founded in 2006 through generous gifts to the Rev. George Schemel, S.J., Fund, the forum has grown quickly from a handful of informal lectures to a comprehensive enrichment program of study, dialogue, performances and special events. Session fees vary by program. 

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