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Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences: Colloquium Series

Fall 2019



September 18, 2019 (12-12:50 PM)

Weathering Legal Uncertainty: DACA and Undocumented Young Adults in Colorado ” by Aaron Malone

This talk examines how undocumented young adults in Colorado deal with their liminal status among complex and fluctuating socio-legal geographies of immigration. Our central focus is to understand the results of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA has been a vital lifeline that opened many new opportunities for undocumented young adults but has always remained a partial and temporary fix. We find that uncertainty is a defining part of the DACA experience, exacerbated during the Trump era but also existing during the Obama era and promising to persist so long as permanent solutions like the Dream Act or comprehensive immigration reform remain out of reach. 


October 16, 2019 (12-12:50 PM)

Blame-laden moral rebukes and the morally competent robot: A Confucian ethical perspective” by Qin Zhu & Tom Williams

Empirical studies have suggested that language-capable robots have the persuasive power to shape the shared moral norms based on how they respond to human norm violations. This persuasive power presents cause for concern, but also the opportunity to persuade humans to cultivate their own moral development. We argue that a truly socially integrated and morally competent robot must be willing to communicate its objection to humans’ proposed violations of shared norms by using strategies such as blame-laden rebukes, even if doing so may violate other standing norms, such as politeness. By drawing on Confucian ethics, we argue that a robot’s ability to employ blame-laden moral rebukes to respond to unethical human requests is crucial for cultivating a flourishing “moral ecology” of human-robot interaction. Such positive moral ecology allows human teammates to develop their own moral reflection skills and grow their own virtues. Furthermore, this ability can and should be considered as one criterion for assessing artificial moral agency. Finally, this paper discusses potential implications of the Confucian theories for designing socially integrated and morally competent robots.



November 13, 2019 (12-12:50 PM)

“Heroes, Villains, and Assets: Refugees and the CIA’s Secret Propaganda War” by Ken Osgood

In the early years of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency hoped to use immigrants and refugees from “Iron Curtain countries” as intelligence assets and propaganda weapons.  But the agency had a problem: restrictive immigration laws that actively discriminated against would-be immigrants from Eastern and Central Europe. McCarthyism and xenophobia formed a potent mix that, with some irony, impeded efforts by the intelligence community to fight communism at home and abroad.


December 11, 2019 (12-12:50 PM)

The wood wide web: a story of how trees move water in the shallow earth” by Kamini Singha

Quantifying water movement in the subsurface is important to predicting how shallow processes respond to changes in climate and human perturbation of the natural system.  The earth’s “critical zone”, the zone of the planet from treetops to base of groundwater, is critical because it is impacted human activities while providing water necessary for human consumption and food production. While shallow soils and above-ground parts of the critical zone can be easy to instrument and explore, the deeper parts—through the soils and into rock—are harder to access, leaving many open questions about the role of water in this environment.  Here, I open the black box to shed light on a key process that controls water movement and availability: the role of trees. We’ll explore links between evapotranspiration and groundwater, and use geophysical methods to provide x-ray-like imaging of both trees and the ground around them. To start, I’ll describe how soil moisture is affected by daily transpiration using time-lapse electrical resistivity imaging on a highly instrumented ponderosa pine and the surrounding soil throughout a growing season, scale up to an entire watershed, and outline the efforts in developing coupled numerical models to explain these data.


Spring 2019



January 16, 2019 (12-12:50 PM)

“Teaching Design as Humanities Inquiry” by Dean Nieusma

Dr. Nieusma’s research focuses on integrating social and technical dimensions of engineering in education and practice, with a focus on design and project-based learning. He is also broadly interested in the social and ethical implications of technologies and the application of engineering and design expertise to enduring social and environmental problems. He is Division Director and Associate Professor of Engineering, Design, & Society.


January 30, 2019 (12-12:50 PM)

“Inhumanitarian Engineering: Using History to Understand Engineering Gone Wrong” by Joe Horan

Engineers in the 21st century strive to ensure safety and improve the quality of life for the general public. Yet history offers numerous examples of engineering expertise being used for purposes that we would now consider inhumane. This talk examines how these historical examples can be used to advance contemporary engineering education by guiding engineering students to learn from the past in order to make ethically sound decisions in the present, and for the future. Examples drawn from the French Revolution and the Holocaust help to illustrate the complex considerations that guide ethical decision making for engineers, and provide both opportunities and challenges for engaging or students on the social context of engineering practice.


February 13, 2019 (12-12:50 PM)

“South Sudan – Entrenched Elites, Foreign (Over)Intervention, and a Stalled Peace Process:  What is the Way Forward?” by Derrick Hudson

Dr. Hudson studies religion and politics in Africa, with particular expertise in the role of prophetic Christianity as an agent for social change in deeply divided societies.  His teaching interests also include the role of truth commissions in societies in transition from authoritarian to democratic rule.  More on Derrick’s fascinating work here!


February 27, 2019 (12-12:50 PM)

“Ecofantastic Communication and the Performance of “Green” Citizenship” by Shannon Davis Mancus

Dr. Shannon Davies Mancus is the Hennebach Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Humanities.  Her research focuses on the narrative contexts and performative implications of environmental communication in popular cultural discourses.


April 17, 2019 (12-12:50 PM)

“Darwin’s Plants and the Evolution of Evolutionary Theory in the U.S” by Tina Gianquitto