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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
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‘Jeopardy!’ Champion, inaugural poet, to headline Distinguished Speaker Series

Bestselling author, CEO of The Atlantic, neurotechnology scholar among other speakers

<p>Amy Schneider (top left), Nicholas Thompson (top right), Heather McGhee (bottom left), Nita Farahany (bottom middle) and Amanda Gorman (bottom right) will speak at UB during the 2023-24 academic year.&nbsp;</p>

Amy Schneider (top left), Nicholas Thompson (top right), Heather McGhee (bottom left), Nita Farahany (bottom middle) and Amanda Gorman (bottom right) will speak at UB during the 2023-24 academic year. 

Amanda Gorman, the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the U.S. and Amy Schneider, the most successful woman on “Jeopardy!,” are among the guests slated to speak at UB as a part of the 2023-24 Distinguished Speakers Series. 

Other headliners include New York Times bestselling author Heather McGhee, journalist and CEO of The Atlantic Nicholas Thompson and renowned scholar Nina Farahany. 

Each talk will take place at Center for the Arts (CFA) Mainstage Theatre at 7 p.m. 

Tickets will be available for the public to access on Sept. 21 at noon, according to UB’s Website. UB Students are able to purchase tickets for the series at a discounted price of $5 for each of the four lectures at the CFA box office. Graduate students, who are represented by the Graduate Student Association, are able to request tickets for free at the UB Student Office. 

Individuals who are not UB students can purchase tickets to individual lectures for $25-50 or to all the talks for $99-171, based on which of three packages they purchase. 

Amy Schneider — Oct. 19

Amy Schneider will kick off the first event of the Distinguished Speaker Series on Oct. 19. Schneider, a software engineer from Oakland, CA, lays claim to the second-longest winning streak in “Jeopardy!” history at 40 days. She also is the highest-earning woman in the show’s history, accumulating $1,382,800, and the first ever openly transgender participant to qualify and win the “Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions.”

In an upcoming memoir, “In the Form of a Question,” Schneider shares her opinions on the rewarding qualities of being curious, whether it’s wrestling with global issues or personal questions. One of the personal curiosities she was not able to explore freely because of her upbringing in a Catholic family was her gender identity. After transitioning in 2017, she appeared on Jeopardy! She is now signed to the talent agency, Creative Artists Agency, and is considering a path in voice acting.

Nicholas Thompson and Nita Farahany — Nov. 16

Nicholas Thompson, journalist and CEO of The Atlantic, and Nita Farahany, a distinguished professor at Duke and leading neurotechnology scholar, will speak at CFA on Nov. 16 about artificial intelligence. 

Thompson has reported groundbreaking news, from investigative stories on Mark Zuckerberg’s failed Facebook transformation in 2018, which has been cited by Congress, to the dangers of geopolitical AI warfare at WIRED, where he served as editor-in-chief. 

He formerly served as an editor and contributed to the story that prompted the origination of Ben Affleck’s film, Argo. During his editor-in-chief position at WIRED, the publication won the design and photography award at the National Magazine Awards, a Loeb award, and multiple awards from the Society of Publication designers. He has written numerous pieces on politics, technology, sports, culture and the law throughout his editorial career.

Since his position as CEO at The Atlantic in 2021, the magazine has been awarded with General Excellence at the National Magazine Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes since its first in 2020 and Digiday’s Publisher of the Year. 

Farahany is an author on the consequences of neurotechnology on thinking freely and the Robinson O. Everett Distinguished Professor of Law and Philosophy at Duke Law School. Her current research uses neuroscience, genomics and AI to understand how the ethical, legal, social application of new technologies challenges our right to mental privacy.

Farahany was appointed by President Obama in 2010 to the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues, where she served until 2017. She’s also served as a part of the National Institute for Neurological Disease and Stroke, the American Law Institute, and the Global Future Council on Frontier Risks and Expert Network for the World Economic Forum. She is currently a co-editor-in-chief and co-founder of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences and serves on the Board of Advisors for Scientific American.

Heather McGhee — Feb. 28

Heather McGhee, the New York Times bestselling author of “The Sum of Us,” will speak on Feb. 28 as UB’s 48th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration keynote speaker. This lecture is sponsored by the Minority Faculty and Staff Association.

McGhee is a policy advocate and an expert in economic and social policy. She served two decades at the nonpartisan think tank Demos, which she helped build and where she served as president for four years. At Demos, she has devised solutions to address inequalities like leading campaigns that regulate financial institutions and cancel student debt. She is a chair on the board of Color of Change, the largest online racial justice organization which strives to target the leaders and policies that perpetuate the economic, criminal, and social injustices against Black people.

In “The Sum of Us,” McGhee reckons with the “zero-sum” thinking behind racism: that progress for people of color can only happen at the expense of white people. She argues instead that racism costs all Americans, and that if one of us is held back, then all of us are. The book recounts McGhee’s travels across the country, where she spoke with Americans about the private greed that obstructs access to public resources and the opportunity for personal security. With a foundation in economic and sociological research, she discovers that racism has driven these economic inequalities.

Amanda Gorman — March 26

Amanda Gorman will conclude the series with her talk on March 26. She is the youngest inaugural poet to deliver a poem at a presidential inauguration and the first person to be appointed as the National Youth Poet Laureate. 

Gorman is an author with three upcoming books under Penguin Random House and a recipient of a Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award. She’s guest written for The New York Times. She has performed her poetry at the Library of Congress, Lincoln Center and the White House during Obama’s presidency, as well as for other notable figures like Secretary Hillary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated that Amy Schneider earned "$1,382,8000" on Jeopardy!. We regret this error. 

Tenzin Wodhean is an arts editor and can be reached at  



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