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Speakers on the Square

Upcoming Lecture–Janet Mock (GSAS ’06)

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Janet Mock on Oprah

Janet Mock is the New York Times bestselling author of Redefining Realness. She considers herself a Beyoncé scholar, but is widely known as a sought-after speaker and prominent advocate for trans women’s rights. Currently, she hosts the weekly culture show So POPular! on MSNBC’s Shift network and serves as Contributing Editor for Marie Claire.

Janet first told her story of growing up as a trans girl in 2011 in Marie Claire—a magazine for which she now works, writing articles about pop culture, gender, race, and representation. She released her memoir Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More in February 2014, with feminist critic bell hooks calling Janet’s memoir, “A life map for transformation,” while Melissa Harris-Perry said “Janet does what only great writers of autobiography accomplish—she tells a story of the self, which turns out to be a reflection of all humanity.” The book was featured on CNN’s Piers Morgan Live, The Colbert Report, and Melissa Harris-Perry, and debuted at number 19 on the New York Times “Best Sellers List.”

Janet has since brought her storytelling skills, journalism training, and culture commentary to television. After guest hosting HuffPost Live and Pivot’s “TakePart Live,” she landed her own weekly popular culture show, So POPular!, featured on MSNBC’s all-digital network Shift. She also serves as a correspondent for Entertainment Tonight. She was also featured in the HBO documentary The Out List and has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, NPR, Rookie, Salon, Slate, Feministing, Colorlines, and more.

In 2012, Janet—who was called one of “the smartest women on Twitter” by Fast Company launched #GirlsLikeUs, a social movement that empowers trans women and celebrates the diversity of womanhood. In 2013, Janet joined the board of directors at the Arcus Foundation, a leading global organization advancing social justice and conservation issues.

The Stonewall Community Foundation, GLSEN, Anti-Violence Project, ADCOLOR Awards, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project have honored Janet for her work. She was also named Woman of the Year in 2013 by the feminist site Vitamin W and named to OUT magazine’s “Out 100 list”, The Root 100, The GOOD 100, the Center for American Progress’s “13 Women of Color to Watch,” the Huffington Post’s “23 Inspiring Women Blazing Trails for the LGBT Community,” and The Grio’s “100 most influential African-Americans.” Her work has been nominated for a Women’s Media Center Award and a GLAAD Media Award.

A native of Honolulu, Janet attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, earned her MA in journalism from New York University, and worked as a Staff Editor for (People magazine’s website) for five years. She lives and writes in New York City with her boyfriend, photographer and filmmaker Aaron Tredwell and their cockapoo Cleo.

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Past Lectures

We've had an incredible roster of distinguished alumni and faculty present at Speakers on the Square. Past lectures include: 

A Conversation with Bethenny Frankel (WSC ’92)

Natural foods chef, best-selling author, reality TV star, self-made businesswoman, and mom,  Bethenny Frankel first came to national attention with her wit, wisdom, and humor when she was named first runner-up on NBC's "The Apprentice: Martha Stewart." Her success on the series led her to Bravo’s "The Real Housewives of New York City" for three seasons, as well as two spin-off series on the network, "BethennyGetting Married?" and "Bethenny Ever After…" After a three-season hiatus, she made her highly anticipated return for season seven of “The Real Housewives of New York City”. 

Bethenny is the creator of the low calorie cocktail brand Skinnygirl Cocktails and partnered with Beam Suntory in 2011. The cocktail portfolio now includes over 20 products including wines, flavored vodkas, and delicious ready-to-drink cocktails.  Frankel is a brand collaborator, developer, and marketer for Skinnygirl Cocktails. As the owner of Skinnygirl, Bethenny has created a thriving lifestyle brand featuring products offering women practical solutions to everyday problems. Some of the many Skinnygirl products include "Sparklers" non-alcoholic beverages, microwave popcorn, snacks, hummus, dips, nutrition bars, salad dressings, liquid sweeteners and water enhancers, shapewear, and appliances.  In 2013, Frankel brought her distinct voice and candid point of view to daytime television on "Bethenny," her nationally syndicated daytime talk program, and she has been named one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Celebrities by Forbes magazine.>

She is the five-time bestselling author of SkinnydippingA Place of Yes: 10 Rules for Getting Everything You Want Out Of LifeNaturally Thin: Unleash Your Skinnygirl and Free Yourself from a Lifetime of DietingThe Skinnygirl™ Dish: Easy Recipes for Your Naturally Thin Life and I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To. She has also authored Skinnygirl Solutions: Simple Ideas, Extraordinary Results, a children's book titled Cookie Meets Peanut, a cocktail book, Skinnygirl Cocktails. For more information please visit


Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
and David Brooks

A Conversation between the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, and Distinguished New York Times Columnist David Brooks.

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is a global religious leader, philosopher, internationally renowned speaker, author of more than 25 books, and moral voice for our time. Until 1st September 2013 he served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, having held the position for 22 years. He is currently the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at New York University and the Kressel and Ephrat Family University Professor of Jewish Thought at Yeshiva University. He has also been appointed as Professor of Law, Ethics and the Bible at King’s College London. To read more of his work, including his weekly Covenant & Conversation parsha commentaries, or to subscribe to his mailing list, please visit or follow him on Twitter @RabbiSacks.

David Brooks became an Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times in September 2003. He is currently a commentator on The PBS Newshour, NPR’s All Things Considered, and NBC’s Meet the Press.

He is the author of Bobos In Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There and On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense. In March 2011 he came out with his third book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, which was a number one New York Times bestseller.

Mr. Brooks also teaches at Yale University, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Speakers on the Brooklyn: NYU in Space

Featuring: Charlie Camarda (POLY ’74), Lee Morin (GSAS ’78, MED ’81, ’82), and Paolo Nespoli (POLY ’88)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Thank you to all who joined us for Speakers on the Square... in Brooklyn: The Future of Space Exploration, which took place in Downtown Brooklyn at the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering's Pfizer Auditorium on Thursday, October 23, 2014. The evening featured a moderated panel discussion with astronaut alumni Charlie Camarda (POLY ’74), Lee Morin (GSAS ’78, MED ’81, ’82), and Paolo Nespoli (POLY ’88). It was a pleasure to welcome NYU alumni to Brooklyn to discuss the topic of space exploration and the University’s contribution to science and engineering.

Billy Crystal

Monday, September 15, 2014

With a shtick that hearkened back to a bygone era, renaissance man Billy Crystal (TSOA '70) would rightfully earn his place as one of Hollywood's most endearing stars. Comedian-actor-writer-director-producer-emcee-author, were all hats the perpetually peppy entertainer wore at one time or another. As a frequent host of the annual Academy Awards, Crystal also found himself regarded as arguably the best emcee the ceremony had ever had. In addition to onscreen efforts, Crystal would lend his vocal talents to the Disney/Pixar mega-hit Monsters, Inc. In 1984 when Crystal joined the cast of Saturday Night Live he took television by storm by creating the character Fernando, a superficial nightclub performer for whom everything is "mahvelous." As either a performer or a personality, Crystal remains one of the most versatile, prolific and beloved figures in entertainment.


At this event, co-hosted with the Hudson Union Society, Crystal discussed the most powerful and memorable moments of his storied life and provided a roadmap to the absurdities and challenges that come along with aging. He reflected on everything from his legendary stint at Saturday Night Live, to making City Slickers, When Harry Met Sally, Analyze This, Monsters Inc., to his long run as host of the Academy Awards.

Each paid attendee received Billy Crystal’s paperback book Still Foolin’ ‘Em, which is a triumphant counter punch to the indignities of aging, from the beloved comedian who for forty years has captured the anxieties and joys of many generations.

A Conversation with Mayor Bill de Blasio

Featuring: Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York City (WSUC '84)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

NYU alumnus and current Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio (WSUC '84) joined us on campus for a conversation with NYU Trustee and alumna Maria Bartiromo (WSUC '89) and NYU students about his experiences at NYU, the issues facing New York City, and his vision for the future.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is the fourth NYU alumnus (and the first from outside of the Law School) to serve as the Mayor of New York City. We were so proud to welcome him back to his alma mater for this evening of conversation and celebration of NYU.

Joining him on stage was Maria Bartiromo (WSUC '89) to guide the evening's opening conversation, followed by a panel discussion with NYU students.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is the 109th Mayor of New York City. From his early days as a young City Hall staffer, to serving on his local school board, to his most recent position as Public Advocate for the City of New York, Bill de Blasio has spent his life fighting to ensure that every New Yorker—in every neighborhood throughout our five boroughs—gets a fair shot.

As mayor, Bill is committed to making sure every child gets a great education, protecting our streets and our communities, and building a city where New Yorkers from all five boroughs can start businesses, raise their families, and afford to live in their own neighborhoods.

To learn more about Mayor Bill de Blasio and his time as a public servant, please click here.

Maria Bartiromo is a member of the Board of Trustees of New York University, the Board of Directors of the Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Economic Club of New York and the Board of Directors of The National Italian American Foundation.

Maria graduated from New York University, where she studied journalism and economics. She has also served as an adjunct professor at NYU Stern School of Business.

Bartiromo joined FOX Business Network (FBN) as Global Markets Editor in January 2014. She is the anchor of Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo on FBN (9-11 AM/ET) and hosts Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo, a Sunday business program (10 AM/ET) on FOX News Channel.

Eat, Drink, Vote: A Guide to Food Politics

Featuring: Marion Nestle, NYU Professor with Chair, Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What’s wrong with the US food system? Why is half the world starving while the other half battles obesity? Who decides our food issues, and why can’t we do better with labeling, safety, or school food? These are complex questions that are hard to answer in an engaging way for a broad audience. But everybody eats, and food politics affects us all.

See what happens when Nestle teams up with The Cartoonist Group syndicate to present some of her favorite cartoons on issues ranging from dietary advice to genetic engineering to childhood obesity. Using the cartoons as illustration and commentary, she engages on some of today’s most pressing issues in food politics.

Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game

Featuring: NYU President John Sexton

Thursday, May 9, 2013

For more than a decade, John Sexton has used baseball to illustrate the elements of spiritual life in a wildly popular undergraduate course at NYU. Using some of the great works of baseball fiction as well as the actual game's fantastic moments, its legendary characters, and its routine rituals, Sexton teaches that through the game we can touch the spiritual dimensions of life.

NYU President John Sexton; co-authors Tom Oliphant and Peter Schwartz; and longtime course instructor, Jim Traub; discussed the elements of our lives that lie beyond what can be captured in words alone—ineffable truths that we know by experience rather than by logic or analysis.

The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

Featuring: Denise Kiernan (WSC '91, STEINHARDT '02), Author

March 11, 2013

What you do here, What you see here, What you hear here, please let it stay here…

Imagine boarding a bus or train knowing that your destination was a total mystery. The only thing you’ve been told is that your work will help end World War II, and that everything will be taken care of for you. This was the case for thousands of young women who were recruited by the US government in 1943 to serve the top-secret Manhattan Project. They came from across the East Coast and the South, from Alabama to Western Pennsylvania to New Jersey. Their destination was “Site X,” or Oak Ridge, TN—a secret city that appeared on no maps. The individuals working there, though they had no idea at the time, were enriching uranium for the first atomic bomb used in combat.

NYU alumna Denise Kiernan discussed The Girls of Atomic City, the never before told, true story of remarkable, hardworking, determined young women and the crucial role they played in one of the most significant moments in US history.

The Promise of Urban Science
The Role of NYU's New Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP)

On September 19, 2012, Steven Koonin, Director of CUSP, and Jerry Hultin, President of the Polytechnic Institute of NYU, gave a special lecture on why NYU CUSP is so critical, and how informatics applies to the study and operation of urban systems. The discussion highlighted the rationale, structure, and substance of the Center's work in conjunction with the urban experience that exists across all of NYU—specifically, how NYU and CUSP will enrich New York City, the lives of New Yorkers, and the world.

For the first time in history, more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas. In just a few more decades, 70 percent of the world's estimated nine billion people will live in cities. Enabling those cities to deliver services effectively, efficiently, and sustainably while promoting and improving their citizens' safety, health, prosperity, and creativity will be among the most important undertakings of this century.

Click here for more information on the Center for Urban Science and Progress.

Speakers on the Square: Steve Koonin and Jerry Hultin from NYU Alumni Relations on Vimeo.

A Reading and Conversation with Zadie Smith: Professor, NYU Creative Writing Program and Award-Winning Novelist

On November 9, 2011, NYU alumni and friends gathered for an evening with award-winning author Zadie Smith, Professor, NYU’s Creative Writing Program. Ms. Smith read from her then unpublished work and discussed her writing and technique with the audience.

Zadie Smith was born in northwest London in 1975. Her first novel, White Teeth, was the winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, The Guardian First Book Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction, and the Commonwealth Writers' First Book Award. Her second novel, The Autograph Man, won The Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize. Zadie Smith's third novel, On Beauty, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and won the Commonwealth Writers’ Best Book Award (Eurasia Section) and the Orange Prize for Fiction. She is the editor of an anthology of short stories entitled The Book of Other People. Her collection of essays, Changing My Mind, was published in November 2009. Zadie Smith is a graduate of Cambridge University and has taught at Harvard and Columbia universities. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

Zadie Smith joined the faculty of NYU’s Creative Writing Program as a tenured professor in September 2010.

Art, Architecture, and Scandal in America’s Gilded Age: McKim, Mead, and White and Their Influence on New York with Professor Mosette Broderick, Director, Urban Design and Architecture Studies

On June 13, 2011, NYU Professor Mosette Broderick, Director of Urban Design and Architecture Studies, discussed the influence of the famous trio on the social and cultural history of New York and the work that made them the era’s leading architectural forces for change. More than any other architectural firm in the early 20th century, McKim, Mead, and White put their stamp on New York City by creating memorable Beaux-Arts buildings such as the former Pennsylvania Station, Brooklyn Museum, and the second Madison Square Garden, as well as the Washington Square arch and NYU's University Heights campus.

Speakers on the Square: Mosette Broderick from NYU Alumni Relations on Vimeo.

Mississippi Burning: Bringing the Killers of the Civil Rights Movement's Most Infamous Murders to Justice

Pulitzer prize-winning author Dr. David Oshinsky discussed his New York Times investigation that helped bring justice to the 1964 “Mississippi Burning” civil rights murders. A leading historian of modern American politics and culture, Dr. Oshinsky was the 2009 Jacob K. Javits Visiting Professor at New York University and holds the Jack S. Blanton Chair in History at the University of Texas. His essays and reviews appear regularly in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and other national publications.

Speakers on the Square: David Oshinsky from NYU Alumni Relations on Vimeo.

Global Financial Stability and Long-Run Risks

Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Engle investigated the causes of the financial crisis and the regulatory reforms proposed for its solution. He discussed the concept of risk in financial markets, how it is measured with volatility models, and how it looks today. Lastly, he addressed the long-run risks facing our society and the world: financial instability, war and terrorism, and global economic overheating.

Hubble Trouble: The Expanding Universe and the Dark Energy Engima

David Hogg and Gregory Gabadadze, professors in the Deparment of Physics and the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics, discussed one of the biggest enigmas of science: that all empty space is filled with a mysterious energetic substance heretofore unknown, or our understanding of gravity is subtly but fundamentally wrong.

Hooked on Technology: The Benefits and Dangers of the Digital Age

Exploring the implications of our culture's dependency on technology, this Speakers lecture featured distinguished NYU faculty members Anindya Ghose, Nasir Memon, and Rae Zimmerman, with special remarks from NYU President John Sexton and President of the Polytechnic Institute of NYU Jerry Hultin.

The Politics of Economic Reform in China and the Implications on US-China Policy

Featuring NYU Professor Doug Guthrie, this Speakers lecture untangled the cultural, political, and social processes that have led to China's successful reform, and explored the implications of that success on US and global politics. 

Why Do We Feel So Afraid?

Featuring NYU University Professor Joseph LeDoux, this Speakers lecture examined mechanisms within the brain that led to fear and anxiety, and discussed possibilities on how to control and prevent these conditions. It also included a special performance by Professor LeDoux's band The Amygdaloids

The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America

Presented by journalist Ray Suarez (WSUC '78), this Speakers lecture examined the advent of polarization in America, the way Americans worship, and how religion and politics intersect.

The Economy and Today's Global Markets: Can US Businesses Survive and Thrive?

Featuring business news anchor, alumna, and NYU Trustee Maria Bartiromo (WSUC '89), this Speakers on the Square provided an insightful discussion on managing businesses in uncertain times.

Global Immigration Today: The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Featuring NYU University Professor Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco, this Speakers on the Square examined "new immigration" patterns with a focus on the experiences of immigrant children and youth.

Is there a Vaccine Against Prejudice?

The inaugural Speakers on the Square lecture featured NYU alumnus Abraham Foxman (LAW '65), National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

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