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CAT Conversations

Fall 2023: Dr. Carolyn Finney

Sixth College was thrilled to host Dr. Carolyn Finney for our annual CAT Conversations!

Dr. Finney is currently serving as a scholar-in-residence at the Franklin Environmental Center, where she explores the complex relationship between race and the environment in the United States. She is a performer, artist, educator, cultural geographer, and storyteller, and holds a PhD in Geography from Clark University. A chapter from her book Black Faces, White Spaces is a CAT 1 common reading for Fall 2023. She has also written for The Atlantic and The New York Times, and has served on the board of the National Parks.

Dr. Finney gave her keynote address on Thursday, October 26 at 12:30 p.m. at the Institute of the Americas, followed by a question and answer session moderated by Sixth College provost Dr. Lakshmi Chilukuri. We also hosted a smaller workshop after Dr. Finney's keynote, open to faculty, staff, and students in the Catalyst Administration Building at 2:30 p.m. The in-person workshop was limited to thirty people (first come, first served) and focused on storytelling, identity, and environmentalism.

Keynote Address

Title: "The History of Racializing the Environment"
Date: Thursday, October 26, 2023
Time: 12:30-1:50 p.m.
Location: Institute of the Americas, Hojel Auditorium
Please note that this event is free and open to the public!


Date: Thursday, October 26, 2023
Time: 2:30-4:00 p.m.
Location: Catalyst Administration Building, Main Conference Room
Description In this moment of unprecedented change, what does it mean to do the work of social transformation on our own terms? What are we called to do differently? Using Jonathan Franzen's recent article in The New Yorker"The Problem of Nature Writing"—as a jumping off point, let's dig into some good conversation about writing our own story as a form of activism, a practice of healing and an invitation to be in good relationship with all sentient beings. I want to talk about being Black and seeing "green" and how choosing words and stories to share—to un-erase and make space—is risky and generative. How are we supported to do this work? What are we willing to risk?

Carolyn Finney Flyer
Carolyn Finney is a talented artist, author, educator, and storyteller with a wide range of skills and experience. She is currently a scholar-in-residence at the Franklin Environmental Center at Middlebury College, where she explores the intersection of race, nature, and the environment in America. Finney began her career in acting, honing her craft in television commercials and shows like Beauty and the Beast for over a decade. Her travels through Africa, Asia, and Europe, as well as her five-year stay in Nepal, inspired her to pursue further education. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in gender and international development from Fairhaven College at Western Washington University and a Master of Social Science from Utah State University, where she focused on international rural community development. Finney then completed her PhD in Geography at Clark University. Today, she works as a public speaker, consultant, advisor, and writer, collaborating with a diverse range of organizations, institutions, and community groups.

Fall 2022: Dr. Naomi Oreskes

Fall 2022: Dr. Naomi Oreskes

As part of Sixth College's twentieth anniversary celebrations, we are excited to host our second annual CAT Conversations event featuring Dr. Naomi Oreskes, acclaimed author, professor, and former Sixth College provost. Dr. Oreskes will give a talk on science, values, and trust—"Why There's No Scientific Method (But That's OK)"—followed by a question and answer session moderated by current Sixth College provost Lakshmi Chilukuri.

"CODA: Values in Science," from Dr. Oreskes' book Why Trust Science? is a common reading for CAT 1 in Fall 2022; interested attendees are welcome to read along with CAT 1 students.

Naomi Oreskes Flyer

Naomi Oreskes is the Henry Charles Lea Professor of the History of Science and Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. She is an internationally renowned geologist, science historian, and author of both scholarly and popular books and articles on the history of earth and environmental science. Her authored or co-authored books include The Rejection of Continental Drift (1999), Plate Tectonics: An Insider's History of the Modern Theory of the Earth (2001), Merchants of Doubt (2010), The Collapse of Western Civilization (2014), Discerning Experts (2019), Why Trust Science? (2019), and Science on a Mission: How Military Funding Shaped What We Do and Don't Know About the Ocean (2021).

Naomi Oreskes Headshot

Oreskes has been a leading voice on the science and politics of anthropogenic climate change. Her 2004 essay "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change" (Science 306: 1686)—the first peer-reviewed paper to document the scientific consensus on this crucial issue—has been cited more than 2,500 times. It was featured in the landmark Royal Society publication, "A Guide to Facts and Fictions about Climate Change," and in the Academy-award winning film, An Inconvenient Truth. Her 2010 book, Merchants of Doubt (co-authored with Erik M. Conway), has been translated into nine languages and made into a documentary film produced by Participant Media and distributed by SONY Pictures Classics.

In 2018 she was named a Guggenheim Fellow for a book project with Erik M. Conway, The Big Myth: How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market. It will be released by Bloomsbury Press in February 2023.

Fall 2021: Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer

Fall 2021: Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer

Sixth College and CAT were thrilled to host Dr. Robin Kimmerer for our inaugural CAT Conversations Event and Workshop. Dr. Kimmerer joined us virtually on October 28th at eleven a.m. for a public talk and Q&A, moderated by Dr. Theresa Ambo. The event was followed at one p.m. by a separate workshop moderated by Dr. Chandler Puritty. Topics of discussion included Dr. Kimmerer's work and strategies for teaching that combine STEM and the humanities.

Robin Wall Kimmerer Flyer

Robin Wall Kimmerer is a mother, scientist, decorated professor, and enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. She is the author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, which has earned Kimmerer wide acclaim. Her first book, Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, was awarded the John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing, and her other work has appeared in Orion, Whole Terrain, and numerous scientific journals. She tours widely and has been featured on NPR's On Being with Krista Tippett, and in 2015 addressed the general assembly of the United Nations on the topic of "Healing Our Relationship with Nature." Kimmerer lives in Syracuse, New York, where she is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor of Environmental Biology, and the founder and director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, whose mission is to create programs which draw on the wisdom of both indigenous and scientific knowledge for our shared goals of sustainability.

As a writer and scientist, her interests in restoration include not only restoration of ecological communities, but restoration of our relationships to land. She holds a BS in Botany from SUNY ESF as well as an MS and a PhD in Botany from the University of Wisconsin, and is the author of numerous scientific papers on plant ecology, bryophyte ecology, traditional knowledge, and restoration ecology. She lives on an old farm in upstate New York, tending gardens both cultivated and wild.

CAT Conversations is sponsored by Sixth College
and the UC San Diego Parents Fund.

Twentieth Anniversary

UC San Diego is built on the unceded territory of the Kumeyaay Nation. Today, the Kumeyaay people continue to maintain their political sovereignty and cultural traditions as vital members of the San Diego community. We acknowledge their tremendous contributions to our region and thank them for their stewardship.¹

¹UCSD Intertribal Resource Center Land Acknowledgement