Great Conversation! 2012 Topics

Last updated: Oct. 11, 2012

Registration for Great Conversation! is now open. After reviewing the topics, click here to register.

Please review the list of topics and select your top three choices in order of preference.  Table seating is limited to 10 people (including the moderator) and is reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. We encourage you to register early to ensure placement at your preferred table (seating availability is updated regularly).

Plenary Session

“Resource Revolution?  Fossil Fuels and the Future of Food and Energy”
Featured presenters Jeffrey Ball and Wes Jackson will address environmental and energy sustainability.

Jeffrey Ball is a Scholar-in-Residence at the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University.  His research focuses on the intensifying race among companies and countries to corner the clean-energy market and the implications of that race for consumers and the planet, in particular about the economic viability of changing the way the world consumes fossil fuels. As a former columnist and reporter for the Wall Street Journal, he received an award from the National Press Foundation for his column written in 2009 called “Power Shift” on his coverage of the changing energy and environmental landscape.

Wes Jackson founded The Land Institute in 1976 focusing on sustainable agriculture. His efforts are beginning to demonstrate progress in developing the perennial crops called for in the Natural Systems Agriculture model. Wes is widely recognized as a leader in the sustainable agriculture international movement. His most recent publications include Nature as Measure (2011) and Consulting the Genius of the Place: An Ecological Approach to a New Agriculture (2010). Life magazine called Wes Jackson one of the most "important Americans of the 20th century." More recently in November 2005, Smithsonian called him one of "35 Who Made a Difference."

Conversation Topics

Science and Technology

1. New Power: America at an Energy Crossroads  1 seats available
Jeffrey Ball – scholar-in-residence Stanford University; former Wall Street Journal reporter
The U.S. is at a striking turning point on energy. It's newly awash in domestic oil and natural gas, and it has made big strides in harnessing wind and solar power. Yet each of these options raises thorny environmental and economic dilemmas. What's a rational way forward toward a cleaner yet cost-effective U.S. energy future?

2. Building a Sustainable Food Supply  0 seats available
Wes Jackson – president, The Land Institute
Soil is more important than oil and as much of a non-renewable resource as oil. How to save the soils of the ecosphere with 7 billion people and counting will require a major adjustment in the way we grow food.

3. Wind Energy: The Wave of the Future?  3 seats available
Jim Ludwig – executive vice president of consumer services and public affairs, Westar Energy, Inc.
Kansas has some of the best wind conditions in the country to harness for generating clean, renewable electricity.  Can we create a new energy reality?

4. Is Smart Technology Replacing You?  CANCELLED

Business and Community

5. Who’s Buying America and Why?  1 seats available
Paul Daemen
 – Daemen LLC; international business consultant
Dr. Malcolm Harris – professor of finance, Friends University
We have seen a Chinese firm in the lead to buy Hawker-Beechcraft and Chinese energy giants buying large stakes in American shale gas fields.  Is this a threat or an opportunity? Are we selling our birthright because we do not export enough to pay for our import habit? In 2010, Kansas exports nearly topped $10 billion including aircraft, industrial machinery, meat and cereals. Over 50,000 Kansans are employed by foreign-owned companies. Can we do more?

6. INTRUST Bank Arena: Why it was worth the investment  5 seats available
A.J. Boleski
 – general manager, INTRUST Bank Arena/SMG Wichita
INTRUST Bank Arena is quickly approaching its third birthday. What have been the biggest triumphs and challenges for SMG Wichita since the building opened? How has the entertainment landscape in Wichita changes since the building opened? How has INTRUST Bank Arena put Wichita back on the entertainment industry map?

7. Healthcare and You: What’s happening today?  3 seats available
Karen Vines – vice president, IMA Benefits
David Pauls, M.D. – board president, Center for Bioethics and Culture
With the Affordable Care Act, health care financing has moved front and center in the national debate. We will discuss the potential implications of not only the ACA but other important forces that are coming to bear on the delivery of health care in America.

8. Will Aviation in Wichita Continue to Fly?  3 seats available
Kent Irick – dean of aviation programs, Wichita Area Technical College
The departure of The Boeing Company and the pending ownership change at Hawker Beechcraft raises questions. How is aviation in Wichita going to change? What impact will there be with our current training programs, supply manufacturers, and even charitable support to the Wichita community?

9. Regulations: Protection or Burden?  CANCELLED

10. Downtown’s Resurgence Is Making A Mark  3 seats available
Jeff Fluhr – president, Wichita Downtown Development Corporation
The development activity in Downtown Wichita is approaching $200 million since 2010.  This investment is shaping Downtown into a vibrant economic center for the region.  This conversation will provide insight into what is driving this investment and what it means to our economic future.

Education and Social Issues

11. The Tenured and The Temporary:  Faculty “Types” in the 21st Century  CANCELLED

12. Public Education and the Community: “Not my job" or "It takes a village"?  CANCELLED

13. The Millennials and Social Media: The clash of the ages in the workplace  0 seats available
Dr. Tor Wynn – assistant professor of sociology, Friends University
The generation of Americans born in the 1980s and 1990s has been tagged with labels such as Generation Me, the Dumbest Generation and the Millennials. As they enter adulthood and the workplace, will we see the spoiled, overindulged, egoists that their critics expect or will they be the confident, technologically-savvy multi-taskers imagined by their champions?

14. Identity Theft: Who Wants To Be You?  3 seats available
Lt. Clark Wiemeyer – financial crimes section, Wichita Police Department
During this session, we will discuss exactly what “identity theft” is and will look at practical ways to deter, defend, and detect identity theft.

Humanities and Arts

15. Voyeur Nation: America’s Love Affair with Reality TV  5 seats available
Suzanne Perez Tobias – reporter/columnist, The Wichita Eagle
From "The Hunger Games" to "The Bachelorette," dance moms to housewives, "Big Brother" to "Hell's Kitchen," a phenomenon that began with MTV's "Real World" has evolved into a driving force in modern American culture. Why the fascination with other people's lives?

16. The Top 10 Spiritual Books of the Past Century  3 seats available
Dr. Marv Hinten – professor of English, Friends University
The group moderator, a Christian writer, has his favorite picks; what are some of yours? Enjoy a lively conversation as you can challenge, agree, or suggest books you think should make the cut!

17. The Future of the Arts in Kansas  CANCELLED

Leisure and Lifestyles

18. Simplicity and Sustainability: Using our Natural Resources Thoughtfully  1 seats available
George Elder – grower; craftsman; entrepreneur; interested citizen
The attempt to become "sustainable" in our culture involves more hurdles than just a less consumptive energy source and more efficient ways of producing things. We will discuss what a "sustainable culture" is and what contribution each of us can make to that end.

19. Becoming a Sports Star: Should it be a career focus or a sideline?  4 seats available
John Blazek – general manager, Wichita Wild and Wichita Wings
From little league sports to professional athletics, when and where do we draw the line of it being fun to becoming a job.  Many young people set their sights on becoming a professional athlete.  When and where does this process start and end?

20. Great Foods, Great Places: What’s in Wichita?  0 seats available
Denise Neil – reporter/columnist, The Wichita Eagle
Wichitans love to eat out, and fortunately for them, the city offers a diverse and flavorful dining scene, filled with interesting ethnic eateries and homegrown favorites. This conversation will give you new ideas for great places to eat that you may never have known about otherwise.

Politics and History

21. The Israel-Palestine Conflict: What is America’s role?  0 seats available
Rev. Michael Poage, M.F.A., M.Div., ESL certification, 2012 in Gaza and West Bank
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict involves a very small area of land, only a few million people, and no mineral resources, yet has been a thorn-in-the-side for the U.S. as well as the U.N. for decades. Our discussion will focus on the current and future role of the U.S. as seen through the lens of a recent visitor to the region.  He will share his perspective about this highly controversial and seemingly unresolvable conflict and hear your thoughts about the people, policies and politics.

22. Concealed Carry in Kansas: Second Amendment or Second Degree?  3 seats available
Marc Bennett – deputy district attorney, Sedgwick County
Columbine. Zimmerman. Aurora. Wisconsin Sikh.  These shooting tragedies have people concerned about the proliferation of gun sales and the prevalence of concealed and open carry in public. Are individual rights and safety being protected under the Second Amendment?  Where is the line between murder and self-defense?

23. Incarcerated America: A New Jim Crow?  5 seats available
Dr. Gretchen Eick – professor of history, Friends University; author “Dissent in Wichita: The Civil Rights Movement in the Midwest, 1954-72”
Several scholars have recently examined the profound changes in our prison system – privatizing, for-profit prisons and inmates largely people of color imprisoned for drug use, "victimless crimes."  How is this affecting our nation and those groups?