Distinguished Lecture Series enriches student learning at UNT
Dr. Jane Goodall spoke to a crowd of over 4000 attendees in UNT’s Coliseum on Monday evening in UNT’s Distinguished Lecture Series. Her lecture, titled Tomorrow and Beyond: An Evening with Jane Goodall, detailed how she discovered her love of animals, her study of chimpanzee behavior in Tanzania and her conservation efforts.
Goodall recounted how the 1986 “Understanding Chimpanzees” conference in Chicago shifted her focus from observation and research to environmental conservation.
“I couldn’t sleep for nights,” Goodall said, hearing about the bushmeat trades, poaching and deforestation that endangered the chimps she cared for. “I went to that conference in 1986 as a scientist, planning to carry on with that wonderful life, and I left as an activist.”
Randy Loftis, a journalism professor at UNT and environmental investigative reporter, moderated a Question and Answer session following the lecture. Loftis has interviewed Goodall multiple times throughout his career
“She is probably, now that Stephen Hawking has passed away, the most famous scientist in the world,” Loftis said. “She is a very gracious, dignified, soft-spoken person who has a backbone of steel — don’t be deceived into thinking she’s a shy and shrinking kind of person […] there’s a lot to her.”
At the end of the night, Goodall shared the story of Wounda, a female chimp who was rescued from poachers, to leave the audience with a sense of hope.
“Every single day you are making a difference, cumulatively,” Goodall said. “The choices we make each day add up and we can create the world we want to leave to our great-great-grandchildren.”
Goodall’s lecture proved to be impactful to UNT students who attended.
Samantha Tellez, a sophomore at UNT who attended Goodall’s lecture said the lecture encouraged her to think critically about her impact in the environment.
“Seeing Jane Goodall speak at my school was an incredible experience,” Tellez said. “Her words really resonated with me and I’m now looking into how to live a more efficient life.”
Brittany Landau, Coordinator of Special Projects at UNT, advises the student-led committee that runs the Distinguished Lecture Series and inviting speakers who impact students is her goal for the series.
“We try to make sure that the people we bring in not only complement our students’ education, but also impact them in more than an educational way,” Landau said.
The series is funded by student services fees, a fee that is included in UNT students’ tuition, which the committee strives to respect by providing free admission to UNT students and charging tickets for faculty, staff and community members.
“Our students are the creative minds behind it,” Landau said. “They are the ones making the decisions because they pay tuition, so I want them to have that influence.”
Through the Distinguished Lecture Series, UNT has hosted influential figures such as Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” Condoleezza Rice, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s, Steve Wozniak and John Legend. The series’ aim is to “provide the UNT community with different perspectives and topics of thought.”
“We have the opportunity to bring these really awesome people to campus and I love that our students want to participate in that,” Landau said. “I think in the future we want to continue that trend and bring people that students connect with.”