Thursday, January 29, 2015

[274] MTSU Honors Lecture Series highlights ‘Native American Culture’

MURFREESBORO — A generous gift to the MTSU Honors College in 2014 by alumni Gordon and Sara Bell of Murfreesboro served as the inspiration behind the theme for the spring Honors Lecture Series “Native American Culture.”

The Bells have spent more than 30 years of their married life assisting the Lakota Sioux Indian tribe in South Dakota. They established an endowed scholarship for MTSU juniors and seniors working on Native American research and issues.

The Bells’ gift led Honors College Associate Dean Philip Phillips to select Native American Culture as the main subject for the series.

“I wanted students to have a greater appreciation of their regional history and national history, an important part of which includes Native American culture,” Phillips said.

The long-running lecture series, featuring focused topics and presenters from multiple disciplines on and off campus, not only is a required class (UH 3000) for Honors College students, but also is free and open to the public. Focusing on a primary theme, weekly presenters provide perspective, based on their own field of study and research.

The series began Monday (Jan. 26) with the course introduction by Phillips and ends April 27. The class meetings will be in the Simmons Amphitheater (Room 106) of the Paul W. Martin Sr. Honors Building.

All classes will meet promptly at 3 p.m. every Monday except March 9, which falls during spring break for students and faculty. Ten of the 14 weeks the class meets will be devoted to the Native American theme. To view the complete schedule, visit and click on “Lecture Series.”

MTSU sociology and anthropology professor Kevin Smith’s “Gifts from The People: The Cultural Legacy of Native America” begins the 10-week portion pertaining to Native American Culture Monday, Feb. 2.

“His keynote address will set the stage for the series as a whole,” Phillips said.

James “Bo” Taylor of Cherokee, North Carolina, will be the Distinguished Visiting Lecturer Monday, April 6, discussing “Cherokee History, Language and Culture from a Native Perspective.” At 5 p.m., he will offer a special presentation of storytelling, music and dance, followed by a reception. The MTSU Distinguished Lecture Committee provided support for his visit.

Under the leadership of associate professor Shelley Thomas, the Honors College houses the Center for Accelerated Language Acquisition, or CALA. Taylor participated in the program several years ago.

“He uses her methods, teaching a diverse audience of people,” Phillips said.

Alumna Sara Bell will bring the Monday, March 2, lecture, titled “Life on Pine Ridge Reservation: The Good, the Bad, the Beautiful.”

To read more about the Bells’ years of assisting with the Lakota Sioux tribe, visit

Other Native American-related special guests include Paul Ironcloud of the Lakota Sioux tribe Monday, March 23, and Krystal S. Tsosie of Vanderbilt University Monday, April 13. Tsosie, a Navajo Indian, is a Vanderbilt doctoral candidate and researcher.

“We offer a wide range of topics,” Phillips said of the lecture series. “We draw from talent at MTSU, but we also reach out to people from other places.”

For more information about the lecture series or Honors College, call 615-898-2152.

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