President’s Luncheon Speaker Series

The President’s Luncheon Speaker Series brought together UF faculty and students for regular gatherings at the president’s home on campus from the 2019-20 through the 2021-22 academic years. Hosted by President Kent and Linda Fuchs at the Dasburg House, the gatherings began with up to 60 students enjoying an informal lunch with the Fuchses and the faculty speaker. Following lunch, the speaker gave a presentation about their research or scholarship, ending with a Q&A officiated by President Fuchs. The gatherings were open to any current UF student, and students at all levels and from all of UF’s 16 colleges regularly attended.


March 23rd, 2022: What Museum Visitors Don’t See: Behind-the-scenes science and innovation at natural history museums

David Blackburn, curator of herpetology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, discussed his pioneering research on the world’s frogs and the innovative science at the Museum of Natural History.  A highlight of his talk was his explanation of using non-invasive CT scans to reveal the internal anatomy of museum specimens of frogs and other animals, including rare or delicate specimens that might otherwise easily be damaged or lost. By digitizing these scans and making them available online, scientists and members can freely access and study them from anywhere in the world. Dr. Blackburn also gave a fascinating account of his research on frogs and field work in Africa. He and his team have described at least 27 new species of frogs from Africa, South America and Asia.

February 21, 2022: Our Journey Making AMERICANISH: The first romantic comedy made by American Muslim Women. 

Professor and Filmmaker Iman Zawahry of UF’s College of Journalism & Communications gave students an insider’s account of her eight-year journey making her first feature film, “Americanish,” from conceptualizing the plot to raising the needed funds to the crew’s many adventures shooting the film in New York City. Americanishwhich came out last year and is currently touring film festivals, has won critical acclaim and won 14 awards, including Best Director at La Femme Film Festival and Grand Prize awards at the Heartland and YES Film Festivals. Professor Zawahry, one of the nation’s first hijabi American-Muslim filmmakers, is an Emmy award winner, Princess Grace Award recipient and a Lincoln Center NYFF Artist Academy Fellow.

UF aquatic animal veterinarian Mike Walsh (in orange Gator shirt) works with colleagues and students to assess the health of a manatee at Crystal River.

January 28, 2022: Right Whales, Manatees, Sea Turtles and Winter the Dolphin: A career dedicated to marine mammals by Mike Walsh

Professor Walsh, clinical associate professor of aquatic animal health at the UF College of Veterinary Medicine, is a marine animal veterinarian who has spent decades working with whales, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles. He fascinated students with an overview of his work caring for, rescuing and rehabilitating marine animals, telling his story with both exhibits and video, including a dramatic video of a manatee rescue. A UF faculty member since 2007, Professor Walsh consults with numerous state and federal agencies and private rescue organizations and regularly travels with his UF students and colleagues to research or assist with rescue efforts for marine animals around Florida. He assisted with care for Winter the Dolphin, the famed dolphin with the prosthetic tale who was the subject of the 2011 movie “Dolphin Tale” and who passed away last year at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Lillian Guerra

December 1, 2021: Vanguard of change in today’s Cuba: Art, race and social media by Lillian Guerra

Dr. Lillian Guerra, a professor of Cuban and Caribbean History in the UF Department of History, gave a compelling presentation about how Cuban rappers, artists, performers and painters are using art, music and social media to challenge the Cuban government – and how Cuban authorities are responding with increased repression and crackdowns. Professor Guerra is the author of four books of history and has completed a fifth, “Patriots and Traitors in Revolutionary Cuba, 1961-1981,” to be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2022. She frequently tweets about Cuban artists, their experiences and their widespread adoption of social media, and in May she authored an op-ed in The New York Times calling out the Cuban government’s mistreatment and repression.

Cynthia Barnett

October 29, 2021: Telling Earth’s story with wonder and warning by Cynthia Barnett

Professor Barnett, author, journalist and the Environmental Journalist in Residence in UF’s College of Journalism and Communications, kicked off this year’s President’s Luncheon Speaker Series with a fascinating overview of how she draws on cultural history and science to trace the long human love affair with seashells -- and the hidden lives of the mollusks that make them – in her new book, The Sound of the Sea. Students heard surprising stories, from the origins of Shell Oil as a family business importing exotic shells to the eerie calls of early indigenous shell trumpets, as well as the evolutionary origin of shells’ spines and spires, the modern science of pain relief tied to mollusk toxins and what shells are telling scientists about our warming seas.

November 10, 2020: How Societies Remember (and Forget) Hurricanes by Ken Sassaman

Professor Sassaman is the Hyatt and Cici Brown Professor or Florida Archaeology in the UF Department of Anthropology. Since arriving at UF in 1998, Professor Sassaman has been leading archaeological field work in the St. Johns River valley and on the northern Gulf Coast of Florida. Research in both locations focuses on the long-term histories of Native Americans whose technological innovations and social networks ensured sustainable living.

Michael McDonald portrait

October 15, 2020: Who has already voted, and why? by Michael McDonald

Professor McDonald, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, focuses on elections and voter turnout and is closely tracking early voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election through his United States Elections Project (@ElectProject.) He is a co-principle investigator on the Public Mapping Project to encourage public participation in redistricting. He co-authored Numerical Issues in Statistical Computing for the Social Scientist, co-edited The Marketplace of Democracy: Electoral Competition and American Politics and has published research articles in dozens of academic journals. He has worked as a media consultant to the Associated Press, ABC, and NBC and published opinion articles in The Washington PostUSA Today, Politico and other media.

Della Mosley

September 22, 2020 Unpacking and Unlearning the Golden Rule by Della V. Mosley.

Dr. Della is an Assistant Professor in the Psychology Department. She developed and leads the Wellness, Equity, Love, Liberation, and Sexuality (WELLS) Healing and Research Collective. Dr. Della co-founded Academics for Black Survival and Wellness (#Academics4BlackLives), an international movement advancing antiracism education for non-Black people and culturally relevant healing for Black people. Dr. Della is an award-winning scholar, co-author of a popular Psychology Today blog titled "Healing through Social Justice," and an American Psychological Association Minority Fellow.

Victoria Pagán

February 14, 2020 Conspiracy Theories: How They Emerge and Why They Persist From Antiquity to the Present by Victoria Pagan.

Victoria Pagán is a professor of Classics and has written twin studies on conspiracy for the University of Texas Press: Conspiracy Narratives in Roman History and Conspiracy Theory in Latin Literature. She is also the author of Rome and the Literature of Gardens and co-editor of Disciples of Flora: Gardens in History and Culture. As an internationally recognized specialist on the Roman historian Tacitus, she has edited a Companion to Tacitus; she has written the volume Tacitus for the “Understanding Classics” series; and she is chief editor of the Tacitus Encyclopedia, an in-progress collaboration of 168 scholars from six continents.

Jose Valentino Ruiz

January 22, 2020: Beyond the Grammys, Beyond Yourself, It’s About People: Making a Meaningful Career as a Creative Professional presented by José Valentino Ruiz.

Dr. Ruiz's passions are expressed as a multi-instrumentalist, performing artist, record producer, composer, missionary, empirical researcher, CEO, author, and educator. His skills have paved the way for him to become a Grammy Award Winner, an Emmy Award Winner, a multi-Grammy Award Nominee, a Global Music Award Winner, a Parents' Choice Award Winner, and a 51-time Downbeat Music Award Winner. He is the Inaugural Director of the Music Business & Entrepreneurship Program at UF and holds a bachelor’s degree in music theory, a master’s in instrumental performance, a doctor of ministry in global outreach, and a Ph.D. in music education.

Author and Creative Writing Professor Jill Ciment

November 4, 2019: The Other Half: A Reconsideration of My Earlier Memoir, Half a Life presented by Jill Ciment.

Jill Ciment is a professor of English and teacher of graduate and undergraduate writing workshops. She is the author of Small Claims, a collection of short stories and novellas; The Law of Falling Bodies, Teeth of the Dog, The Tattoo Artist,Heroic Measures (a finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize), Act of God,  and The Body in Question, novels; and Half a Life, a memoir. She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a NEA Japan Fellowship Prize, two New York State Fellowships for the Arts, the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Veteran Broadway dancer and School of Theatre and Dance Professor Andrew Cao

October 9, 2019: Pippin: UF’s 2019 Mainstage Musical presented by Andrew Cao.

Andrew Cao is a veteran Broadway dancer and lecturer in the UF School of Theatre + Dance. He danced on Broadway in Disney’s Aladdin, the 2011 revival of Anything Goes with Sutton Foster, and Nice Work if You Can Get It, spanning almost 10 years and thousands of performances. In addition, Andrew appeared on television in Iron Fist, The Mysteries of Laura, Blue Bloods, The Detour, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tony Awards, The View, Good Morning America, and Nickelodeon’s The Backyardigans.

Pulitzer Prize Winner Professor Jack E. Davis

September 11, 2019: Coming Ashore: Wonder, Creativity, and Beholding the Blue-Green Earth presented by Jack Davis.

Professor Davis is a professor of history and the Rothman Family Chair in the Humanities at the University of a. His The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in history, and in 2019 he was awarded an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship to support his current book project, Bird of Paradox: How the Bald Eagle Saved the Soul of America