Each May, after final exams are posted and diplomas are awarded, the editor and publisher of The Lawton Constitution acknowledge the change in educational workflow and allow those of us who write education columns for the newspaper to use the summer for other projects. (Even college presidents can appreciate a break from homework.) Since it will be September before the next Cameron University column is scheduled, I wish to use this opportunity to slip in a shameless plug for Cameron University’s upcoming academic festival.
For those of you who might be new to the area, Cameron hosts an academic festival every three years, and has done so for three decades. A committee of CU faculty and staff identify a topic for the festival, then we spend nearly a year researching potential speakers and related events that provide an in-depth look at that topic over the course of an academic year.
The McCasland Foundation of Duncan continues to be the primary sponsor of Cameron’s academic festivals, starting with the “Year of the Renaissance,” our first one back in 1991. It focused on the historic Renaissance, along with a resurgence in learning as a new century approached.
Starting with Festival II, our celebrations have tackled subjects ranging from cultural diversity and the effects of globalization, Afghanistan’s role on the world stage, the challenges of sustainability, and an exploration of the changing American identity.
Our festivals have a well-earned reputation for bringing thought-provoking and engaging speakers to campus. This who’s who list includes Cornell West, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Fareed Zakaria, Paul Krugman, George Will, Al Roker, Rick Bayless, and retired generals Stanley McChrystal and Jack Keane.
Our most recent festival, “Connections: Information Transfer Between People,” may forever be known as “the pandemic festival” because of COVID-19. It was extremely topical, with events that focused on our use of technology to connect and relate with one another. Little did we know as we planned Festival XI that the impending pandemic would suddenly force us all to learn how to replace in-person interactions with Zoom and FaceTime.
Today, we find ourselves emerging from the pandemic weary, stressed, perhaps anxious and in need of some personal attention. That is why we selected “Care and Health: A Generational Approach” as our festival theme. We will explore mental health from three perspectives – children and adolescents, ourselves, and elders (especially if we are tasked with providing their care) – and consider ways to support our mental health in all phases of our lives.
Our first of three featured speakers is Michele Borba, who will come to campus Sept. 14. An internationally renowned educator, award-winning author and parenting expert recognized for her strategies to strengthen children’s character and resilience, she is recognized globally for her work in preventing bullying and youth violence.
Next on campus (Nov. 9) will be Yale neuroscientist Nii Addy. Dr. Addy can address mental health from many perspectives – his research into the brain biology of anxiety, depression and addiction; his familiarity with effective psychological intervention; his perspective as a Black scientist in the midst of ongoing racism and racial injustices; and as a person of faith. Dr. Addy’s work explores the brain processes underlying depression, anxiety, substance use and substance disorders, and seeks potential therapies for mental health issues.
Leighann Lord will round out Festival XII on Feb. 27, 2024. A veteran stand-up comedian, actress and the author of several humor books, Ms. Lord is the creator of the “People with Parents” podcast where she talks about the role reversal between adult children and aging parents. One of her most popular topics is “Parenting Your Parents: Six Caregiver Survival Tips; When Your Empty Nest Smells Like Bengay and Mothballs.”
These, of course, are just three highlights of Festival XII. Our academic departments are currently developing additional activities, informative educational programs and theatre productions related to the topic of mental health, all of which will be open to the public with most at no charge. I encourage you to keep an eye on local news sources and Cameron’s website as we announce details throughout the summer.
Have a great summer.
John McArthur is president of Cameron University in Lawton.