A natural disaster has caused worldwide flooding. There is only one spot left on the last lifeboat out of the University of South Dakota, and only one discipline can survive.
This was the apocalyptic scenario set up as the backdrop to the Honors Association’s second “Lifeboat” Lectures, held April 15 in Farber Hall at 7 p.m.
Six professors gave five-minute lectures to convince the audience why their discipline should be saved. Students in the audience voted by paper ballots to name Joe Tinguely, a visiting professor in philosophy, as the winner of the traveling lifeboat trophy and bragging rights for the year.
Drew Espeseth, Honors program coordinator and the group’s adviser, first heard of the event in a “This American Life” episode and suggested it to the student organization to replicate. Last year’s event featured four professors, with Dan Van Peursem, chair of the math department, winning the award.
The idea behind the event is to allow students to be introduced to other disciplines they do not experience on a day-to-day basis, Espeseth said.
“It’s low-key and informal, but it gives students a chance to know professors outside the classroom,” he said.
This is one of the major spring events for the Honors Association, which hosts social and charitable events throughout the year.
This year’s “Lifeboat” Lectures line-up consisted of:
• Tina Keller — Physics
• Tim Farrell — Music
• Dan Van Peursem — Math
• Holly Straub — Psychology
• Joe Tinguely — Philosophy
• Derric Ludens — English
Van Peurseum, chair of USD’s math department, made his argument on math being the “life blood” of all other sciences. He pointed to the basic practicality in math and its necessity in recreating society as the reason to save his discipline.
“You can’t enjoy life if you don’t have it,” he said.
The lecturers engaged in good-natured digs at each other’s field of study. Physics Professor Christina Keller said while mathematicians could provide equations, her discipline of physics would show the survivors how to use simple machines like pulleys, screws and levers to build a shelter.
Some speakers also brought instruments of their discipline along — literally. Music Professor Tim Farrell began his five-minute lecture with a serenade from his trumpet, and said as a society, creative outlets like music need to be saved.
“Is that what you want your world to sound like?” he said after having the audience sit in silence for 10 seconds.
Derric Ludens, a member of the English faculty, took a more humorous approach to his lecture. After discussing the historical and perceptual realities of the discipline, Ludens said the people who study English are practically vultures.
“We scavenge what we need from other disciplines to get what we need,” Ludens said.
Promoting student-faculty interaction is another reason the Honors Association decided to host the event, President Zack Schulte said.
“I’m stuck in the chemistry department all day long, so to get to learn about English or psychology introduces me to professors and disciplines I never get to meet otherwise,” he said.