2020 Great Conversations Tables

View all the topics and the registration form in the mailer: here, or read the descriptions to follow and register online using the link at the bottom of this page.

That Was Then!

1.Bean and Brew: How Coffee Connected the World Coffee’s history is so much more than the tale of how the brew extracted from a bitter bean became a much-loved and much-needed beverage. Join Jeannette Fregulia, as she follows the bean and the brew from the highlands of Ethiopia and Yemen to the world’s first coffeehouses in the Muslim world and onward around the globe. Inspiring great admiration and vociferous criticism, coffee has, and continues, to connect people to one another, whether close to home or on distant shores. Jeannette is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of History at  Carroll College with an M.A. in Middle East Studies from the University of London and a Ph.D. in Renaissance History from Reno, NV.

2.Women of the West Everyone’s heard of Jeannette Rankin, and most people have heard of western writer Dorothy Johnson, African American mail carrier Mary Fields, rodeo star Fanny Sperry Steele, and Blackfeet banker Elouise Cobell, but they are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Montana’s amazing women. What about Sister Providencia Tolan, or Harriette Cushman? What about the 18 percent of Montana homesteaders who were solo women? What about the amazing women in your own family tree? Join Martha Kohl, Historian at the Montana Historical Society and author of I Do: A Cultural History of Montana Weddings, for a decidedly feminine journey into Montana’s past.

This is Now!

3.QAnon: The Religious Dimensions of Conspiracy Jonathan Drake of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley is currently researching New Religious Movements (popularly known as “cults”). Spend an evening in an everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know discussion about conspiracies and “super conspiracies” including the history of conspiracy theories in America, their enduring political influence, how they have adapted to the internet, how they have responded to Covid-19 and the blurred line between political ideology and religious mythology.

4. Keeping the Peace Robert F. Kennedy said, “….every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.” Police are being called upon more and more to respond to community problems for which outside resources are limited or non-existent. Each community must decide what role they want police to play locally and how to provide these needed services to its citizens; Helena is no different. Join Helena Police Chief Steve Hagen for a discussion about how to support effective community policing through community involvement.

5.Getting our “House” in Order Here’s your chance to share your ideas and vision for shaping Helena’s future water, energy, transportation, and solid waste systems. Join Patrick Judge, Helena’s first Sustainability Coordinator, to explore opportunities for improving our sustainability and resilience in the face of a rapidly changing climate; and learn about the progress that has been made to implement the recommendations of the local climate action plan developed in 2009 by the Climate Change Task Force.

6.Bringing the World Together—from Space Frank Standa has worked on the International Space Station program for 25 years and is currently the manager of software development. Join him for an out-of-this-world discussion about the most complex human endeavor ever built. The International Space Station involves 15 nations working together in scientific cooperation, including software development, and has enjoyed 20 years of continuous human presence on-orbit! Climb aboard for this unique journey into outer space.

7.Spillover Why is the pandemic an environmental issue? Join this discussion and follow along as Jim Robbins, who has contributed to the New York Times for 40 years and is the author of six books on science and the environment, leads this conversation about how disease escapes wild natural areas when humans disrupt them and why we must understand basic eco-literacy in tracing the origin of pandemics.

8.Indigenous Impact Racial diversity has taken center stage in recent months throughout America, but what about Montana’s own diverse citizenship? Glance back and look forward in this discussion about the multi-culturalism of Montana, the benefits of a diverse citizenship, unity and division with our racial diversity, and what the future holds for all of us in the Treasure State. Join this timely discussion with Major Robinson (Northern Cheyenne), Owner/Principal of Redstone Project Development and Sage and Oats Trading Post

9. Seattle Seattle was the site of the nation’s first COVID case and a flashpoint in this year’s social justice movement. Jake Whittenberg reported from the historic ‘CHOP’ zone in Seattle and digs into COVID data every day, experiences that provide a unique perspective on the way things are unfolding in 2020. An alum of Helena High School and MSU, Jake is now the lead Morning News Anchor with Seattle’s King 5 T.V. Join him for an inside scoop!

10.Leave Me Alone! In Montana, we enjoy a constitutional right of privacy, “a right to be left alone.” But is this right absolute? When may the government lawfully infringe upon your privacy and autonomy? Join retired Montana Supreme Court Justice Pat Cotter for a discussion of the breadth of your privacy rights and how and when they may be curtailed by the government—in normal and not so normal times.

11.Coping With Covid Whether it’s navigating your child’s school day while trying to do your own job, or worrying about loved ones isolated in care centers, or just being anxious about going to the grocery store, face it—this is a stressful time.  Most, if not all of us, could use some strategies for coping.  Learn how to identify and track stress in your own body and develop skills to turn stress in strength.  Andrew Laue, LCSW, has some tools you can use to cope with Covid.

12.Pandemic Pastimes, Part 1 The first Golden Age of Television was in the 1950’s. What we have at our fingertips now was unimaginable 70 years ago. Netflix, Hulu, HBO, a wealth of foreign series and more—an embarrassment of riches. And what better time than a pandemic to have so much to distract us? Montana Supreme Court Justice Jim Shea hasn’t seen everything out there, but he can help you get a good start, and he may even get some new ideas from you. Milton Berle (from the aforementioned first Golden Age of Television) said, “We owe a lot to Thomas Edison—if it wasn’t for him, we’d be watching television by candlelight…” Thank you, Thomas!

13.Pandemic Pastimes, Part 2 And Groucho Marx said, “I find television very educating. Every time someone turns on the set, I go to the other room and read a book.” Tim Nichols, Dean of U.M.’s Davidson Honors College, is on Team Groucho. If you are too, join Tim to discuss your best choices to curl up with this winter. Tim is both voracious and varied in his reading and will have more suggestions than you may have time for. He’ll also want to know, “What’s next on your reading list?”

14.Teens and Covid-19 Social distancing is anathema for most teenagers unless perhaps they are distancing themselves from chores. These times offer both challenges and opportunities as you help your kids navigate online school, social media, letdowns from postponed activities, sports seasons, and the struggles of A.A. Days, B.B. Days, and the days in between. Kathy Kinsella Shea, LCSW, is the resource to talk you through working together to find the new normal for your family.

Who Knows What’s Next?

15.Vault, Volley, Skate, Leap Helena native Nick McCarvel has covered international sports, from the U.S. Open, to the French Open to the Olympics. Along the way, he has picked up some tips, interviewed some greats, and seen the world. Nick is a Digital News Producer. Ask him for a few anecdotes—Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Simone Biles?—he’s interviewed each and more. Many of us have missed sports these past several months, so suit up for an exhilarating night with an ace for a discussion of some of our favorite pastimes.

16.Technology: Not so Fast? Or Full Speed Ahead? Technological advances have improved the lives of millions and have also created risks that may make humanity unrecognizable or threaten our simple survival. Tim LeCain, Professor of History at MSU, former senior fellow in Munich and Oslo, and author of The Matter of History: How Things Create the Past will lead a discussion of risks including the rise of frequent viral pandemics, nuclear power and weapons, the revolutions in Artificial Intelligence and Internet virtuality, and the development of CRISPR and cheap and easy genetic engineering. Can we control the risks of these new technologies and reap their benefits, or should we consider putting on the brakes?

17.Predicting Pandemics: The Myth of Sisyphus A recognized expert on the pathogenesis of infectious diseases, Marshall E. Bloom, M.D., is the associate director for scientific management at Rocky Mountain Laboratories (RML) in Hamilton, MT. Dr. Bloom has been a spokesperson for the RML COVID-19 research program and has a significant role in the institutional response. As Covid-19 continues to rage around the world, the impacts on the U.S. are significant. Lessons we take from our experience now can inform how we face future spillover events. There is also a pandemic of misinformation to eradicate. Dr. Bloom offers an opportunity for you to get first-hand facts from a widely respected expert.

18.Dividing a Denomination Conservatives and progressives within the United Methodist Church have struggled to find compromise that will serve opposing members who have opposing views, largely over LGBTQ issues. Having served 7 years as a District Superintendent overseeing 744 churches and 46 clergy, Reverend Terry Turner has ample experience to guide you through the tumult that has led to this point and perhaps speculate on what the changes may bring.

19.Globe Rider If you miss travel and exploration of your own right now, this is the conversation for you! Terry Gauthier has literally traveled the world. On his motorcycle. The Silk Road, South America, Central America, Africa…Sign up for some vicarious vacationing and discover where you may want go when next you take off on your own adventure.

20.Sharing the Trails The trails and areas around Helena are a great example of a micropolitan use system—people can recreate right after work/during their lunch hours and directly from their homes or offices. Managing this use and expectation is totally different from managing recreation use and expectation from places like the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. People are very passionate about their recreation; in many ways, how we choose to spend our recreation time is how we define ourselves. The struggle to balance consumptive use while meeting different recreation allocations without displacing both ecological functions and other users is challenging. Walk your way through the maze with Bill Avey, Supervisor of the Lewis and Clark National Forest.

21.Read All About It! As daily newspapers shrink or disappear altogether, advertising dollars and subscriptions dwindle. With fewer reporters holding public officials accountable, government can become more expensive and less efficient. A new wave of public service nonprofit organizations are stepping up and leading the way by reimagining the business model for news. Join John Adams, Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of the Montana Free Press, to discuss where this new wave may break.

22.Off to College Dr. Brock Tessman, Deputy Commissioner for Academic, Research and Student Affairs for the Montana University System, deals every day with how Covid-19 has intensified already significant challenges to the traditional model of public higher education in America. The pandemic has also driven a series of “durable innovations” that will revolutionize college business models, instructional approaches, recruitment methods, and community engagement strategies. The most complex challenges for higher education will be connected to issues of equity, value, and public trust. Will these innovations ultimately reinvent and save public higher education in Montana and beyond?

Online Registration Form