Critical Conversations

Graphic promoting Critical Conversations program.

CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS is a presidential program showcasing distinguished scholars at the forefront of their fields and at the vanguard of shaping how we understand the vital issues, questions and challenges facing our 21st century world.

Celebrating UB’s longstanding history of intellectual leadership and innovation, this program is a vital forum for timely, insightful dialogue about key issues shaping the world around us.

The CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS program spotlights prominent scholars who are leading the conversation about major societal questions and challenges with broad-ranging, cross-disciplinary relevance and impact. From global health concerns and contemporary cultural debates to technological trends and socioeconomic challenges, these are the topics that cut across disciplinary boundaries and geographic borders to shape daily life for us all.

  • 2019-2020: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
    The second woman appointed to serve on the United States Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had a profound impact on society as a highly accomplished academic and scholar, a renowned jurist, and an influential advocate for gender equality and women’s rights. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed Justice Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Thirteen years later, President Bill Clinton announced his nomination of Ginsburg as an Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court and she took her seat on August 10, 1993.
  • 2018-2019: France Córdova
    Dr. France A. Córdova is an astrophysicist and the 14th director of the National Science Foundation. She is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and is a National Associate of the National Academies. She is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Association for Women in Science (AWIS).
  • 2017-2018: Mary Sue Coleman
    Mary Sue Coleman is president of the Association of American Universities. Dr. Coleman was president of the University of Michigan from 2002 to 2014 and president of the University of Iowa from 1995 to 2002. Time magazine named her one of the nation’s “10 Best College Presidents,” and the American Council on Education honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
  • 2016-2017: Theda Skocpol
    Dr. Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University and Director of the Scholars Strategy Network, a national organization that encourages public engagement by university-based scholars. 
  • 2015-2016: John Borrazzo
    Dr. John Borrazzo is Chief of the Maternal and Child Health Division in the Bureau for Global Health at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which includes responsibilities for maternal, newborn and child health, as well as environmental health.
  • 2014-2015: David Relman
    Dr. David Relman is the the Thomas C. and Joan M. Merigan Professor in the School of Medicine and professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford University, and Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.
  • 2013-2014: Ed Lazowska
    The inaugural lecturer in the Critical Conversations series Dr. Ed Lazowska is the Bill and Melinda Gates Chair in Computer Science and Engineering and Founding Director of the eScience Institute at the University of Washington. One of the world’s foremost scholars in the area of high-performance computing and communication systems, Dr. Lazowska will share his unique insights into the modern “big data” paradigm.