Amherst Conversations

This spring’s COVID Conversations series, featuring alumni experts and friends of the College, was so well received that a new lecture series, Amherst Conversations, launched in July and will continue into the fall. The format remains the same: live moderated conversations with audience questions submitted both in advance and in real time. The series features faculty members, alumni, and invited guests. The topics will address our current moment, in recognition of the complexity of these times, but will also address a wider range of subjects.

Audience members may submit live questions for the Q&A portion of each conversation.

Please register below for each event and contact us with any questions. Check back often to view new events as they are added. This series is sponsored by the Office of the President.

Watch the live events »

Watch videos of past events in this series »


Austin Sarat and Betsy Cannon Smith '84

Teaching Through (and About) the Pandemic

Tuesday, August 11, 2020
7 p.m. EDT

A conversation with Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, associate provost and associate dean of the faculty, and chair of law, jurisprudence, and social thought, moderated by Chief Advancement Officer Betsy Cannon Smith '84.

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REGISTER FOR AUGUST 11


Past Conversations

A portrait of a man wearing a cap and glasses and a woman with red hair

1619 and the Legacy that Built America: 
A Conversation with Nikole Hannah-Jones

Thursday, July 9, 2020
7 p.m. EDT

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones covers racial injustice for The New York Times Magazine. She is the creator of The 1619 Project, an ongoing multimedia initiative at the Times which reframes our nation’s history by centering the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans. Amherst College Associate Professor of Black Studies and Sexuality and Women's and Gender Studies Khary Oronde Polk will moderate this discussion of the legacy of slavery in our nation’s history and in our understanding of ourselves as a nation. Read More

Watch the video of this conversation »


McQuade, Leary, Raunch

COVID-19, Civil Unrest, and Communitas: 
Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being in the Summer of 2020

Wednesday, July 22, 2020
7 p.m. EDT

Amherst trustee Kimberlyn Leary '82, senior vice president at the Urban Institute, professor of psychology and associate professor of health policy and management at Harvard University, and lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, will talk with Paula Rauch '77 M.D., Timothy C. Davidson Chair of Psychiatry and founding director of the Marjorie E. Korff Parenting At a Challenging Time Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. The discussion will be moderated by Associate Professor of Psychology Julia D. McQuadeRead More

Watch the video of this conversation »


Alfeld, Horton

Attack, Defend, Steal: Student-Led Research 
Projects in Adversarial Machine Learning

Tuesday, July 28, 2020
5:30 p.m. EDT

Machine learning (ML) systems are constantly making decisions based on data. They decide what ads you see when you visit a webpage, whether or not your credit card transactions are flagged as fraudulent, and whether a self-driving car accelerates or brakes—all without humans in the loop. Hackers can (and do!) manipulate data to trick these systems.

Adversarial Learning researchers try to make life harder for these hackers. Assistant Professor of Computer Science Scott Alfeld will discuss prior research projects on adversarial learning led by his students. These include attacks against learning systems, methods of hardening learners against attackers, and sneakily stealing data from sequential learners. This discussion will be moderated by Beitzel Professor in Technology and Society (Statistics and Data Science) Nicholas J. HortonRead More