In classrooms and elsewhere on campus, Fordham students are engaging with some of the world’s leading scholars, changemakers, and artists. Through lectures sponsored by University faculty, prominent speakers help students make deeper connections with what they are learning in the classroom.

Some of the biggest names in film have come to Fordham to talk with students about their experiences—both on-set and off. Director Spike Lee visited theater classes last fall to talk about the movie industry. Academy Award-winning actor and Fordham alumnus Denzel Washington, FCLC ’77, has visited students twice in the past three years, speaking about his craft and how Fordham contributed to his success. And in September 2014, Fordham hosted actor and UNICEF Goodwill ambassador Danny Glover, who screened a film he starred in about a slave uprising in Curacao and stayed for a discussion about the lasting impact of slavery.

James Jennewein, a screenwriter and artist in residence in Fordham’s Department of Communication and Media Studies, frequently invites industry professionals to speak to his classes. He said giving students a chance to connect with leaders in their field yields benefits beyond the content of the speaker’s presentation.

“It puts students in the same room with someone who’s really successful. You see that they’re a regular person like you, and it starts to feel like your dream is a more attainable goal,” Jennewein said.

While Fordham Theatre may attract some of the University’s best-known guest speakers, Fordham students have heard from noted leaders and thinkers in many other fields as well.

Novelist Alice McDermott addresses the incoming Fordham College of Lincoln Center Class of 2017 (photo by Patrick Verel)

Each year, popular writers speak at orientation for incoming students who have read one of their books over the summer. Recent speakers have included National Book Award Winner Alice McDermott; Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin; and novelist Valerie Sayers, FCLC ’73, whose work considers the Catholic experience in America.

Students also hear regularly from well-known physicians and researchers thanks to the Fordham University Science Council. Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., FCRH ’77, president of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and a luminary in cancer research, presented a recent fall lecture for the council titled “Conquering Cancer.”

In the philosophy department, Associate Professor William Jaworski, Ph.D., hosts the John C. and Jeanette D. Walton Lecture in Science, Philosophy, and Religion. He said these types of intellectual events help students draw deeper meaning from what they are learning in the classroom.

“It’s hard to see the implications of what you’re learning in biology class on what you just studied in theology. These outstanding scholars who are doing work at the intersection of these topics give students a model. It draws out the implications in ways that they themselves are still learning how to do,” Jaworski said.

Upcoming lectures in the Walton series include “Are We Embodied Spirits or Spiritual Bodies?” (March 11) and “Science and the Sacred” (April 21), featuring distinguished speakers from Central European University and the University of Oxford, respectively.

On-campus lectures also provide a valuable networking resource for Fordham students after graduation. The Fordham at the Forefront series, featuring leading Fordham faculty sharing their expertise on issues of broad interest, are hosted for the alumni community and give students a chance to connect with successful graduates in any number of fields.

Upcoming events include Fordham at the Forefront of Political Behavior with Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, who ran against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, FCRH ’79, last fall in the Democratic primary, on April 23 in New York City; and Fordham at the Forefront of Positive Marketing with Professor Dawn Lerman, Ph.D., on Long Island on May 7. Students will be invited to attend both at no charge.

Jake Braithwaite, GSB ’11, assistant director for New York City programming in the Office of Alumni Relations, works on a series of lectures sponsored by the Fordham Wall Street Council to engage alumni in the business community. Events are open to current students as well.

Recent Wall Street Council events have featured Michael Steinhardt, whom Forbes called “the greatest trader in Wall Street history,” and Heidi Miller, former high-level JPMorgan executive who speaks frequently about women in the finance industry. Nemir Kirdar, GBA ’72, CEO of Investcorp, who holds an M.B.A. from Fordham, will speak on June 3.

Braithwaite said that while networking is a valuable component of these events, they also provide the Fordham community a forum to keep flexing and strengthening the intellectual muscles they built in the classroom.

“Fordham students are used to engaging in intellectually rigorous conversations on a daily basis. It’s great that we can offer these opportunities to continue these kind of broad and varied conversations,” he said.

—Jennifer Spencer