Real Life 101: New Forum Series Tackles Engaging Topics and Makes It Fun
Posted: February 27, 2014 at 5:00 am, Last Updated: February 27, 2014 at 5:03 pm
By Buzz McClain
At first it appears to be a new course offering at George Mason University, one boasting high-profile professors, top-draw speakers from the community and the promise of lively discussion from those in attendance. Even the title sounds like a college class: Real Life 101.
But there will be no reading requirements, essay writing or exams. Real Life 101 is a series of free, periodic, open-to-the-public forums at George Mason’s Arlington Campus intended to “engage the community and showcase Mason’s expertise on a variety of issues and topics that impact people’s real lives in ways they may not even know,” says Toni Andrews.
Andrews, the associate director of community and local government relations at the Arlington Campus, says she had been thinking about a program like Real Life 101 “for about 18 months. I wanted to make the community part of the discussion, not just passive listeners, but engaged with what is being discussed on stage. The Arlington community is one of the most highly educated and engaged in the nation, and I wanted this to appeal to people who never stop learning.”
The debut program sets a high bar for those to follow. The March 5 forum, “The War on Poverty: Economic Perspectives and Prescriptions,” features these notables:
- Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and Mason Robinson Professor Steven Pearlstein
- chairman and executive director of the Mercatus Center at Mason, economics professor Tyler Cowen
- free markets think tank R Street Institute senior fellow Reihan Salam
- executive director of the Arlington Community Foundation, Wanda Pierce
- Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress
- Charles Meng, executive director of the Arlington Food Assistance Center, who will offer a “real life” perspective to the proceedings
- Mason’s School of Public Policy acting dean Mark J. Rozell, who will welcome guests
Andrews, who will moderate, says this program, and the subsequent ones, also will tackle issues that are not only academic or theoretical but actual — in other words, “real life.” The Mason professors will be complimented by external guests who are “someone really living and experiencing the topic, and let them share that in their own words,” she says.
Real Life 101’s premiere takes its premise from the 50th anniversary of the 1964 War on Poverty; Pearlstein and Cowen have written at length in scholarly and mainstream press about income inequality and economic fairness in modern society, and their discussion amongst themselves should be compelling enough. The other guests bring practical experience and expertise to the topic.
“Bringing in both the national perspective and the local into one program is a goal,” says Andrews.
Actually, while this program has no exam, there will be a quiz. Andrews has added another component, one that raises scholarship funds and adds a sense of whimsy — without costing the audience members. A quiz game called “Go to the Podium” will have a randomly selected audience member attempting to answer multiple choice questions on the discussion topic; $50 from a program sponsor will be donated toward a Mason scholarship program for each correct answer.
Real Life 101’s second forum, “All You Need Is Love — and Money: The Booming Wedding Industry,” takes place Wednesday, April 16; panelists include Mason professor Maggie Daniels, author of “Wedding Planning & Management,” and Monte Durham, host of “Say Yes to the Dress, Atlanta,” among others.
A third forum is planned to address the policies, solutions and personal experiences of transportation and commuting; the date will be announced.
Real Life 101’s “The War on Poverty” takes place Wednesday, March 5, from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. in the Founders Hall Auditorium at George Mason’s Arlington Campus. Doors open at 6 p.m. Register at this site; space is limited. Directions are here.
Write to Buzz McClain at firstname.lastname@example.org