2011 Speakers

Psychology professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi emigrated to the United States at the age of 22 and is known for his work in the study of happiness and creativity and the notion of flow. He believes that people are happiest when in a state of complete concentration.

Richard J. Davidson is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at UW-Madison whose work explores how to train the mind to be happy. A pioneer of mind-body medicine, his work with A-Team meditators (Tibetan Buddhist monks) examines the ability of the brain to change and develop throughout life.

Derrick Pitts might be America’s best-known astronomer. He is director of the Fels Planetarium in Philadelphia and is the go-to source for media outlets that need expert information on astronomy. A champion of science, much of his work is devoted to making science education part of global society.

Figuring out how we act and learn in organizations and groups is Meg Wheatley’s area of expertise. A writer and management consultant, she studies organizational behavior and also leads a global charitable foundation. “In these troubled, uncertain times, we don’t need more command and control; we need better means to engage everyone’s intelligence in solving challenges and crises as they arise.”

Virus hunter Nathan Wolfe is the science expert behind many recent news stories on human health and virus transfer, such as swine flu, monkey pox, West Nile, SARS and Ebola. He works to forecast and contain new plagues before they kill millions. “Just imagine the lives that could have been saved if we’d been able to forecast a pandemic like HIV/AIDS.” He is a professor and director of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative at Stanford University.

Social pioneer, artist and former professor of painting and art history Lily Yeh knows that art is powerful. In project after project, she shows how it can transform people, build communities and be a catalyst for economic development through fair trade programs. A self-described late bloomer, her art takes her around the world. Her organization, Barefoot Artists, is empowering communities and preserving indigenous art and culture here and abroad.

In addition to these conversation leaders, moderators will keep the conversations moving. Patrick Sims, UW-Madison Department of Theatre and Drama; and Kathy Cramer Walsh, UW-Madison Department of Political Science will lead sessions.