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Symposium Day Oct. 17: What is truth?

Every fall, Augustana devotes a day to an alternative approach to learning.

Symposium Days include invited speakers, faculty, students, alumni, and opportunities to practice the liberal arts and be involved with the community. 

The fall 2020 Symposium Day is Saturday, Oct. 17. It will be virtual via Google Meets and Zoom. There also will be asynchronous sessions (pre-recorded sessions posted to a Moodle site with opportunities for asynchronous interaction via forums, etc.).  

On Symposium Day, the recordings will be distributed to the campus community via Moodle and/or Google Drive.

Log in to Augustana Moodle to choose a session and get a link to view it.

Members of the campus community will discuss the question: What is truth?


10-11 a.m. Featured presenter: Rev. Lenny Duncan

11:10 a.m.-12:10 p.m. Featured alumni speaker: Theodore Teros, J.D., Class of 2012

12:20-1:20 p.m. Featured presenter: Dr. William Tsutsui

1:30-2:30 p.m. Augie Reads featured presenter: Julie Otsuka

On demand: pre-recorded breakout sessions (see descriptions below)

Keynote speakers

Four keynote speakers will present live sessions. They are:

Lenny Duncan
Lenny Duncan

10-11 a.m. Rev. Lenny Duncan: Truth to Power: A Black Pastor’s Calling amid White Christian Supremacy  

Rev. Duncan's presentation is sponsored by the Augustana Presidential Center for Faith and Learning.

He is the author of "United States of Grace: A Memoir of Homelessness, Addiction, Incarceration, and Hope" and "Dear Church."

Theodore Teros
Theodore Teros

11:10 a.m.-12:10 p.m.: Theodore Teros 12: How America’s Adversarial Legal System Values Truth: Lessons For Our "Post-Truth" Politics

This talk will explore the law’s relationship to truth and the competing values often present in our legal system. Drawing on the structure of the American adversarial legal system, Teros will explore how this system maintains a commitment to truth in the face of warring advocates and present a few normative takeaways from the system for reforming our broken politics.

Dr. Deke Gould, continuing lecturer in philosophy, will introduce Teros.

Theodore Teros is an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in New York City. A native of Rock Island, he earned his juris doctor at the University of Virginia School of Law in 2017.

His law firm has been honored by the New York State Bar Association for its pro bono work, and he is currently on a pro bono externship.

William Tsutsui
William Tsutsui

12:20-1:20 p.m.: William Tsutsui, Edwin O. Reischauer Distinguished Professor, Harvard University

This special talk is sponsored by the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission and the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies.

Tsutsui is an award-winning scholar and teacher who speaks on Japanese economic and environmental history, Japanese popular culture (especially the Godzilla movies), Japanese-American identity, and issues in higher education.

Julie Otsuka (©Robert Bessoir)
Julie Otsuka (©Robert Bessoir)

1:30-2:30 p.m.: Julie Otsuka, Augie Reads

Otsuka is the author of the 2020 Augie Reads selection, "When the Emperor Was Divine."

Her 2003 novel tells the story of a Japanese-American family sent to an internment camp during World War II.

Augustana faculty chose the book because of its powerful narrative and exploration of an often-forgotten, painful experience during the war.

Breakout sessions

Righting This Wrong: How the ‘Les Miserables’ Musical Handles the Concepts of Truth, Justice, and Redemption

Kyle King, English and political science

“Les Miserables” is one of the most successful and longest-running shows ever, but what can the musical tell the audience about how we perceive justice and truth? Many characters have vastly different interpretations of righteousness, and this presentation will attempt to dig deep into their motivations.

In addition, from composer Claude-Michel Schönberg's music, the audience can maintain certain leitmotifs that stand for a certain mood, which enhances the morals described by the show.

The Native Truth: Perspectives on Augustana’s Land

Madeline Young, anthropology; Maria Wood, Spanish and history

This session will explore the history of the land that Augustana is built on, discuss with students what they know about the land and ask experts about the real story. We will look at the history of the college itself, the Indigenous peoples that once occupied the land, and what it means to be at Augustana today. In addition to this, we will explore what the term “truth” means in relation to history.

Follow the White Rabbit

Dr. David Schwartz, multimedia journalism and mass communication

As a news scholar who has published work about “fake news,” Dr. Schwartz this past summer became obsessed with how the “Q” conspiracy theory spread through mainstream and social media. Falsely promoted as helping the masses wake up to “truth,” “Q” or “QAnon” exposed vulnerabilities on both the production and consumption sides of news and information.

This session will explore how “Q” went mainstream by promoting itself as the gatekeeper of truth, and what we can do to protect ourselves from falling down the rabbit hole.

Mathematics and Certainty

Dr. Tom Bengtson, mathematics and computer science

Mathematical statements are sometimes viewed as certainly and eternally true. However, this view is problematic. For example, we will explore in what sense triangles exist.

Truth is Sticky and Full; A Dangerous Safe-Haven

Dr. Rebecca Wee, English/creative writing

Cassandra Karn, Blake Traylor, English; Michael Aumuller, Anna Young, elementary education; Alli Kestler, French; Isabela Oliveira, Moreen Akomea-Ampeh, chemistry; Audrianna Schneider, geology; Ashley Zarinana, sociology, social welfare; Cade Elliot, teaching chemistry; Ryan Hurdle, theatre arts; Nadia Castillo, communication studies; Marcus Atnip, business administration/management; McKenzie Hennessy, Patricia Plachno, communication sciences and disorders.

Students from Writing Poetry will read poems — their own and by others — on the subject of truth, which is, as one put it, “sticky and full; a dangerous safe-haven.”

Truthful Conversations Among Latinx Students Navigating the Liberal Arts College: Sense of Belonging at the Intersection of Academic Demands and Financial Struggles

Dr. Fredy Rodriguez, sociology and anthropology; Nadia Castillo, sociology and communication studies; Mayra Arevalo, sociology; Jessica Freile, psychology

This research project strives to understand the experiences of Latinx students at predominantly white institutions, like Augustana. We studied the experiences and strategies in meeting academic demands, integrating themselves into the larger campus community, and working with their mentors, professors and other academic staff.

Along with this, there was a focus on elements such as identity, sense of belonging, involvement in campus life, and how relationships with others at the college shape students' experience.

Guardians of Truth: Curious to Become One? You Have Already Started Your Journey; You Just Haven’t Realized It Yet

Dr. Hyeong-Gyu Choi, business administration

With the prevalence of the internet, smartphones and social media, we now live in an era that necessitates human beings to instill critical thinking skills to distinguish truth from misinformation. Just as our society and humanity have been protected by many forerunners in history, our digital era calls for Guardians of Truths who can protect and uphold truths.

This session will discuss the devastating effects of misinformation and the convergence between the paths of Guardians of Truth and college education.

What is ‘Truth’ in Science?

Dr. Kelsey Arkle, geology

If nothing can truly be “proven” in science, does that mean there are no universal scientific “truths”? And if there are no universal truths, does that mean we cannot trust science?

In an age of "alternative facts," armchair science and rampant (and often deliberate) scientific misinformation, we explore the ways in which scientists and non-scientists assess scientific claims, seek out reliable evidence and critically evaluate information.

Symposium Day is coordinated by the Symposium Committee (Ashley Allen, Dr. Kelsey Arkle, Dr. Hyeong-Gyu Choi, Dr. Mike Egan, Tia Fuhr, Dr. Rupa Gordon, Dr. Deke Gould, Lauren Palmer, Dr. Sangeetha Rayapati, Dr. Jeff Renaud, Seth Rohr, Keri Rursch, Dr. Jessica Schultz, Nick Teng, Alex Washington, Claudia Vallejo, Mary Windeknecht) and supported by the Institute for Leadership and Service.


Mike Egan, 309-794-8965

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