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ULS speaker lineup to feature name recognition

This semesters University Lecture Series (ULS) lineup, featuring three speakers, reflects student demands for bigger names and particularly reality TV stars.

Actress Rosario Dawson, known for her roles in movies such as RENT and Men In Black, will speak Sept. 19 about the importance of voting. Dawsons other work includes founding an organization, Voto Latino, which works to register and engage young Latino voters. Sarah Smith, graduate advisor on the ULS board, said her speech will come at a key period during Hispanic Heritage month and before the presidential election.

We hope that her timely message will be impactful, Smith said.

Dawson was scheduled to speak on campus during the Republican National Convention in August, but her visit was delayed because of Tropical Storm Isaac. The cost of booking Rosario Dawson was $32,000, Smith said.

ULS choices in the past have been criticized for not being intellectual, and there has also been criticism for the program choosing a few popular names that would be more costly, rather than a wider array of speakers.

I guess (ULS is) not trying to be intellectually stimulating this year, Brandon Keith said in a comment programs Facebook.

Smith said, though, ULS speaker choices are based on student input.

The student body had continuously voiced their desire for speakers with greater name recognition, Smith said. We strive to reach a broad audience and book lectures that will create excitement.

ULS will pay TV personalities Bill and Giuliana Rancic $43,000 for their visit Oct. 9. The Rancics will share their personal story for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Wildlife expert Jeff Corwin will end the semesters series on Nov. 15. Corwin is known for his long career working with animals, including his show on Animal Planet, The Jeff Corwin Experience, which documented his travels around the world, exploring wilderness and finding exotic animals.

His lecture, titled Tales from the Field, will focus on the importance of animal and environmental conservation. The lecture will also feature live animals to interact with the audience. The cost of Corwins visit has not yet been finalized, Smith said.

This years budget for ULS speakers is $263,452, an increase of $48,272 from last years $215,180. This increase in funds could result in additional speakers in the spring than in last years program.

Last year, former Center for Student Involvement Director Kristie Gerber said to The Oracle that students would see shift last year from TV reality stars to more notable persons for college students.

You wont see as much of the reality TV stars, she said. (The ULS Board) looked at what they felt might be more important to college students, sort of newsworthy stories or newsworthy people.

After some student surveys by ULS, however, it was reflected that students wanted different names in their program.

They use student survey data, along with agents suggestions, to choose speakers they feel will not only draw a large audience but will speak on relevant and interesting information, Smith said.