About the First Lecture
Inaugurated in 2008, the First Lecture is one of the most important elements of Westmont's Orientation program. About an hour long, this engaging address is the first academic lecture of a new Westmont student's learning career and it functions as a dynamic transition between the high school and college learning environments. The First Lecture serves to introduce incoming students to the intellectual atmosphere of Westmont and to give them a taste of what the college classroom is all about. Our hope is that the First Lecture will offer students a clear framework for beginning to understand the unique value of Westmont's distinctively Christian liberal arts education.
The First Lecture, coincidentally, is delivered by a faculty member whom we delightedly call "the First Lecturer." Elected by Westmont's President each year, the First Lecturer is a distinguished faculty member who represents the best of what Westmont has to offer. He or she typically chooses a book to teach on, one within his or her own discipline, which speaks to ideas and issues valuable for new students to begin engaging with before they arrive at Westmont. This year's First Lecturer is Dr. Jamie Friedman of the English Department.
The First Lecturer
Hailing from Portland, OR., Dr. Jamie Friedman was educated at Cornell University where she received her Ph.D. in Medieval Studies. While at Cornell she specialized in medieval English literature, embodiment, and theories of racial, religious, and gendered identity constructions. After teaching English at a number of different American universities, Dr. Friedman arrived at Westmont in 2010 as an Assistant Professor in the English department. She loves to defy students' expectations through exposing them to ideas that are both chronologically and philosophically remote from them and by creating unexpected spaces of contact and common ground between the students and these ways of thinking. Currently her research is focused on 14th century Middle English literature and its intersection with issues of identity (gender, sexual, racial, national).
Possessed by a set of philosophical questions concerning truth, beauty, and goodness, Dr. Friedman has found an important and necessary outlet in literature. She believes that it is through interacting with literature that one learns to truly and deeply engage with some of the most important challenges of the human experience. In other words, literature exposes us to the realities of life. And, by its very nature literature reminds us of our responsibility to wrestle with and to confront these realities as we walk the path of life. It is for these reasons that Dr. Friedman has chosen the book Elizabeth and Hazel:Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick for 2012's First Lecture.
About the Book
Elizabeth and Hazel is the compelling story of two women who appeared in one of America's most iconic--and traumatic--photographs. Taken during the Little Rock Crisis in September 1957, the photograph captures the anguish present during the attempted school desegregation in Little Rock in the 1950s and 60s. The book illuminates for us a particular moment in American history and it seeks to bring this moment into the present.
This is the story of Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Massery: the story of the photograph, of their surprising later-in-life reconciliation and friendship, and of the sad souring of that friendship years later due to similar misunderstandings. Margolick wants the story of these women to represent the larger story of both historic and contemporary race relations in the U.S., including what challenges these relations face today if reconciliation is going to take place. This is both their story and ours.
Dr. Friedman hopes that Elizabeth and Hazel will open doors for students to recognize how stories become avenues of entrance into larger ideas about ethical relations. She hopes that the First Lecture will provide students with a way to begin thinking about contemporary issues of identity and our own personal responsibility to wrestle with these questions.
**In preparation for Fall 2012's First Lecture all incoming students are to read David Margolick's book, Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock. Visit your local library or bookstore or visit the Westmont Bookstore's webpage and order your copy and come prepared and ready to learn!