31st annual UB Distinguished Speakers Series to feature Malala Yousafzai, Susan Rice, Alan Alda and more

Collage of portraits of Malala Yousafzai, Susan Rice, Jesse Williams, Alan Alda, Teresa Payton and James Balog.

Release Date: July 18, 2017 This content is archived.

Malala Yousafzai.

Malala Yousafzai

Theresa Payton.

Theresa Payton

Jesse Williams.

Jesse Williams

Susan Rice.

Susan Rice

James Balog.

James Balog

Alan Alda.

Alan Alda

“For the past 30 years, influential voices from across the country and around the world have shared their thought-provoking perspectives with our community, generating lively discussions that continued long after they left campus."
UB President Satish K. Tripathi

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Nobel Peace Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai, former U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Grey’s Anatomy actor and activist Jesse Williams and award-winning actor and science communicator Alan Alda are among the speakers who will headline the 2017-18 Distinguished Speakers Series at the University at Buffalo.

The 31st annual series also will feature cyber security CEO and former White House CIO Theresa Payton, and James Balog, global spokesman about climate change and the human impact on the environment who is founder of the Extreme Ice Survey.  

“We are so pleased to launch the 2017-18 Distinguished Speakers Series with a lineup of trailblazing public figures whose considerable expertise, outspoken eloquence and profound convictions are shaping the discourse on some of the defining issues of our day,” said UB President Satish K. Tripathi.

“For the past 30 years, influential voices from across the country and around the world have shared their thought-provoking perspectives with our community, generating lively discussions that continued long after they left campus. This year’s remarkable group of speakers – including a leading environmentalist, a beloved television icon and the youngest-ever Nobel laureate – promise to do the same, and we look forward to welcoming each of them to UB.”

The series will kick off on Sept. 19 with Malala Yousafzai, a champion since the age of 10 for the right of girls to receive an education.  She made headlines when she was shot by the Taliban in 2012 at the age of 15, while traveling home from school on the bus with her friends in Pakistan.  At the age of 17, she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Her book “I Am Malala” (2013), was an international bestseller that has been translated into 40 languages. Malala is the UB Graduate Student Choice Speaker.  Lecture sponsors are the Girls Education Collaborative, a Buffalo-based nonprofit that works to equip girls in developing countries to transcend their circumstances, realize their fullest potential and become catalysts for change; and the UB School of Management Center for Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness, which recognizes Malala’s global leadership as a testament to her extraordinary resilience, courage and unwavering sense of purpose.

Theresa Payton, one of the nation’s leading experts in cybersecurity and IT strategy, will speak on Oct. 18.  As CEO of Fortalice Solutions, an industry-leading security consulting company, and co-founder of Dark Cubed, a cybersecurity product company, the former White House CIO is a proven leader and influencer who works with clients and colleagues to uncover strategic opportunities and identify new and emerging threats. Her lecture is sponsored by the UB School of Management’s Alumni Association, Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Graduate Programs.

Jesse Williams, this year’s Undergraduate Student Choice Speaker, will appear on campus on Nov. 18.  Williams, who plays Dr. Jackson Avery in ABC’s hit series “Grey’s Anatomy,” served as senior producer and correspondent for EPIX docuseries “America Divided” and executive-produced the documentary “Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement,” which premiered the summer of 2016.  Williams is founder of the production company farWord Inc. and executive producer of “Question Bridge: Black Males,” a series of transmedia art installations, films, curriculum and website (QuestionBridge.com). A former high school teacher, Williams is co-owner of Scholly, a mobile app that helps connect students to scholarships for which they’re eligible.  Williams’ lecture is sponsored by the UB Undergraduate Student Association.

Ambassador Susan E. Rice will present UB’s 42nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration keynote address on Feb. 28.  Rice served President Barack Obama as National Security Advisor from July 1, 2013, to Jan. 20, 2017. In that role, she led the National Security Council Staff, chaired the Cabinet-level National Security Principals Committee, provided the president’s daily national security briefing, and was responsible for the coordination and integration of all aspects of the administration’s foreign and national security policy, intelligence and military efforts. Her lecture is sponsored by the UB Minority Faculty and Staff Association.

Climate change expert and environmentalist James Balog will speak on April 12.  In 2007, he founded the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), the most wide-ranging, ground-based, photographic study of glaciers ever conducted.  Balog and the EIS team were featured in the 2012 internationally acclaimed, award-winning documentary “Chasing Ice” and in the 2009 PBS “NOVA” special “Extreme Ice.” “Chasing Ice” won an Emmy Award in 2014 and was short-listed for an Oscar.  The UB College of Arts and Sciences is sponsoring Balog’s lecture.

Alan Alda will close the series on May 2.  Winner of seven Emmys, six Golden Globes and three DGA awards for directing, Alda is one of TV Guide’s 50 Greatest Television Stars of All Time, and is best known for portraying Hawkeye Pierce on “M*A*S*H.”  From 1993 to 2005, Alda hosted PBS' “Scientific American Frontiers.” A recipient of the National Science Board’s Public Service Award, Alda is a visiting professor and founding member of Stony Brook University’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, where he helps develop innovative programs on how scientists communicate with the public. His new company, Alda Communication Training (ACT), based on The Alda Method™, teaches effective face-to-face and written communication. He sits on the board of A.I. research body The Future of Life Institute, alongside Stephen Hawking, Morgan Freeman and Elon Musk.  His lecture is sponsored by the School of Management’s Alumni Association (SOMAA), Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Graduate Programs.  A second lecture sponsorship includes the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, who are working together to take advantage of a SUNY pilot program that offers the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science’s highly acclaimed training.

All programs will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Alumni Arena, UB North Campus.

Series subscriptions will go on sale to the general public on Aug. 1. Individual lecture tickets will go on sale Aug. 8.

For more information on the speakers, subscription and ticket prices, and sponsors, visit the series’ website: buffalo.edu/ub-speakers.

The UB Distinguished Speakers Series continues to benefit from the vital support from a host of sponsors, including the program’s presenting sponsor, the Donald L. Davis Lectureship Fund, along with the undergraduate Student Association (SA), which is the exclusive series sponsor for the 21st consecutive year.  The Distinguished Speakers Series also benefits from the generous support of Affiliate Series Sponsors: Hodgson Russ LLP, WGRZ-TV, the University Bookstore and the UB Graduate Student Association; Contributing Series Sponsors: TIAA, Robitaille Real Estate, Inspire Dental, United University Professions (UUP), The Communities of Giving Legacy Initiative (CFGB), the UB Center for the Arts and UB Athletics.  The series is also made possible by the generous support of the community through the purchase of series subscriptions and individual lecture tickets. No state funds, tuition dollars or general gifts to the university or UB Foundation are used to underwrite the Distinguished Speakers Series.

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