Victoria Arbizu-Sabater has taught at schools and universities in Europe and America for over 30 years. She earned her Ph.D. in Spanish Linguistics at the University of Seville, Spain, and one of her M.As in Spanish Literature from Rice University where she also served as a Senior Lecturer in Spanish for almost eleven years. She is a former president and current member of La Casa de España in Houston, where she has enthusiastically worked to introduce and educate the Houston metro area on the cultures of her native Spain. She is currently an independent researcher on the history of the Spanish Language of the early Anglophones in Texas. She is also preparing a historical edition of the Secret Prison Diary of Stephen F. Austin, which was written mostly in Spanish.
Helga Kessler Aurisch was born in Germany but moved to New York with her family at the age of ten. She attended Smith College and subsequently pursued graduate studies at the University of Vienna, Austria, and at the University of Freiburg, Germany, where she received her M.A. and Ph.D. in art history. She began her career at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, with the exhibition The Imperial Style: Fashions of the Hapsburg Era. In 2000 she co-organized the exhibition of German paintings from Houston’s sister city of Leipzig, entitled Romantics, Realists, Revolutionaries at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
She joined the staff of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 2004 and has brought numerous exhibitions to Houston, including, The Masterpieces of French Painting from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1800-1920, German Impressionist Landscape Painting: Liebermann – Corinth – Slevogt, and Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Washington. Her most recent projects were Monet and the Seine: Impressions of a River and High Society: The Portraits of Franz X. Winterhalter, which is currently on view at the Château de Compiègne, near Paris. She has published widely and is a frequent lecturer on 19th century painting.
Joe Barnes is the Bonner Means Baker Fellow at the Baker Institute. Since coming to Rice University in 1995, he has written extensively on international economics, with a focus on the geopolitics of energy. In addition to numerous institute studies, Barnes’ work has also appeared in The New York Times, the Houston Chronicle, Survival, Oil and Gas Journal, Energy Markets, the Newsletter of the Royal United Services Institute, the SAIS Policy Forum Series and the National Interest. He is a contributor to three volumes: “Energy in the Caspian Region” (Palgrave Press), “United States Tax Reform in the 21st Century” (Cambridge University Press) and “Natural Gas and Geopolitics from 1970 to 2040” (Cambridge University Press).
Barnes is also faculty advisor to the Baker Institute Student Forum. From 1979 to 1993, he was a career diplomat with the U.S. State Department, serving in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. His last assignment in the State Department was with the Policy Planning Staff. Joe Barnes is a graduate of Princeton University.
Jim Blackburn has been a practicing environmental lawyer and planner since 1973. He is a Professor in the Practice of Environmental Law in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at Rice University, where he teaches courses in sustainable design and advanced sustainable design and is the Director of the Undergraduate Minor in Energy and Water Sustainability. Blackburn is the Co-Director of the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters (SSPEED) Center at Rice. He is also a Rice Faculty Scholar at the Baker Institute and is the owner of a planning firm called Sustainable Planning and Design. Blackburn authored “The Book of Texas Bays”, published in 2004 by Texas A&M Press, and he has written a new book, A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast, scheduled for publication by Texas A&M Press in the fall of 2017. He has also authored numerous legal papers and has received several local, state and national awards for environmental advocacy.
Eric C. Botts, Adjunct Professor of International Studies at the University of St.Thomas and Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Houston Downtown, received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from St. Mary’s University and Master of Security Management from the University of Houston Downtown. After service for 31 years in the U. S. Department of State as a Foreign Service Officer (Santa Domingo, Seoul, Dublin, and Nassau), Assistant Director of Houston Passport Agency and an Information Systems Security Officer, Mr. Botts retired to work in the private sector. During his federal career he served as Program Chairman of the Gulf Coast Federal Safety Council and as a member of the Federal Executive Board. He is a founding board member of the Foreign Policy Alliance and has spoken on foreign policy issues to civic groups, colleges, and the media. He works as a Security Project Manager Consultant for Swailes & Co. Inc. specializing in cyber security, risk management, business continuity, due diligence, travel security, and investigations. In the cyber security community, he is on the Secure World Advisory Council and served on the Executive Board of the IT Summit.
David Brauer is the former head of the History of Art Department of the Glassell School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and is a native of Scotland. He was educated in England at the Sir Christopher Wren School and St. Martin’s School of Art from which he received his degree. After extensive travel in Europe, Russia, Turkey, and North Africa, Mr. Brauer returned to England where he worked at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, and taught at the North Oxfordshire College of Art and Technology. Since moving to Houston, he has curated numerous art exhibits: Houston Art in Norway in 1982; Artists’ Progress: Seven Houston Artists 1943-1993 in 1993; Landscape without Figures in 1994; and Images from Space, 1995; Charles Schorre 1925-1996: A Retrospective, 1997, which opened at the Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi and traveled to several Texas museums; and he co-curated a Pop Art exhibition at the Menil Collection in 2001. He has taught at the University of Houston and Rice University, and has guest lectured at Columbia University, University of Notre Dame, and the University of Texas at Austin, the San Antonio Art Museum, the World Business Council’s conference in Brussels, and the Anderson Ranch in Aspen, Colorado.
B. Jill Carroll, Ph.D., a noted expert on issues of religious tolerance and the philosophy of religion, served as Executive Director of the Boniuk Center for Religious Tolerance at Rice University for five years. She holds a doctorate in religious studies from Rice and she received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theological and historical studies from Oral Roberts University. She has taught classes and lectures on religion, philosophy, and humanities at Rice University, the University of Houston, and the Jung Center, Houston. Her recent book A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gulen’s Islamic Ideals and Human Discourse was a Publishers Weekly bestseller in religion. A frequent guest on radio and television programs, she has been interviewed by the New York Times, PBS, and “Good Morning America.”
Artist/philosopher Fernando R. Casas is a native of Bolivia. In 1968 he arrived in the USA with a LASPAU scholarship. In 1970 he received his BA in Philosophy from Colorado College graduating Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa and receiving the Hastings Prize for a paper in Philosophy. He continued his studies at Rice University receiving his MA in 1972 and his PhD in Philosophy in 1978. Casas has exhibited his works of art in numerous group and solo exhibitions in commercial galleries and museums in cities such as Houston, New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Florence, Lima (Peru), La Paz (Bolivia) and Santiago (Chile). In 2003 he was awarded the Premio alla Carriera at the Florence Biennale. Since the 1980s, Casas has taught and lectured at several universities in South and North America. His longest association is with Rice University where he has taught in Humanities and Philosophy as Distinguished Lecturer for about 20 years. Among his publications are The Limit of The Visual World (1990), Polar Perspective: A Graphical System for Creating Two-dimensional Images Representing a World of Four Dimensions (1984), and Flat-Sphere Perspective (1983).
Ruth Chow-Kneese is a private clothing stylist. She focuses on organizing her clients’ closets as well as dressing them for their every day lives. The ability to pack for a trip with one piece of carry-on luggage is her specialty. She is the former owner of a retail store in Houston that she sold in 2004. She received her degree from Tobe-Coburn School of Fashion in New York and was a member of the Executive Training Program at Joske’s of Houston (now Dillards).
Sarah Cortez, a Councilor of the Texas Institute of Letters and Fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, has poems, essays, book reviews, and short stories anthologized and published in journals, such as Texas Monthly, Rattle, The Sun, Pennsylvania English, Texas Review, Louisiana Literature, Arcadia, Langdon Review of the Arts, Midwest Quarterly, Southwestern American Literature, and Post Road. Winner of the PEN Texas Literary Award, her debut poetry collection is How to Undress a Cop. Her books have placed finalist in the Writers’ League of Texas awards, Los Angeles Book Festival Awards, and the PEN Southwest Poetry Awards. An anthologist of eight volumes, she has won the Southwest Book Award, multiple International Latino Book Awards, and the Skipping Stones Honor Award. Her most recent anthology is Vanishing Points: Poems and Photographs of Texas Roadside Memorials, already a designated 2016 Southwest Book of the Year and won first place in the Press Women of Texas annual awards.
Roberta M. Diddel Ph.D., is the founder and Executive Director of Disability 101, a non-profit organization providing high quality, consistently available programs to help people with disabling medical conditions and their families learn to adapt and thrive. She also teaches part-time in the Psychology Department at Rice University and at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies. As a licensed psychologist with a private practice in Houston, she helps patients meet the challenges of major life transitions, loss and bereavement, chronic illness, brain injury, chronic pain and other disabling conditions. Dr. Diddel received her bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and her PhD. in clinical psychology from Boston University.
Terrence Doody received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1970 and joined the faculty of Rice University where he is now a professor in the Department of English and teaches courses in modernism, the novel, and contemporary literature. His publications include Confession and Community in the Novel (Louisiana State University Press, 1980) and Among Other Things: A Description of the Novel (LSU Press, 1998) as well as recent essays on Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, architectural theory, and the poets Eavan Boland and Robert Hass. He is the recipient of grants from the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities and is a eight-time winner of a George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching. In 1997 he was also voted the Outstanding Associate of Lovett College and he was awarded the Allison Sarofim Distinguished Teaching Professor for 2002-2003. He has taught for many years in Rice’s program of Continuing Studies and at the Women’s Institute of Houston since 1973.
David Ferris is an associate professor of music history at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where he teaches courses on a wide range of musical subjects, including 19th-century opera, Romantic song, the Classical style, musical biography, and jazz. He is the author of Schumann’s Eichendorff Liederkreis and the Genre of the Romantic Cycle, published by Oxford University Press, and his work has appeared in the Journal of the American Musicological Society, the Journal of Musicology, Music Theory Spectrum, Music Analysis, and Music and Letters. He has also edited two volumes for the new complete edition of the music of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, as well as the Eichendorff Liederkreis for thenew complete edition of Robert Schumann’s music. His research interests have focused on the lives and music of Clara and Robert Schumann, the songs of Schubert, and the musical legacy of C. P. E. Bach. More recently he has presented papers at international conferences on the use of music in film and on the autobiography of jazz singer Billie Holiday
Sarah Foltz is an art historian and fine art appraiser, specializing in 19th and 20th century Texas art. She is co-owner of William Reaves | Sarah Foltz Fine Art– a gallery in Houston, Texas dedicated to the promotion of Texas art. She completed her M.A. in Art History at Southern Methodist University where she focused her thesis research on Texas regional and Latin American art within the Texas post-war art scene; prior to this, she received her B.A. in Photojournalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Her background includes New York University’s Fine and Decorative Art Appraisal Studies program, as well as the Provenance Research Training Program in Zagreb, Croatia, which focused on restitution of Nazi era looted cultural property. She is passionate about educating people on the importance and history of the evolving art scene in Texas during the late 19th and 20th century, and celebrating those artists whose achievements marked and set apart the Texas art community within the field of American art.
William E. Frisco, CPA, Certified Financial Planner®, is a Senior Vice President at one of the world’s largest global asset management firms. He has more than 20 years of experience managing growth and retirement portfolios for individuals, trusts, corporations, and foundations and is a retirement consultant for 401(k)s and other corporate retirement plans. Mr. Frisco is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Financial Planning Association. He holds a B.A. in economics from Duke University and an M.B.A. from Tulane University.
Susan Fruit, ASID, is a licensed interior designer with over 30 years of professional design experience, has designed homes in Texas, California, Florida, the Midwest and South America. The author of numerous articles on interior and landscape design, Ms. Fruit is a state registered remodeling contractor and member of the Greater Houston Builders Association and its Remodelers Council. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in interior design from Purdue University and is the founder and former director of the Interior Design Certificate Program at the University of Houston. In addition she has lectured throughout the U.S. and Canada and is one of only three interior designers in the country who has attained professional membership in the National Speakers Association.
Nancy P. Geyer, novelist and playwright, is the author of two novels, Flying South (Scribner) and Frailties (Little, Brown). Sonia and Suzy, the national winner of the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea Festival of Firsts Playwriting Competition was presented at Houston’s Country Playhouse during its 2010-2011 season. All the Pretty Little Horses, one of three plays selected for the debut of Wordsmyth Theatre Company’s annual Playwrights Reading Series, was presented to a capacity audience at Houston’s Stages Repertory Theatre in 2009. I Would Give You Violets, received not only from Live Oak Theatre, an equity theatre in Austin, the New Play Award for the Best American Play but also an option contract for a Broadway production. Versus was one of three finalists in the national 50th Anniversary Stanley Drama Competition and Dust was one of three winners in The Festival of Southern Theatre Competition.The Reflection Pool received a reading by NY Artists Unlimited. Ms. Geyer, who has taught in the English department of the University of Houston and Rice’s Schools of Continuing Studies, received two master’s degrees from the State University of New York. She has also edited a newsletter for a professional theatre, produced and anchored in-house television programs for a major energy corporation, developed and written informational material for a maritime museum, served as a consultant on award-winning scripts for a major symphony orchestra, created and taught in a government-funded program for gifted children, and conducted seminars for lawyers, civic and social groups, and hospice volunteers.
Barry Greenlaw is a private consultant, appraiser and lecturer specializing in the decorative and fine arts of England and America. He received his undergraduate degree from Bates College and his master’s degree from the University of Delaware as a Winterthur Fellow. Before coming to Houston in 1974 as Curator of the Bayou Bend Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, he served as Curator of Furniture and Assistant Director of Collections at Colonial Williamsburg. For three years he was a dealer in antique maps and prints. Mr. Greenlaw has lectured throughout the United States and has taught at several institutions including the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to the publication of numerous articles, he is the author of New England Furniture at Williamsburg.
Vicky Gresik is an emeritus professor at Baylor College of Medicine, practicing pathology at Texas Children’s Hospital for 32 years where she was medical director of the Hematology Laboratory. Dr. Gresik received her B.A. from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, and M.D. from Loyola-Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago. In addition to her medical practice, Dr. Gresik taught pathology and hematology to medical students, residents, and fellows, receiving numerous teaching awards including the Barbara and Corbin J. Robinson, Jr. Presidential Award for Excellence in Education. After retiring from medical practice, Dr. Gresik received a Master of Liberal Studies from Rice University and currently co-teaches with Dr. Nancy Bailey a course on Exploring Religion and Ethnicity Through Music. She also teaches on religion, music, and health at the Institute for Spirituality and Health.
Irene Guenther is a history professor in the University of Houston’s Honors College. Her teaching interests include genocide and human rights, comparative WWII home fronts, cultural politics of the 1920s, and race/racism and the Great Migration. She has published on the Nazi takeover of the German-Jewish fashion industry; the hotly contested politics of women’s clothing in the post-WWII occupied Germany; Magical Realism from 1920s German art to 1940s Latin American literature; and the anti-war art of the second-generation German Expressionists. Her first book, Nazi ‘Chic’? Fashioning Women in the Third Reich, won the Costume Society of America’s Millia Davenport Award for ‘best fashion history book’ of the year and the Sierra Prize, given by the Western Association of Women Historians. Her newest publication, Postcards from the Trenches: A German Soldier’s Testimony of the Great War will be released by Bloomsbury/London in the fall of 2018. She has received the Ross Lence Teaching Award in the Humanities (2017), the Honors College Wong Student Engagement Award (2017), the UH Provost’s Teaching Excellence Award (2018), and the UH Honors College Distinguished Service Award for Students (2018). Her Ph.D. is in History, University of Texas, 2001.
Matthias Henze was born and raised in Hanover, Germany. In 1992 he earned a Master of Divinity in Protestant Theology from the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and moved to the United States to pursue a Ph.D. in Harvard’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. After completing his doctorate in 1997, Dr. Henze joined Rice’s department of religion, where he is now the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor of Hebrew Bible and Early Judaism. Dr. Henze has lectured in North America, South America, Europe, and Australia. In 2009-10 he was a Fellow-in-Residence at The Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) in Wassenaar, The Netherlands. In 2016 he was the Mandelbaum Scholar in Residence at the University of Sydney, Australia. While at Rice he has won five teaching/mentoring awards including the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Prize (2003), the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching (2009, 2010, 2015), and the Graduate Student Association Teaching/Mentoring Award (2015). He was also named a founding fellow of Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence. In 2009 he founded Rice’s Program in Jewish Studies, of which he continues to serve as director.
J. Dennis Huston received his B.A. from Wesleyan University (Connecticut) in 1961, his M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University. Before coming to Houston in 1969, he was Assistant Professor of English at Yale. Dr. Huston is Professor of English at Rice University where he has four times won the George R. Brown Superior Teaching Award and where in the fall of 1989 he was named Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. he is an occasional participant in dramatic productions and is the author of a book on Shakespeare.
John Keating received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and his master’s degree from George Washington University. He subsequently served 20 years as a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot. Early in his career, he spent three years on assignment in Spain, and it was that experience that launched a lifelong interest in wine. After retirement from the Air Force, he turned this interest into a second career. As the manager of fine wine sales for a major distributor in Virginia, he wrote wine and lifestyle articles for newspapers, travel, food, and golf publications. For many years he hosted “a best of wine” feature on local television and taught wine classes at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and at Johnson and Wales, a national culinary school in the region. Mr. Keating is a charter member of the Society of Wine Educators.
Lynda Harper Kelly received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. degrees in French from Rice University. In 1974 her doctoral dissertation received Rice’s Gardner Award given to the graduate student doing the best piece of research and writing in the humanities and social sciences. Her romance with France began in 1961 when she spent a summer in Paris studying at the Alliance Française School and she later returned to Paris for a year to study at the Sorbonne. She and her husband, architect Frank Kelly, return to France almost every year to explore and photograph different regions. They have given many lectures on their travels at the Alliance Française de Houston. Dr. Kelly has taught French at Southern Methodist University, Houston Community College, and Rice University. In 1995 she organized and conducted a six-week travel/study program in Burgundy for Rice University. She also loves French cuisine and has studied at both the Cordon Bleu and the Ecole Ritz in Paris.
Dr. Maia Larios is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of St. Thomas (UST). She teaches general biology to first-year college students, as well as upper division classes in Microbiology, Nucleic Acids, and Bioinformatics. Originally from Mexico City, she moved to the United States in 1989 to pursue her education, earning a BA in Biology from Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas. She moved to Houston in 1993 to do graduate studies, earning an MS in Biology and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Houston. Dr. Larios did postdoctoral work at Rice University and UH and joined the UST faculty in 2006, where she also serves as Associate Dean in the School of Arts and Sciences. When she is not teaching, Dr. Larios enjoys traveling, cooking, reading and writing, doing science outreach in the community, and spending time with her family. She is the proud mother of four children.
Sheila Zeve Lipkin, an artist and educator, has been teaching sketching, color theory, and watercolor painting for the past six years. A graduate of Washington University, St. Louis, Ms. Lipkin has taught various applied courses at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Contemporary Art Museum, Congregation Beth Yeshurun, and St. Martin’s Church. She also teaches art to children at Texas Children’s Hospital Critical Care Center and directs her own company, Paint With Me. Among Ms. Lipkins’s greatest passions are creating her own abstract canvases and experiencing great satisfaction in facilitating and observing others discover the phenomenon of the creative process through her instruction
Luisa Kluger holds an undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a Master’s degree in Spanish from Rice University and a Ph.D. in Hispanic Sociolinguistics from the University of Houston. A native of Buenos Aires, she has studied and worked in Argentina, Israel, England, Spain and the United States. In Houston, she has taught Spanish, Hebrew and Sephardic studies at Rice University. She specializes in the teaching of foreign languages and Sephardic Culture.
Wil McCorquodale, Ph.D. is Senior Director of Constituent Strategies in the Office of Institutional Advancement at Baylor College of Medicine. He has taught classes at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, Houston Community College and the Art Institute of Houston. He has served as a volunteer at several Houston nonprofits, including the Rothko Chapel and Ars Lyrica. Wil received his bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and his doctorate in European History from the University of Texas at Austin.
Scott McGill is professor of Classical Studies at Rice University. His work focuses on Latin poetry, Roman history and culture, and the reception of antiquity. He is the author of four books, most recently a commentary on Virgil’s Aeneid 11 (Cambridge University Press), and the co-editor of three volumes. He is currently working on a verse translation of the Aeneid. Scott received his Ph.D. from Yale University. At Rice, he has served as chair of the Department of Classical and European Studies and as interim director of the Humanities Research Center. He is currently a faculty fellow at Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence.
Ursula Muenzel, Ph.D., a native of Germany, received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Würzburg with a dissertation on the process of emancipation and integration of Jews in 19th century’s Germany. She worked at the prestigious Leo Baeck Institute in New York – the research institution, archive, and library for the German-speaking Jewry – and the Historic Department of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Berlin. After moving to Houston in 2005, she taught in the Continuing Studies Program of Rice University, at the Center for International Studies at St. Thomas University, and at the Women’s Institute. A prolific writer, she published two books on Jewish History, and numerous essays and articles on the same topic as well as on international relations. She lectures frequently on a variety of historic and current political topics. Licensed as realtor in Germany and Texas she joined the company of Beth Wolff four years ago, specializing in residential and commercial real estate.
Carol Louise Munn lives and writes in Houston, Texas. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan where she received an Academy of American Poets Prize, the Michael R. Gutterman Award for Poetry, the Roy W. Cowden Memorial Fellowship, as well as the Colby Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, The GSU Review (Georgia State University), So to Speak (George Mason University), Fugue (University of Idaho), WomenArts Quarterly Journal, Midwest Quarterly, and other journals. Her work has been anthologized in A Bird in the Hand: Risk or Flight, the Middle School literature textbook Stories from Where We Live: The Gulf Coast and also in Houston Poetry Fest Anthologies 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, and 2011. She was a finalist in the Atlanta Review Poetry Competition, the Artlines Ekphrastic Poetry Competition in conjunction with the MFAH, the Southern Writers Symposium, the Dallas Poets Community International Poetry Contest, the Marlboro Review poetry contest, the San Francisco International Dancing Poetry Contest, and the Barbara Bradley Award, sponsored by the New England Poetry Club. Her flash-prose memoir “Roosters” was a finalist in the Writer’s Advice Fourth Annual Flash Prose Contest. She has given many public poetry readings and radio interviews in Houston and throughout the country.
Richard W. Murray is a native of Louisiana with B.A. and M.A. degrees in government from Louisiana State University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and has taught at the University of Houston since 1966 where he is currently Professor of Political Science and Director of the Center for Public Policy. His principal academic interests are in political parties, campaigns and elections, public opinion, and interest groups. The author of numerous articles and books, Dr. Murray’s most recent book isProgrowth Politics: Change and Governance in Houston. Professor Murray consulted in over 200 political campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s (he has since given up the sport) and has conducted over 50 polls for local media. In addition he is a political analyst for Channel 13.
Glenn Olsen has been passionate about everything that crawled, crept, swam, or flew since his childhood. He has turned his passion into a career with GOBirding Ecotours, leading natural history and birding tours to the hottest birding locations in the U.S., the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon Rainforest, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and Honduras. Earning a BA in Philosophy from the University of West Florida, Glenn is also a certified Master Naturalist. He has taught classes at Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies for twelve years and at Houston Audubon, where he teaches how to identify the many birds found in Texas. In addition, he has served on the board of Houston Audubon as Vice President of Education and as President of both the Houston Chapter and the statewide organization of the Native Plant Society of Texas. He co-founded Wildscapes Workshops, an event that for twenty years has celebrated the importance of native plants, pollinators, and birds.
Sally Pehr has played in national Mah Jongg tournaments and taught men and women how to play the game for many years. She became intrigued with the game when as a little girl, she would hear the clicking of tiles as her mother played Mah Jongg in the living room. Years later, she learned to play while her husband was in medical school. She holds a BA from the University of Texas and is a retired renal social worker. She loves sharing her knowledge of this fun, challenging, and often addictive game that has become incredibly popular in recent years and is played all over the country, both socially and competitively in tournaments across the nation.
Sravana Borkataky-Varma, Ph.D., is a part-time faculty member in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. She holds a doctorate in religious studies from Rice University and she received a master’s degrees in Buddhism and Business Administration from India. She has also taught at Rice University, University of Houston, and Dalian Neusoft University in China. She specializes in Hindu Tantra: Religion, Gender, and Kundalini Yoga. Her interest in the esoteric traditions of Hinduism led her to present at the United Nations Witchcraft and Human Rights Experts Workshop, Geneva. In addition to teaching at an academic institution, Dr. Borkataky-Varma has taught in the Houston community privately and through the Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies. Originally from India, Dr. Borkataky-Varma has studied and lived in Germany, China, and the United States. Her published articles can be found in Religions and journals published by Springer.
Kate Emery Pogue received her undergraduate degree in Theatre from Northwestern University and her master’s from the University of Minnesota. She was founder of the drama program and writer of the theater curriculum for Houston Community College where she taught for over 20 years. During this time she was the Artistic Director of the Shakespeare by the Book Festival in Fort Bend County and a founder and Artistic Director and Resident Librettist for Opera To Go, the educational outreach performance company for Houston Grand Opera. Both a stage director and librettist, she has directed plays for numerous organizations and colleges and has had commissions for writing the librettos for several opera companies. She has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A frequent lecturer on Shakespeare, her research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and her books on Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Friends (Praeger, 2006) and Shakespeare’s Family (Praeger, 2008) have established her as a world authority on Shakespeare’s private life. She currently teaches at UH Downtown.
David Rainbow is an Assistant Professor in the Honors College at the University of Houston. He teaches and writes about modern Russian and Eurasian history. Prior to coming to Houston in 2015, he held postdoctoral fellowships at Columbia University and New York University, and was a writer in residence at the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia at NYU. He holds an M.A. in European intellectual history from Drew University, and a Ph.D. in Russian history from New York University (2013). Before becoming a historian, he worked as an engineer aboard a merchant ship on the Pacific, a rancher in western North Dakota, and has lived in Russia and Siberia several times.
Jesse Rainbow is an assistant professor in the Honors College at the University of Houston, where he teaches courses in ancient Near Eastern history, religion, and medicine. He received his Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations from Harvard University, where he was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. He has written on topics such as scribal culture in the ancient Near East, ancient Jewish and Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, and the place of magic and divination in the Bible. He regularly leads archaeological study trips to Israel, Turkey, and Italy.
Laura Richardson is a postdoctoral fellow with Rice University’s Program in Writing and Communication. She earned her BA from Vanderbilt in 2007 and her PhD in English from Rice in 2015. Laura has been teaching literature, writing, and film at Rice since 2013, and in 2016 she became a Resident Associate at Rice’s Lovett College. Laura’s areas of research include modernism, poetics, literary theory, contemporary literature, and science fiction. She is an avid reader and karaokist, as well as a budding soccer fan.
Rabbi Seymour Rossel is the author of The Essential Jewish Stories, The Wise Folk of Chelm, and more than thirty other books. He has edited some 300 books, having worked with many distinguished Jewish authors of our times. He is currently the President of Rossel Books. While living in Houston, he enjoyed teaching for many years at The Women’s Institute of Houston and he served as Rabbi of Congregation Jewish Community North in Spring, Texas. In his long career, he was the Dean of the School of Education at Hebrew Union College, NY; head of education for the North American Jewish Reform movement; and Executive Vice-President of Behrman House publishers. He was well-known for his Rossel talks long before there were Ted talks; and he thinks he is now old enough to remember when the Dead Sea was still living. Though he now resides in Dallas, he is looking forward to rejoining the flow at WIH and seeing so many friends, old and new.
Henry Roubicek is a Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Houston Downtown, and has been on the faculty since 1983. His research is on the power of human narrative. Dr. Roubicek has authored several articles in narrative expression and several books including his most recent, So, What’s Your Story: Discovering the Story in You, published by Kendall/Hunt. “Dr. Hank,” as he is affectionately known by his students, is an award-winning educator, consultant to numerous organizations, and a nationally-recognized workshop facilitator. He is also the creator, producer, and lead host of “So, What’s Your Story?” aired Wednesdays at 8:00PM on KPFT 90.1FM. Hank is a long-time board member and past president of the Houston Storytellers Guild, Moth Story Slam Champion, Docent at Holocaust Museum Houston, and community activist. He earned his B.A. from Ohio State, M.A. from Purdue, and his Ed.D. from The University of Maryland.
Dominique Royem is the Music Director of the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra. An active guest conductor, she has worked with ensembles such as the Ukrainian State Orchestra (Kiev, Ukraine), Plevin Philharmonic (Plevin, Bulgaria), Galveston Symphony, Moores Opera Center, Sugarland Opera, HBU Opera Theatre, and the Houston Civic Orchestra, and was Music Director for Houston Grand Opera’s Opera to Go! during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons. She is also the Resident Conductor of Bayou City Concert Musicals and was the Conducting Fellow for the Allentown Symphony Orchestra’s 2012-2013 season. She currently serves on the board of the Conductors Guild, a national organization dedicated to the art of conducting. She has a doctorate in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Houston Moores School of Music. http://www.dominiqueroyem.com
An historian of American thought and culture, Mark Ryan was Dean of Jonathan Edwards College and a teacher of American Studies and History at Yale University for more than twenty years. Subsequently, he was Titular IV Professor at the Universidad de las Américas in Puebla, Mexico, where he also served as Dean of the Colleges, Regente (Head) of José Gaos College, and Coordinator of the master’s degree program in United States Studies. He holds Ph.D. and M. Phil. degrees from Yale, an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. Mark’s writings have focused especially on higher education and on the history of transpersonal psychology, a field that accepts a spiritual dimension in human consciousness. He is author of A Collegiate Way of Living (Yale University, 2001) and A Different Dimension: Reflections on the History of Transpersonal Thought (forthcoming from Westphalia Press, 2018), as well as articles in various journals on higher education and in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology and related publications. Mark served for fourteen years on the Board of Trustees of Naropa University, is past chair of the Board of Directors of Wisdom University, and current Chair of the Jonathan Edwards Trust at Yale.
Chris Schaefer has taught courses about the history and politics of the Middle East for the past ten years at the University of Utah’s Osher Learning Institute in Salt Lake City. Chris holds a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s degree in Computing Sciences from Texas A&M University. He is the author of the award-winning documentary movie Forgotten Soldiers and non-fiction book Bataan Diary. His current projects include research into a possible book about ISIS, and a new movie about World War II.
Chris started his career as a historical researcher and author after working twenty-two years as President of Chris Schaefer & Company, an Information Technology company that served clients in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong. Previously, he worked at two other international consulting companies and served as a U.S. Army reconnaissance pilot in the Central Highlands and DMZ regions of Vietnam. He has worked in Public Relations for several organizations, including The Media Line, an American news agency that covers the Middle East. He travels extensively to the Middle East and elsewhere to do research for his classes and writing projects.
Charles Schmidt is a fourth-year Ph.D. student of New Testament and Early Christian Studies in the Department of Religion at Rice University. He currently serves on the Graduate Advisory Board for Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence and is a copy editor for Gnosis: Journal of Gnostic Studies. He arrived at Rice after earning an M.A. in New Testament and Christian Origins at Duke University. His research is focused on ancient Mediterranean religion in the Greco-Roman period, with particular interests in medical theory and physics, freelance ritual experts, and the Romanization of Christianity. You can follow him on Twitter @CharlesJSchmidt for news in Religious and Biblical Studies, Classics, Pedagogy, and politics.
As an avid shopper and creative DIY home design enthusiast, Margaret Shilstone has developed decades of easy, low-cost tricks to change the look of dull interior and exterior spaces to the “WOW” factor. Recognized as someone who repurposes items by “thinking-outside-the box,” Margaret will show you cost effective ways to make your home become a showcase. Featured in the 2014 Houston Chronicle, she was described as “ a heck of a do-it-yourselfer who has designed a small-budget, arbor-shaded patio that looks like a million bucks. The 24-foot-by-14-foot outdoor space has the feel of a secret lush New Orleans courtyard.”
Jennifer Sommers holds an MFA in Dance, Performance and Choreography from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has performed with Laura Dean Musicians and Dancers, Street Signs Center for Literature and Performance, and the Albany Berkshire Ballet, where she also served as Ballet Mistress. Her dance honors include a scholarship to Jacob’s Pillow Choreography Workshop, a Durham Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant, and a Lake Region Arts Council grant in support of new work. From 2000-2005, she served as the Associate Director of Raleigh Dance Theatre (a Southeastern Regional Ballet Association Honor Company) and on the faculty of Meredith College. From 2005-2008, she served on the faculty of the University of Minnesota Morris and taught both dance and interdisciplinary courses. She relocated to Houston in 2008 and launched a dance program at KIPP Sharpstown College Prep. She joined the Houston Ballet Education Outreach department in 2010 and is currently serving as Director of Education & Community Engagement, teaching dance and dance integration classes to students and teachers throughout Houston and greater Harris County. She has also served on the faculty of and choreographed for the University of Houston.
Anna Tahinci, Ph.D., is Professor and Area Coordinator of Art History at the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. A native of Greece, she studied History and Archaeology in Athens, and spent a total of eleven years in Paris, where she studied Art History and Comparative Literature at the Sorbonne (Ph.D. on Rodin’s collectors), and Museum Studies at the Ecole du Louvre. She has worked at the Musée Rodin, the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre and the Harvard Art Museums. She has taught at Boston University Paris, at the University of Minnesota, at Macalester College, and at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She co-curated the sculpture exhibition that was organized in Athens for the Olympic Games in 2004 and the exhibition Rodin and America at the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University in 2011.
Melanie R. Urban received her Diploma in Asian Art from the Royal Holloway College of the University of London/British Museum. A graduate of Purdue University, she received he J.D. from Louisiana State University and practiced law with the federal government for 15 years before moving to Singapore. While in Singapore, Mrs. Urban began her studies in Asian culture, history, and art; she traveled extensively throughout regions from Central Asia to China, from Tibet to Viet Nam, and points in between.
Hector Urrutibeheity has a B.A. in English Literature from the National University of La Plata, Argentina, and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stanford University. He is a Professor Emeritus from Rice University, where he taught Spanish, Romance Linguistics, and foreign language methodology in Spanish and French. He also served as chairman of the Department of Hispanic Studies for 15 years. He is currently an adjunct professor of Spanish and French at the University of St. Thomas. He is the co-author of The Lexical Structure of Spanish, Mouton, The Hague, two college Spanish textbooks, Peldanos and Tierra del Feugo,and the French series entitled “Echelons.” He recently completed a book on French phonetics entitled La prononciation du français contemporain.
Liz M. Weiman has trained thousands of individuals since the early 1990s in computer/digital software, and has additionally created instructional/technical manuals, e-learning modules, and Web content for Hewlett-Packard and other companies. Ms. Weiman is also the author of The Lawyer’s Guide to Concordance published in 2010 by the American Bar Association. In addition she served as a fiction reviewer for the Houston Chronicle and other national newspapers, and as senior editor of Southwest Art Magazine. She has worked as a journalist, editor, instructional designer, and technical writer. She is also a healing arts provider – Reiki master, Healing Touch energy worker, and Pranic healer, and additionally teaches classes on spirituality and self-development. Ms. Weiman, a Boston University graduate, provides private instruction on iPhone/iPad/Macs, Windows computers, and more.
Michael Winters, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Houston. He is a former director of the Rice University Counseling Center and is past president of the Houston Psychological Association. He is the Chair of Education and Credentialing for the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy (a meaning-centered psychotherapy) and has taught numerous courses in Houston (Glasscock School for Continuing Studies at Rice University, The Jung Center, University of Houston, University of St. Thomas, the Institute for Spirituality and Health, among others) and has presented in Canada and Europe as well. Michael received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and communication from Western Kentucky University, a Master’s degree in counseling from Purdue University and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Memphis. Students often comment on his warm, engaging and often humorous presentation style.
Susan Briggs Wright holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Stanford University and a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her facility with business and personal stories reflects her strong background of award-winning TV journalism, public relations, and corporate communication. She produced radio and TV News programs at WOR in New York, and at KPRC-TV in Houston, covered consumer affairs, medicine and courts. Ms. Wright was a journalism instructor at University of Houston, a columnist for The Houston Business Journal, and managing producer/anchor of On The Record, a documentary-style weekly show on Houston Public Television. Recently, as editor, she led a memoir-writing group to produce Coping With Transition: Men, Motherhood, Money, and Magic—Memoirs From the Lives of Professional Women, published by Texas Review Press. She delights in the growing number of books fostered by this class that adorn her bookcase.