Pregame Showcase Offers Vols Fans a Chance to Stretch Their Minds

To the football fans out there who are already pulling out their orange gear in preparation to cheer on the Vols, don’t forget to include your thinking caps with your game-day attire this season. 

Football fans and the public are invited to attend the College of Arts and Sciences’ twenty-second annual Pregame Showcase lecture series, held two hours before all home game kickoffs in the Carolyn P. Brown Memorial University Center, Room 213.

Featuring award-winning teachers of the College of Arts and Sciences, the Pregame Showcase offers fans the unique experience to learn from some of UT’s most exceptional faculty members through timely and informative lectures guaranteed to stretch the mind.

This season’s showcase includes topics ranging from music to cave churches to abstract painting to bioorganic chemistry. The speakers are chosen to highlight a wide range of subjects that not only reflect the breadth and depth of the College of Arts and Sciences, but also appeal to a wide audience.

“Football games attract a large and diverse group of UT fans to our campus,” said Hap McSween, interim dean of the college. “They’re here to cheer on the Vols, but everyone enjoys learning something new. Each week is an opportunity to have a mini-course on a particular topic or area of expertise.”

Fans who attend the Pregame Showcase will be part of the full game-day experience of educational and recreational engagement. Each showcase is free and open to the public. Light refreshments are provided, and guests who register are eligible for door prize drawings at the end of each presentation and discount coupons for purchases from the University Center Bookstore. Moreover, the carefully timed, 45-minute programs allow fans to enjoy the lecture and still get to the stadium before kickoff.

Hundreds of football fans gathered at the 2010 Pregame Showcase lecture series.

The 2011 Lineup

David Northington, professor in the School of Music, will kick off this year’s showcase on Saturday, September 3, before the Vols’ home opener against the University of Montana. In his presentation, “A Musical Tribute to a Great American: Aaron Copland,” Northington will play selected works from the American composer and reminisce about his experience with Copland as a mentor.

On September 10, Gregory Kaplan, professor and interim department head of modern foreign languages and literatures, will present “Christian Pilgrimages and Cave Churches in Medieval Spain” before the UT–Cincinnati game. Kaplan will detail the Way of St. James, an ancient pilgrimage route in northern Spain that continues to draw thousands of pilgrims each year.

Before the UT–Buffalo game on October 1, Gladys Alexandre, associate professor of biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology, will present “Research of the Microbial Kind” and demonstrate how microbes “think.” Her research seeks to characterize, at the molecular level, the strategies used by bacteria to adapt to changes in their surroundings.

School of Art associate professor Jered Sprecher will present “An Exploration of Humanity Through Abstract Painting” on October 8 before the UT–Georgia game. Sprecher will share work of his own and others as well as examine how commonplace objects can inspire and influence works of art.

Before the UT–LSU game on October 15, associate professor of chemistry Michael Best will present “Bioorganic Chemistry: Advancing the Frontiers of Medicine.” His research involves the design and synthesis of organic molecules, which can be used to understand biological processes relevant to disease. One aspect of his research is geared to making enzyme inhibitors, which are used in an array of applications in modern medicine, including the development of new drugs to treat various diseases.

Thomas Burman, Department of History head and professor, will present before the UT–South Carolina game on October 29 “Christians’ Reactions to the Koran in History,” providing an overview of Christian–Muslim relations through the ages. Burman will draw from his scholarly work, which focuses on the intellectual and religious interactions between Latin Christendom and Arab Islam, especially as these can be seen in the transition and circulation of Arabic works in medieval and early modern Europe.

On November 5 before the Homecoming game against Middle Tennessee State University, Casey Sams, associate professor of theatre, will present “Creating Choreography for the Clarence Brown Stage.” Sams will examine the role of a choreographer in theatrical production, using examples from two of this fall’s Clarence Brown Theatre productions.

Professor Michael Knight of the Department of English will conclude the showcase with his presentation, The Typist: An Author’s Translation of History into Fiction,” before the UT–Vanderbilt game on November 19. Knight will talk about his inspiration for and the writing of his novel about an American soldier working as a typist in General MacArthur’s headquarters in post-war Tokyo.

The Pregame Showcase is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences with support from WUOT 91.9 FM, the UT Office of Alumni Affairs, and UT Athletics. For more information, visit

–Beth Gladden