Celebrating a Nontraditional Game Day Tradition

Pregame ShowcaseThis fall the Vol Nation will have more to celebrate than just the Vols’ return to the gridiron under their new head coach: 2009 also marks the 20th anniversary of the Pregame Faculty Showcase.

Hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences in the University Center Ballroom 2 hours before kickoff, each Pregame Faculty Showcase is free and open to the public and gives football fans a chance to enjoy some academic enlightenment before the athletic excitement of home games.

Top faculty members from the College of Arts and Sciences present subjects that run the gamut from the musical (“The Dynamic and Eclectic Sounds of the Saxophone Quartet” in 2006) to the mathematical (“Optimal Control for Optimal Health: The Numbers Game of Health and Disease” in 2007), from Columbine (“Understanding Columbine: How Social Rejection Fosters Mass Violence” in 2008) to the Cowardly Lion (“The Wizard of Oz: Gags, Shtick, Rhythms, and Routine” in 2007). What the showcases have in common, though, is that they all offer game-goers the opportunity to experience what the college is all about.

“The presenters selected for the showcase each year are simply representative of the faculty excellence throughout the college,” said Lynn Champion, director of academic outreach and communications for the College of Arts and Sciences. Champion said the diversity of speakers reflects the college’s wide-ranging expertise, from natural and social sciences to humanities and fine arts.

Lorri Glover, professor of history, has presented on three occasions at the Pregame Faculty Showcase during her tenure at UT. “It is very flattering and rewarding to be asked to participate in the Pregame Faculty Showcase,” she said. “Since we are a state university, it is particularly important to share our research and talents broadly to educate the residents of the state of Tennessee. In these tough economic times, it is doubly vital that we convey to the citizens of the state what we are doing at UT and how our work contributes to the intellectual and cultural life of the state.”

Glover enjoys the opportunity to speak to the general public about her expertise in American history. “There is a real skill to conveying specialized knowledge effectively,” she said. “And learning how to share my research with the public has been extraordinarily influential in my teaching at the university and in my own writing. It builds goodwill in the community, advances at the most admirable level our mission of outreach, and teaches the faculty members who participate valuable lessons that transcend that day [of the presentation] and echo in their classrooms and research.”

Pregame Faculty Showcase Program
Fall 2009

September 5 (Western Kentucky)
“ ‘Master Class-less’: BeaUTy and the Beats”
Carroll Freeman
School of Music/Associate Professor, Director of Opera, and Artistic Director of UT Opera Theatre and Knoxville Opera Studio

September 12 (UCLA)
“Computational Ecology: Environmental Problem-solving for the 21st Century”
Louis J. Gross
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Department of Mathematics/James R. Cox Professor

September 26 (Ohio)
“UT Digs Greece: New Light on the Bronze Age”
Aleydis Van De Moortel
Department of Classics/Associate Professor

October 3 (Auburn)
“The Intersection of Substance Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence”
Gregory L. Stuart
Department of Psychology/Associate Professor

October 10 (Georgia)
“Building a Biological Camera: 3D Snapshots of a Protein”
Cynthia B. Peterson
Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology/Professor and Head

October 31 (South Carolina)
“All ‘Stars’: UT Actors Seek Fame and Fortune on Stage and Screen”
Jed Diamond
Department of Theatre/Associate professor, Head of Acting

November 7 (Memphis)
“Germs and Geology: Emerging Issues in Waterborne Pathogen Research”
Larry D. McKay
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences/Jones Professor of Hydrogeology

November 21 (Vanderbilt)
“James Agee at One Hundred: A Centennial Celebration”
Michael A. Lofaro
Department of English/Lindsay Young Professor

Marvelene Moore, professor of music, said, “It is my belief that the deeper the knowledge, the greater the appreciation of a medium and the stronger the desire to participate in it.” When she presented her showcase, she engaged the audience not only in the theory of music but also in the performance of it within a nonthreatening environment. “The audience was actively involved in singing, moving, and listening to West African drumming and dance and Appalachian string-band music,” she said. “It highlighted the importance of participating in music-making and aided the audience in becoming aware of how much music permeates our daily lives. It further demonstrated that people of all ages and stages of life can make music and enjoy it.”

Moore said the Pregame Faculty Showcase gives the public “access to experiences that may serve to enrich their lives.” She continued, “It provides the public with a view of the many offerings available at the university, the quality and expertise of the professors, and the diversity of the faculty.”

The diversity of curricula as well as the faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences means a variety of presentation topics, so there truly is something for everyone. UT students and faculty members attend the lectures, as do alumni and other fans. Even fans of the opposing teams frequently are found in the audience. “We welcome fans from our opponent schools because they too can see that we have academic as well as athletic excellence at UT,” Champion said.

“We really enjoy it,” said Jeanie Watts, a Knoxville resident and Vol fan who attends the Pregame Faculty Showcase with her husband. “It keeps us up on new developments, new programs, new things in research happening at UT.

“The professors break it down into layman’s terms, so even I can understand it,” jokes Watts. “We have season football tickets, and we try to go to every Pregame Faculty Showcase.”

“The Pregame Faculty Showcase is the perfect foil to show that sports aren’t the only thing going on in East Tennessee,” said UT alumnus Ronald G. Domer (’59, ’65, ’73). Domer and his wife, Angela, live in Danville, California, but also have a home in Knoxville. “We are always [in Knoxville] in the fall and get to a few Vol football games, and we always attend the Pregame Faculty Showcase. It’s a nice change of pace, and we find the topics interesting and informative,” he said. Domer recalled a presentation about music and another about earthquakes that they particularly enjoyed.

Dean Bruce Bursten of the College of Arts and Sciences hosts each showcase and introduces the presenting faculty member. “It’s an opportunity for our college to show off not only the extraordinary teacher–scholars in the college but also the breadth and depth of the college’s programs,” he said. “It’s a wonderful way to start off a football Saturday—and a chance for the members of the public who visit UT only on game day to learn more about the good things happening at the university every day.”

—Leigh Powell and Lynn Champion