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Bina Venkataraman, journalist, science policy expert, author, and futurist who served as an advisor in the Obama White House and taught at MIT, will deliver the Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellowship Symposium Lecture.


Venkataraman will present “Climate Change and Thinking Ahead” at 3:30 p.m., Friday, April 8 in Woodruff Auditorium, Kansas Union. Her talk is free and open to the public.


A former Senior Advisor for Climate Change Innovation in the Obama White House, Bina Venkataraman helped communities and businesses prepare for climate change, discovering firsthand why people resist thinking ahead—and how to change it. The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age is Venkataraman’s trailblazing exploration of how to invest in the future in our lives, our communities, and society. With examples from ancient Pompeii to modern-day Fukushima, she dispels the myth that human nature is inherently reckless, highlighting surprising practices each of us can adopt and guiding readers through the greatest decisions confronting our society. The result is a book brimming with ideas and insights for forging a better future.


Currently, Venkataraman is the Editorial Page Editor of The Boston Globe and a fellow at New America. She previously taught science, technology, and society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and served as the Director of Global Policy Initiatives at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Venkataraman served as Senior Climate Change Innovation Advisor in the Obama White House, where she forged partnerships among communities, companies, and governments to help prepare for climate disasters. She also advised the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in responding to the Ebola epidemic, promoting patient access to cancer therapies, and reforming public school science education. Venkataraman is an alumna of Brown University and Harvard’s Kennedy School.


The Self Graduate Fellowship Symposium Lecture is sponsored by the Madison and Lila Self Graduate Fellowship. The mission of the Self Graduate Fellowship is to identify, recruit, and provide development opportunities for exceptional doctoral students in business, economics, engineering, mathematics, biological, biomedical, pharmaceutical, and physical sciences who demonstrate the promise to make significant contributions to their fields of study and society as a whole. The Self Graduate Fellowship is a unique opportunity for doctoral students at KU to fund their education and acquire valuable leadership training for their future careers. Throughout their four years as a Fellow, students receive funding that covers their tuition, fees, and graduate research assistantship appointment, as well as funding to pursue independent professional development opportunities. To prepare students for their future leadership roles, Fellows attend professional development workshops, communication coaching, and guest lectures.


The late Madison “Al” and Lila Self launched and permanently endowed the Self Graduate Fellowship in 1989. The creation of the Self Graduate Fellowship was motivated by Madison and Lila’s belief in the vital importance of developing leadership for tomorrow. They are the University of Kansas’ most generous private donors to date.

  • Michelle Compton-Munoz
  • Matthew Allen

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