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Vantage Point

“Let’s talk about it over lunch.” The number of brilliant ideas brainstormed, major decisions made, or great plans hatched over lunch is surely astounding. The question for faculty members in this installment of “Vantage Point”:

If you could have lunch with one person, past or present, to gain valuable insight into one of your areas of scholarly interest, who would it be and why?

Lynn Botelho, History

Queen Elizabeth I

I’m a historian of Tudor history and old age and the director of Women’s and Gender Studies. My choice of lunch partner is easy: Queen Elizabeth I. Arguably the most famous of the Tudors, she was also easily the most important. She established the beginning of the British Empire, financed dashing men to scour the high seas in search of treasure ships, and soothed a country torn and bruised over religion. But, for my research on aging, I want to know how she managed to grow old on the throne, while still being referred to as goddess Gloriana. And, the Women’s and Gender Studies director wants to know how she knew to play around with gender roles when faced with the Spanish Armada. For it was she who said, “I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king and of a king of England, too.”

Melvin Jenkins, Developmental Studies

Barack Obama

I have a responsibility to help students reach their full potential. Some need more help than others, but I often see similarities in their struggles. Two of the biggest obstacles many face are the lack of motivation to complete various tasks or the failure to set realistic goals. If I had the opportunity to dine with anyone to gain insight into helping my students, it would be Barack Obama. I would select him not for his political prowess, nor for his keen intellect, though I find both captivating. Rather, I would like him to explain how he remained motivated in the midst of overwhelming opposition, as well as how he was able to keep his “eyes on the prize” against all odds. I suppose any past president could provide significant insight into my queries, but I think it’s safe to say that Mr. Obama could offer perspective like no other. Our students could learn much from this man.

Carl Luciano, Biology

Jonas Salk

I would want to talk with someone who made a difference—a real game changer—from a pretty recent era, so that we would share a common frame of reference. I would want the lunch companion to be someone with a broad outlook, not just a narrow point of view. So, I’d choose to have lunch with Dr. Jonas Salk, the virologist who led the development of the first successful polio vaccine at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1950s. This was truly a heroic episode in the history of modern medicine and public health. The Salk vaccine ended the annual terror known as “polio hysteria” and began the so-called “Age of Optimism” for the control of infectious disease. Dr. Salk was also well known as a humanist who actively searched for ways to bring different people together. I’d like to get Dr. Salk’s perspective on the historical, scientific, and social aspect of his vaccine. I would also like to hear his thoughts about current efforts to eradicate polio worldwide.

Susan Palmisano, Art

Her True, Most Creative Self

Creativity springs from a place deep inside one’s self that is free from the limits of rational thought and the barriers of our constructed personal narratives. To cultivate creativity, we need to unlock the shackles that restrict our internal voice and allow the experiences of life to harmonize and flow through us, unfettered by excuses, fear, doubt, or preconceptions. An artist is often like Dorothy, who sets upon a great adventure to find her authentic self in Oz but instead uncovers somewhere along that yellow brick road a creative power already inherent within. So, rather than choosing to have lunch with the man behind the curtain, I tap my ruby slippers with hope of joining my true self at the table.