Talking It Out At BCTalks

In its fourth year, BCTalks will take place in the Walsh Function Room tonight at 6 p.m. Modeled after the popular TED Talks and run by Education for Students by Students (ESS), eight students from a variety of majors and years will give 20-minute talks about the subject of their choosing. Here is a preview of some of the talks, as well as background on this year’s speakers.

Andrew Hawkins, A&S ’16
“Ethical Questions Regarding the Ebola Response”

As a student majoring in biology in A&S, a science-driven BCTalk is appropriate for Andrew Hawkins. Yet, in his presentation Hawkins will do more than just discuss scientific topics—Hawkins will take the seemingly removed issue of the Ebola virus directly to BC’s campus. Although there are currently no approved therapies for Ebola, Hawkins will analyze experimental therapies and the ethical questions inherent within their approval. Specifically, Hawkins will examine the convalescent serum therapy, which is one method under investigation.

“Convalescent serum therapy is a plasma transfusion, which entails retrieving the desired antibodies that are hopefully effective in counteracting the Ebola virus and are given to someone who is now challenged with the virus,” Hawkins said. Hawkins will analyze this treatment through the lens of bioethics.

“Bioethics is a framework for decision-making that stems from both moral and philosophical argumentation,” he said.Hawkins has received aid in the preparation of his BCTalk from Rev. John Paris, S.J.,with whom Hawkins previously took a class—which forced Hawkins to think of the human aspect of health care, something he is very interested in.

Hawkins will discuss the process through which a therapy is approved and refer to judicial and clinical precedent when discussing this experimental treatment for Ebola. “I hope the talk will promote effective and informed dialogue on campus,” he said.

Sofia Soroka, A&S ’18
“The Optimism Advantage”

Sofia Soroka, one of only two freshmen giving a BCTalk this Monday, will discuss the nature and evolution of optimism. Although she is considering a major in political science, Soroka’s talk has a more scientific angle, covering how people’s brains have evolved neurologically toward the tendency to be optimistic. “This [optimism] has helped us on an individual level and the wider scope of society,” Soroka said.

Soroka’s interest on the topic of optimism began when she, as part of a high school assignment, read the book The Optimism Bias. “The book discusses discrepancy between how we think positively as an individual but how this view doesn’t extend to society,” Soroka said.

After doing some research, she decided to continue exploring the topic of optimism. “I think that the talk really applies on an individual level, and is applicable to every person in that every person can implement it in their life because it is something we can innately already have,” Soroka said.

Walter Yu, A&S ’16
“Spirituality: A Never-Ending Journey”

Walter Yu, a junior studying economics and philosophy, grew up Catholic, and his mother took him and his siblings to weekly religious classes. Yu was so faithful that in his senior year of high school he seriously considered becoming a priest. This career path would be short-lived, however, as Yu left the church soon after his senior year.

Yu explains this break from the church as a process of exploration. “I needed to step out of faith being the answer to human existence, and think about the bigger picture,” he said. As he began to think over Catholicism and his views on this faith tradition, Yu began to realize that his thoughts differed. “As a Christian, you’re supposed to figure out God’s plan,” Yu said.

But Yu thinks the focus should be on the process instead. “The process of self-invention and asking questions, which requires humility because you don’t really know but in that process itself you find meaning,” he said.

For Yu, his spiritual journey has been a path toward understanding his place in the world and what that means. “I needed to step out of the church to see this,” he said.

In his BCTalk, he will share his journey and his conclusions. “The first thing I want to do is make the audience think about something that they don’t usually think about, and the last thing I want to do is impose my way of spirituality because it’s my way, not your way, and you have to find your way,” Yu said.

Missa Sangimino, A&S ’15
“Our Worst Kept Secret: Solitary Confinement.”

Although solitary confinement may seem like an issue that is removed from BC’s campus, Missa Sangimino is passionate about it nonetheless. Sangimino, an English major and philosophy minor, grew interested in this topic while taking a class called Law and Economics. The paper she wrote for this class was on solitary confinement, a topic that morphed into a project in which she became very interested.

For her presentation, Sangimino read the most recent legislation on solitary confinement and interviewed leading psychologists. “A lot of people don’t believe solitary confinement affords due process, it’s historically characterized as torture, it marginalizes the mentally ill, and it’s expensive,” Sangimino said.

For one prisoner for one year, the cost of solitary confinement is $60,000—roughly equivalent to one year of higher education. Sangimino said the cost doesn’t stop there—the longer the prisoners are in solitary confinement, the more it costs.

Sangimino thinks that solitary confinement has been getting more attention recently, especially with TV shows like Orange Is The New Black, but she hopes to foster more appreciation and thought on the topic.

“I hope my talk will raise more awareness for the issues, because a lot of BC students vote and pay taxes,” she said. In addition to looking at the issue of solitary confinement economically, Sangimino will look at it from a legal and humane perspective, and in the process will seek to start a dialogue about a topic that may otherwise not have reached the student body.

Featured Image courtesy of BCTalks