Prof. Annamarie Jagose - Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

From the early days of lesbian and gay studies to the more recent skirmishes of queer and post-queer studies, my research has focused on sex and sexuality. It amazed my mother that I spent longer at university than any of my professionally inclined siblings only to emerge qualified to write books with titles like Lesbian Utopics and Orgasmology. When I finished writing my PhD, it still hadn’t occurred to me that I might become an academic. But I am optimistic by temperament and a counterintuitive thinker by training so the academic life suits me well.

Our Experts

Is Truth Dead? How to Be Informed: Navigating Post-Truth Cultures

Thursday, 4 May

Prof. Nick Enfield - Chair of the Department of Linguistics

When we use language we are not just saying things to people, we are doing things to them with our words. My research views language as our most flexible and powerful tool for navigating the social relationships that define us. I work with remote communities of upland Laos whose languages and cultures are very different from my own, as a way of getting to the core of our human capacity for social action. Which parts of us are human and which come from culture?

Dr Celine Van Golde - Associate lecturer in Forensic Psychology

My research focuses on the reliability of eyewitness memory in children and adults, specifically, how interviewing techniques in forensic settings, such as those used by police, lawyers and judges can affect memory accuracy. I also run Not Guilty; the Sydney Exoneration Project which looks at wrongful (untruthful) convictions. The question that keeps on coming back in my work asks: “what is actually the truth?” Just because you remember something, or thought you saw something, does that make it true? And most importantly, should we ever use this “truth” in legal proceedings?

Dr Celine Van Golde is a graduate of The University of Sydney (PhD, 2013)

Charles Firth - Cofounder and Managing Editor of The Chaser

I am a professional satirist and unprofessional observer of American politics. I have always loved American politics because it is the closest thing in real life to satire. I am one of the pioneers in Fake News, and I once spent an entire year pretending to be various bloggers about America, in order to find out whether American political discourse is entirely fictional. It is.

To read our recent profile on Charles, click here

Charles Firth is a graduate of The University of Sydney (BA, 1999)

Is This Working? How to Be Connected: Social Media and the News

Thursday, 22 June

Prof. Ariadne Vromen - Professor of Political Sociology

I have worked on debunking the myth of youth apathy for a long time now. More recently my research has focussed on how the internet and social media have fundamentally changed the ways citizens engage with politics. I use Twitter. A lot. Once I even had a tweet appear on Q&A. While #auspol occupies a lot of my time, I am just as likely to segue into popular culture references. My ongoing obsession with Scandinavian TV shows has led me to Swedish classes, and to understand what a more equal society looks like.

Professor Ariadne Vromen is a graduate of The University of Sydney (MA, 1996)

Dr Jonathon Hutchinson - Lecturer in Online Communication and Media

My speciality is Snapchat image filters, and understanding why Dad Dabs are so popular. My other research explores public service media, everyday social media use, the role of social media influencers within co-creative environments, and how social media is used in cyber-terrorism. Dad dabs can be pretty terrifying.

Shami Sivasubramanian - Social News Reporter and Multimedia Producer at SBS

I'm a journalist who tells the news in a way that’s optimised for people who get their information from Facebook and Twitter. I’m a fiend for a good Instagram filter, a lover of lengthy Twitter threads, and truly believe the youth are a lot smarter and savvier about social media than most think. I’m also convinced that the question “If it isn’t on Snapchat, did it really happen?” is the modern day equivalent of Schrodinger’s Cat.

To read our recent profile on Shami, click here

Shami Sivasubramanian is a graduate of The University of Sydney (BEc, 2012)

Marcus Strom - Science Editor at the Sydney Morning Herald

As science editor at the Herald I get to interview some of the smartest people on the planet and tell their amazing stories. I accidentally became a journalist last century while living in London before moving back to Australia, where I have been the Herald's morning news director and deputy foreign editor. I have also worked for the journalists' union MEAA developing ideas how best to represent media workers in a dynamic environment. Without a sustainable media in all its forms, we can't have a fully informed public - and that only serves the rich and powerful. I am the incoming president of MEAA's media section.

Marcus Strom is a graduate of The University of Sydney (BSc, 1991)

Are Humans the Only Beings that Matter? How to Be Sustainable: Perspectives from the Environmental Humanities

Thursday, 27 July

Prof. David Schlosberg - Professor of Environmental Politics; Co-director of the Sydney Environment Institute

My first environmental memory is of running behind the ‘fog trucks’ in the suburbs of New York; they were spraying DDT to kill mosquitos, and all of the kids loved to hide in the thick white mist of insecticide. Maybe it’s not coincidental that my main academic interest is in environmental justice, which is about how and why different people and communities live in better, or worse, local environments. Earlier on, I was simply trying to understand what it was and how it came to be. More recently, I’ve been interested in how we actually develop and implement more just environmental policies in the ‘real world’ – which is much, much more difficult. I read dystopian novels for fun, which I think explains a lot.

Dr Astrida Neimanis - Lecturer of Gender and Cultural Studies

I’m a feminist, a teacher, a writer, and an accidental environmentalist. I think environmentalism could use a lot more feminism. (Do you really think it’s a coincidence that climate change deniers are also pussy grabbers?) Most of my writing focuses on human relationships to water; I am curious about the disconnect between human bodies—made up mostly of water—and human behaviour— where we dump most everything we don’t want into the sea. We are swimming in a cesspool of ourselves! I work with artists, writers, and makers to figure out ways of imagining our relationship to water otherwise.

Dr Alana Mann - Chair of the Department of Media and Communications

Is food Political? Go ask a farmer! My research focuses on how ordinary citizens get involved in food politics. I suspect I'm an optimist. It’s easy when you talk about food; it brings people together. I want my work to give voice to those making our food system fairer and tastier and healthier. As eaters, we can focus on our little bit and make it better for everyone, including the planet. There’s so much good out there.

Dr Alana Mann is a graduate of The University of Sydney (MMediaPrac, 2005; PhD, 2012; CertEdStud, 2013)

To Be Or Not To Be? How to Be Cultured: Shakespeare & the Arts in the 21st Century

Thursday, 31 August

Dr Huw Griffiths - Senior Lecturer, English

I spend almost all of my working life reading, thinking, writing, talking, and arguing about a writer who died over 400 years ago. In a lot of my work, I consider how Shakespeare and his theatre contributed to their own culture, poised as they were on the brink of modernity. But this also has to make us wonder what the point of Shakespeare is in the twenty-first century. The institutions that have promoted his value – traditional theatre; University English departments; Anglophone cultural dominance – have an increasingly precarious hold on how we make sense of the world, but Shakespeare still seems like a figure that is likely to survive. The capacity for his plays to move between popular and elite culture may still have something to teach us about how we might live amongst the ruins of the modern world.

Alana Valentine - Playwright

I am a playwright. I live on curiosity and discipline and the willing participation of interview subjects. I rummage for material in unexpected places and discarded people. I pick up ideas and words like a bowerbird. I venture out past the margins of cities. I resent that women’s plays are expected to have you-beaut, strong women protagonists who mouth the kind of feminism we already accept instead of fragile, conflicted women who make bad choices and suffer from their own mistakes and reflect how women really are. The most fun I have is sitting in the dark and listening to a room full of people laughing at what I have written.

Alana Valentine is a graduate of The University of Sydney (GradDipMuseumStud, 2001)

Lachlan Philpott - Playwright

I am a dog person. I have been working as a freelance writer for some time and despite the fact that is a challenge to survive in Sydney on a modest income, I really love what I do. After writing an article that called for a five-year moratorium on Shakespeare in Australia I received death threats and hate mail and then a woman called Sharon sent nasty letters about me to every theatre company she could afford to pay postage to. I wrote to let her know about email and the internet but she is yet to get back to me. I hope we meet one day. Perhaps I will pass her when she is protesting against marriage equality, a woman's right to choose or something else 21st century that rips and tears at her staunch Elizabethan values.

Lachlan Philpott is a graduate of The University of Sydney (GradDip(Second)(1996)

Prof. Michael Anderson - Professor of Education (Arts and Creativity)

My job has pretty much always been ‘teacher’. To me, it’s the most amazing profession in that it features outstanding colleagues and, sometimes challenging, always engaging students. Teaching is an emotional but deeply creative labour.

In an age of instant expertise and alternative facts, I think we need to rethink how we “do” education. We need to get beyond the old arguments about ‘lazy teachers’ and ‘kids out of control’ and consider the overwhelming reality: teachers and kids are engaged in a system that is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. The steam engine system that we have at the moment requires modernising, but how? That’s what I spend most of my life thinking about, teaching on and doing.

Professor Michael Anderson is a graduate of The University of Sydney (PhD, 2002; CertEdStud, 2009)

Donna Loughran - Principal, Doonside High School

I am the proud principal of Doonside Technology High School, and a passionate school leader who is determined to get every teacher understanding the positive impact they can have on students. I am determined to have all staff adopt a growth mindset, to see and extend the potential of every student they teach.

As a kid who grew up poor in Western Sydney, a graduate of public education, and someone who has spent 20 years+ in low socio-economic schools, I am a fierce advocate of equity for all students. I know with every fibre of my being, that postcodes should never determine destinies but rather one's resilience and drive should. Our job, as educators, is to make sure students develop the "grit" to negotiate their way in the world with confidence.

Donna Loughran is a graduate of The University of Sydney (BEd (Hum), 1997)

Matt Esterman - Teaching and Learning Integrator, Trinity Grammar School

Schools need learners to survive, but do learners still need school? As a teacher, I was naturally biased towards a definite 'yes!'. However, if more students are increasingly disengaged and more and more answers to closed questions are readily available in the palm of our hands, what future is there in doing what we've always done?

Schools are much more than textbooks and we need to think about what role schools might play in the connected community, society and economy.

Matt Esterman is a graduate of The University of Sydney (M.L.S.&T. 2008)

Eddie Woo - Head Teacher Mathematics, Cherrybrook Technology High School

Four years ago I made the fateful decision to prop up a smartphone in my classroom and start recording my high school mathematics lessons for a student who was too ill to attend class regularly. Now, millions of views later, I've been told that online learning like the kind I'm enabling is the way of the future. Except I have a quiet little secret: I deeply believe that my internet teaching self is only successful because of what's actually happening between me and the 30 students sitting in front of me each day.

In an age where supermarket checkouts, truck drivers and warehouse packers are being replaced by robots, I believe that teachers are more invaluable than ever. I believe that because every day, teaching a subject that most people think of as abstract and impersonal, I see the power of human connection at work. That's what excites me and gets me jumping out of bed in the morning

Eddie Woo is a graduate of The University of Sydney (BEd (Math)(Hons), 2008)

Why So Sad? How to Be Happy: Metrics of Happiness and Depression

Thursday, 23 November

Dr Caroline West - Senior Lecturer in Philosophy

I am interested in the nature of happiness and how to lead a worthwhile life (who isn’t!?). There is an ancient and rich philosophical tradition of thinking about these questions. I draw on this tradition in my research to address three big questions about happiness: what is it? Why should we want it? How do we get it? Public opinion about the nature and sources of happiness is often misguided; philosophy can help us to think more clearly about what happiness is and how to get it, both for ourselves and others.

Assoc. Prof Agnieszka Tymula - Associate Professor in Economics

Economists either ignore the concept of happiness or use it as synonymous with “utility”. People are assumed to maximize their utility by always choosing the most preferred option. But can people always choose their favourite from the set of available alternatives? In my work, I have been fascinated with the following question: what are the conditions, internal and external, that make people poor choosers? My search for the answer has resulted in inspiring research collaborations with neuroscientists, psychiatrists, and psychologists.

Dr Tim Sharp - Speaker & Consultant, Writer & Coach

I’ve spent the entirety of my adult life studying various aspects of human behaviour and emotion, and applying the lessons learned to help as many people as possible live more fulfilling lives. I’m fascinated by happiness at least in part because I have, at times, been so miserable. I’ve suffered depression and “imposter syndrome”, but after many years I’ve discovered that my greatest source of satisfaction and pride come from helping others. I believe the first step to “real” happiness is understanding what it really is, and just as importantly what it is not!

Dr Tim Sharp is a graduate of The University of Sydney (PhD (Medicine), 1998)