New Topics 2021-2022

The 2021-2022 season of New Topics is a six-part lecture series showcasing regional and national speakers from a broad range of disciplines exploring topical issues. The series runs October through April. The 2021 lectures will be presented via the Zoom platform. The 2022 winter and spring lectures may be in-person; that decision will be made by the end of the year. Each Zoom lecture begins at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time on the date listed; tickets are $10. Reservations can be made below or by calling the New College events hotline at 941-487-4888.


Thursday, October 21


From Competitors to Bromance: Using Science to Understand Male Gorilla Social Behavior
With Dr. Austin Leeds


Western lowland gorillas are familiar—we see them in zoos across the country, but we know very little about them in the wild. Particularly, we know almost nothing about how males form and maintain social relationships and bond with other male gorillas. In this lecture, Dr. Leeds will discuss why male gorilla behavior is so fascinating while diving into two novel studies that have helped unravel the mysteries of male gorilla behavior and social relationships. Dr. Leeds looks forward to sharing how we can use these findings to provide optimal welfare for gorillas in zoos and how this information improves our understanding of their natural history in the wild.     

Dr. Austin Leeds earned his Ph.D. in biology from Case Western Reserve University where his research focused on the behavior and social dynamics of western lowland gorillas in zoos, particularly within all-male bachelor groups. While working towards his Ph.D. he was a research associate in the Conservation and Science Division of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, where he conducted animal behavior and welfare research and collaborated with NGOs in Rwanda and Uganda on conservation education and scientific capacity building projects. He is now a research manager for Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, overseeing research focused on animal behavior and welfare at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the Seas with Nemo and Friends.


Thursday, November 18


The Waterkeeper: A Watershed Approach to Environmental Advocacy
With Justin Bloom


From its beginnings as a ragtag group of commercial fishermen and environmental advocates to its current alliance of over 350 groups connected throughout the globe by the fight to ensure that all communities have access to drinkable, fishable, and swimmable waters, the Waterkeeper movement has developed an effective model of community based environmental advocacy. Justin Bloom will talk about the Waterkeeper Alliance’s history and some of its key successes while sharing his experiences as a lawyer and environmental advocate working to protect communities from pollution and over-development. He will also discuss some of the most pressing needs and challenges and share his thoughts about what is needed to protect waterways and the communities that rely on them.   

Justin Bloom ‘87 is the founder and the board vice-chair of the Sarasota-based Suncoast Waterkeeper. He is an attorney with significant experience developing and directing programs and projects for environmental groups in addition to decades of legal practice focusing on environmental issues. Bloom also serves on the board of Tampa Bay Waterkeeper and Waterkeepers Florida, which represents 14 Waterkeeper organizations throughout Florida. Additionally, he serves on the board of the Florida West Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council and has been a member of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program’s Citizens Advisory Committee for nearly a decade, currently serving as chair. Bloom graduated from New College of Florida in 1991 with a BA Environmental Studies. He completed his law degree at Tulane University in 1996. Bloom’s legal practice over the last 25 years has focused on public interest environmental law, as well as toxic tort and class action pharmaceutical plaintiff’s litigation. During that time, he has worked on staff with Hudson Riverkeeper as an investigator, staff attorney and project manager and Waterkeeper Alliance as a director. Bloom lives in Sarasota with his wife and two children.



Tuesday, January 18


A Queer Zionism: Jessie Sampter and the Paradoxes of Jewish Nationalism
With Sarah Imhoff


The young, unmarried Jessie Sampter embraced a Judaism her parents had rejected, bought a trousseau, drolly declared herself “married to Palestine,” and moved there in 1918. Jessie Sampter’s own life and body hardly matched typical Zionist ideals: while Zionism celebrated the strong and healthy body, Sampter spoke of herself as “crippled” from polio and plagued by sickness her whole life; while Zionism applauded reproductive (women’s) bodies, Sampter never married or bore children—in fact, she wrote of homoerotic longings and had same-sex relationships we would consider queer. How did a queer, “crippled” woman become a leading voice of American Zionism, and why has history largely overlooked her?

Sarah Imhoff, author of Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism, is an associate professor in the Borns Jewish Studies Program and Religious Studies Department at Indiana University Bloomington.


Thursday, February 10


Rescuing the Planet: The Race We Can Win to Save a Million Species
With Tony Hiss


The earth faces two environmental emergencies brought about by human actions. The reality of the climate crisis became inescapable for many people during the unprecedented wildfires, hurricanes, floods, and droughts in the summer of 2021. Though equally grave, the second crisis, the extinctions crisis—which threatens the lives of a million species of plants and animals—has remained more hidden and out of the headlines. Fortunately, there is some hopeful news: the extinctions crisis has a solution, and in 2022 the whole world will assemble to face this growing calamity.

“Half Earth” is the shorthand name for what needs to be done. The science is clear: most species can survive if at least half their original habitat is protected over the next 30 years, and so the goal is 50 x 50—protect half the earth by 2050. In May 2022, 196 countries will meet in China to take the first big step: 30 x 30, 30% by 2030.

Tony Hiss’s beautifully illustrated talk, based on his book, Rescuing the Planet: Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth, published to excellent reviews in 2021, presents the problem, the solution, and his own further reasons for optimism. Traveling around North America from Canada to Mexico, from the Rockies to Florida, he met with extraordinary people and groups that, years before the China meeting, were already working tirelessly and inventively to save our continent’s beloved landscapes and iconic species. Hiss also shares information about the many ways anyone can join this movement.

Tony Hiss is the author of 15 books, including the award-winning The Experience of Place. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine for 30 years, and a visiting scholar at New York University for 25 years.  He lives in New York City with his wife, the writer Lois Metzger.


Thursday, March 10


The Hollywood Sell: Entertainment Marketing in a Changing World
With Smitty Smith and Jackson George


Join Smitty Smith ’70 and Jackson George ’95 as they discuss Hollywood and the evolution of entertainment marketing in our rapidly changing world. Smith, a movie industry veteran and CEO of the creative agency InSync Plus, and George, a creative advertising executive with Disney, will take you behind the scenes to understand how Hollywood develops movies and markets their product to the consumer.  With witty stories and insights, Smith and George, will also explore how Hollywood is changing and the influence of rapidly advancing technologies have on the marketing and distribution of movies. 


Thursday, April 21


Lecture to be announced



Reserve your tickets here. Online registration closes 24 hours before the event. To purchase tickets, please call (941) 487-4800.


We are grateful for our 2021-2022 New Topics media sponsor


The fair market value of the goods and services provided at these lectures has been valued at $10 per person; as such, no portion of your ticket purchase will be tax-deductible.