By Su Byron

With a lineup of dynamic regional and national speakers covering a broad range of subjects—from animal behavior to environmental advocacy—the “New Topics” lecture series begins at New College this fall.

Hosted by the New College Foundation, the 2021-2022 season runs from October through April and is sponsored—in part—by Sarasota Magazine and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

Kicking off the five-part lecture series is “From Competitors to Bromance: Using Science to Understand Male Gorilla Social Behavior” with Austin Leeds, Ph.D., at 5:30 p.m. Thurs. Oct. 21.

Leeds’ lecture will focus on western lowland gorillas—particularly the mysteries of male gorilla behavior and social relationships. Leeds holds a Ph.D. in biology from Case Western Reserve University and was a research associate in the Conservation and Science Division of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. He is now a research manager for Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment, and he oversees animal welfare at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and The Seas with Nemo & Friends.

Following Leeds’ October lecture is “The Waterkeeper: A Watershed Approach to Environmental Advocacy” with Justin Bloom, J.D., at 5:30 p.m. Thurs. Nov. 18.

Bloom ’87 is a lawyer and environmental advocate, and the founder and board vice chair of the Sarasota-based Suncoast Waterkeeper—an organization that fights to ensure access to healthy waters. Bloom graduated from New College in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and completed his law degree at Tulane University in 1996. His legal practice throughout the past 25 years has focused on public interest environmental law, as well as toxic tort and class action pharmaceutical plaintiff’s litigation.

At the beginning of next year, “A Queer Zionism: Jessie Sampter and the Paradoxes of Jewish Nationalism” with Sarah Imhoff will be held at 5:30 p.m. Tues. Jan. 18.

Imhoff’s lecture will focus on the story of Sampter—a leading voice in American Zionism who has been largely historically overlooked. Imhoff, the author of 2017’s 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.

Next on the schedule is “Rescuing the Planet: The Race We Can Win to Save a Million Species” with Tony Hiss, which will be held at 5:30 p.m. Thurs. Feb. 10.

As Hiss describes it, the earth faces two environmental emergencies brought on by human actions: the climate crisis (which threatens the planet) and an extinction crisis (which threatens the lives of plants and animals). Hiss’ lecture, based on his 2021 book, Rescuing the Planet: Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth, presents the problem and his perspective on the solution. Hiss is the author of 15 books, including the award-winning The Experience of Place (1991). He was a staff writer for The New Yorker for 30 years and a visiting scholar at New York University for 25 years.

After Hiss’ lecture comes “The Hollywood Sell: Entertainment Marketing in a Changing World” with Smitty Smith and Jackson George, at 5:30 p.m. Thurs. March 10.

Join Smith ’70 and George ’95 as they discuss Hollywood and the evolution of entertainment marketing. Smith, a movie industry veteran and CEO of the creative agency, InSync Plus; and George, a creative advertising executive with Disney; will take listeners behind the scenes to understand how Hollywood develops movies and markets products to consumers.

The 5:30 p.m. Thurs. April 21 lecture has yet to be announced.

The lectures will be presented via Zoom for the first two events, and a decision about whether to hold the subsequent lectures in person will be made in December. Tickets are $10, and the events are free to students, faculty, staff and alumni. Reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance to allow for processing and receipt email for Zoom link.

For more information on “New Topics” and to register, call 941-487-4888 or visit

Su Byron is the communications specialist for the New College Foundation.

Founded in Sarasota in 1960, New College of Florida is a top-ranked public liberal arts college and the state’s Honors College of Florida. New College prepares intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement by providing a highly individualized education that integrates academic rigor with career-building experiences. New College offers 45 undergraduate majors in arts, humanities and sciences, a master’s degree program in applied data science, and certificates in technology, finance, and business skills.

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