Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center

Levitt Center

The Levitt Center is located in Kirner-Johnson 251.

Levitt Scholars

Spring 2014

Catherine Cooper: Ethics 101: Right and Wrong

Catie is an interdisciplinary major in Government, Classics, and Religious Studies.  She will be discussing how “right” and “wrong” are not the universal terms that we believe them to be. Our sense of “right” and “wrong” comes from our background and influences. As such, it is important for us to understand where others are coming from. This talk will be particularly interesting for high school seniors or juniors and for students taking a high school class on ethics.


Katharine Tomalonis: Know Thy Brain

This presentation introduces students to the basics of neuroscience - from neurons and the action potential to plasticity - and describes current research about adolescent development - emotions, brain size, prefrontal cortex development, exercise and sleep patterns.  Graphs and images provide much of the information to present neuroscience in a visual manner. The presentation culminates in "Brain Trivia," an interactive component that lets the students apply the knowledge they have acquired over the course of the presentation.


U.S. Current Affairs
Margaret Alexander: Partisanship in Politics

Partisanship in both the U.S. Senate and Congress has intensified over the years and has had severely negative effects on everyday political functioning, which has recently culminated in a government shutdown that lasted from October 1st to October 16th in 2013. The point of Meg’s presentation is to show students that the issues that are being debated in Congress as we speak are not black and white. Rather, there is an ambiguous gray area that exists because there are so many factors to consider when debating and implementing various policy initiatives. Furthermore, we must recognize that politicians do not work inside of a vacuum. Like everyone else, they have certain sets of morals and values based on their upbringing, their race, religion, socioeconomic status, which have contributed to each having his/her own unique life experiences that affect how they see the world and how they think and behave everyday as a result. However, factionalism does not have to be our political fate. While having a strong political conviction is very notable, we must at the same time remember that we cannot be blind-sighted by our pre-conceived notions. Contrastingly, we must find common ground on which we can meet and discuss and argue and discuss some more in hopes of one day reaching a solution that is favorable to most if not all Americans. This is what we call compromise.


Suzanne Adelman: “Miss Independent: A Talk on Female Leadership and Empowerment”

In this presentation, Suzanne will provide high school girls with new ways of understanding the term leader.  While we often think that leaders only exist in the business and political worlds, Suzanne hopes to show that all women can become leaders in their own communities and schools.   She hopes to dispel the notion that women cannot achieve success given their gender, and, instead, replace it with the idea that women have the power to achieve their full potential. This talk is intended for ninth and tenth grade girls.


Gregory Scott: Defining Yourself: A New Take On Leadership

Leadership is narrowly defined in our society. Individuals fail to recognize the ways in which they actively participate and influence others in their communities. This presentation expands the definition of leadership to better encapsulate the ways in which individuals can positively influence others. The discussion breaks down leadership, focusing first on individual leadership qualities, and then explains how qualities mix together to form unique types of leaders. Gaining an understanding of the basic components of leadership will help students identify their own personal strengths, passions, and ability to positively contribute to their communities. Throughout the presentation students are challenged to reflect on their own passions and experiences to begin the process of identifying themselves as leaders. 


Informed, Empowered, and Engaged Citizenry
Rosario DeGrazia: "Volunteering: Far from Zero-Sum"

Far from zero-sum or solely a time to help less fortunate or destitute individuals, volunteering is an interactive activity where one learns and grows substantially. Russ specifically discusses his time working with Karen orphans and refugees at the BAAN Raj Orphanage and the Ma Ra Moe Luang Refugee Camp in Thailand during the summer of 2010. By exposing students to his high school past, and by illustrating his work in Thailand (and later in the U.S.) with captivating photographs and videos, Russ shows students that his experiences are not unique, that students can absolutely do what he did, and that volunteering can yield great benefits for those who make the decision to get involved (whether domestically or intentionally). Russ ends by discussing his work domestically, explains ways for students to begin volunteering (including financial aid options for intentional work), and ultimately urges students to get involved and not to hesitate (whether domestically or internationally). 


Keara Fenzel: What About Us? : How to Take Political Action When You're Still Not Old Enough to Vote

Adolescence is a time of feeling like you are too old while constantly being told that you are too young.  So, when teenagers skim the front page and see a million problems that need to be solved while still being told that they are too young to vote, it can be incredibly frustrating.  However, just because someone is not yet able to vote doesn't mean that they can't have a huge impact on their country and politics.  In this presentation, Keara will work with students to empower them to take action on the issues they are passionate about.  Keara will give them access to the tools and networks necessary to organize around political issues pertinent to their lives and help them understand that as long as you have an informed opinion and a fire in your belly, you can change the world.  Most importantly, she hopes to leave them with one salient message:  Everyone's voice matters.  This presentation may be of particular interest to students in U.S. History courses.


Krista Hesdorfer: Rejecting Slacktivism: The Importance of Political Literacy and Youth Civic Engagement

In “Rejecting Slacktivism,” Krista will introduce several media literacy strategies to help students develop more informed political opinions, then encourage students to take their knowledge to the next level through civic engagement. Her presentation will introduce several methods of fact-checking and deconstructing arguments in media texts such as advertisements, articles, blog posts, and increasingly prevalent chain emails or Facebook posts.  After practicing some of these strategies as a class, Krista will turn to the topic of “slacktivism,” the common practice of “liking” a post or signing an online petition rather than going out into the community and participating in meaningful civic engagement.  She will encourage students to vote, consider youth service grant opportunities, and get involved in their local communities.


Alexandra Rudow: Political Campaigns: the Ability to Change the World

During my presentation, Alexandra will present her experiences during the Obama campaign, as well as lessons that she learned from working on a political campaign at a young age.  Her talk will cover the following topics: why politics matter, keeping an open mind, getting scrappy to overcome difficult hurdles, how you, as a student, can make a difference. The optimal target audience would be a senior class of government or history students; however, the talk has been prepared to apply to all high school age groups and to speak to students interested in any subject matter.

College Insights and Personal Development:
Rachel Sobel: “Interests and Opportunity: How Taking a Risk Can Lead to a World of Possibilities.”

Rachel’s talk is a motivational, informative, and interactive presentation. Students will participate in a discussion of their interests and discover how they can lead to a world of opportunities and insights. Personal experiences will be shared showing that by taking small risks and trying new things, interests can lead to real life applications after high school. Topics that will or may be included (depending on class preference and by request) are as follows: current biochemical research, participation in varsity and college sports, making personal connections, study abroad opportunities, college scholarships and aid, alternative education programs, the benefits of a liberal arts education, volunteer work, and choice of college major. The main focus will be on inspiring students to think about how to better connect with the word and people around them by pursuing their interests.


Etan Weis: “Become the Best Person You Can Be: Tips, Tricks, and a Simple Life Hack”

This talk encompasses many of the things Etan has learned that have helped him be successful in school and in the professional world. His speech includes information from authors Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie. He will also talk about project planning and prioritizing. The presentation also includes a simple life hack based on a TED Talk by Amy Cuddy as well as information about how to learn to read facial expressions and raise your social IQ.

For Teachers
Marcela Peguero: Supporting Military Kids in the Classroom

What is the difference between a regular student and a military-connected student? Why does it matter to know the difference? What are the factors influencing military-connected students in the classroom? What are the implications for teachers? These are some of the questions Marcela’s presentation will address. She lives on a military post and constantly hears mothers and teachers (especially teachers) talking about the struggles these students face. This presentation will provide helpful insight on how teachers can help military-connected students in the classroom.