Elizabeth was terrific. She’s a fantastic speaker, knowledgeable, articulate and poised, and her presentation stimulated a much greater degree of audience engagement than I usually see. It didn’t hurt that we had an excellent turnout for her lecture - unsurprisingly, since like many coastal communities, the threat of sea level rise looms large here. Elizabeth was adept at fielding unexpected questions from the audience, and she projects a kind of basic likeability and intelligence that had everyone eating out of her hand. Our CEO told me privately afterwards that she thought Elizabeth’s was the best presentation we’d offered all year and I would have to agree.
Elizabeth Rush visited Bates during three days in the fall of 2018 as an Otis Lecturer. This endowed lectureship has brought various luminaries to the College over the past two decades - people like Michael Pollan, Barry Lopez, Terry Tempest Williams, Mary Oliver. With Elizabeth’s visit we had a sense of turning towards an emerging generation of environmental writers and earth stewards, whose work speaks powerfully to college students painfully aware of how much of the earth’s diversity and beauty is in profound danger. Elizabeth connected deeply with our students, both in her public lecture and in more intimate meetings in classrooms and over meals. Elizabeth had taught at Bates for two years, and that certainly contributed to her ability to meet students where they are: but aside from that she is simply a deeply empathetic and gifted listener (this is part of what makes her writing so powerful). In classroom conversation students wanted to hear from her what it was like to talk with people of widely varying political positions and life backgrounds. They resonate with the way her prose moves from careful description of scientific process to evocation of place and difficult emotional terrain. They find her honesty and her level tone a refreshing alternative to more alarmist narratives - even if the news she’s delivering isn’t reassuring. She is generous, good-humored, incredibly energetic and delightful to work with.
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