‘Come Friday’ forums seek to be a source of open discussion on campus

Janelle Fassi, Crier staff

This past fall, the Humanities Institute invited Saint Anselm students, faculty and staff to open their minds, and their lunches, for the “Come Friday” forums. The forums will return next semester for those hungry for more.

The forums have taken place in the LLC Main Meeting Room or 005 Joseph Hall every Friday, except breaks, during the college common hour. Dr. Gary Bouchard, an English professor and Executive Director at the Greg J. Grappone Humanities Institute at Saint Anselm College, began the forums as a way “to create the opportunity for human conversation once a week.”

Bouchard said, one of the most important outcomes of the forums was creating a similar outlet that students have for staff to read books, study and have discussions. Once the idea took shape, he sent faculty around 50 questions he had about life, and what it meant to be human. He “expected a slow and difficult response,” but said he “filled out the entire year within a day or two…for twelve different departments.”

Bouchard was amazed at the generosity of the faculty, who facilitated 12 discussions of all different types for the fall semester, from “Does your dog have a soul?” facilitated by Kevin Staley of the Philosophy Department, to one of his favorites, “Isn’t tolerance the most important thing?” facilitated by Audrey Scheopner Torres of the Education Department. However, he thought each one was unique. He said, “There hasn’t been one that I haven’t enjoyed, they’ve all been really good in their own way, and surprising and unpredictable.”

Bouchard added, laughing, “We haven’t had any that have resulted in silence or pauses, or dead spots. People have things to say.”

The next 12 discussions will return on Jan. 18, starting with one themed for Martin Luther King Day, “Is the Civil Rights Movement in America over?” facilitated by Chris Bruell of the Criminal Justice Department. There are also themed discussions for Valentine’s Day, “Is there really such a thing as true love?” and President’s Day, “Who were the best and worst U.S. presidents?” facilitated by Kyle Hubbard of the Philosophy Department and Andrew Moore of the History Department.

The forums were not only an outlet for faculty, but students as well. Bouchard said, “It is neat for freshman and sophomores who are still relatively new, that this has become part of their Saint Anselm experience.” He added, “God willing, that will continue for their entire Saint Anselm experience.”

One student in particular touched by the Friday forums and the Humanities Institute was Hannah Beaudry, a sophomore English major from Mont Vernon, NH. Beaudry is an intern with the Gregory J. Grappone Humanities Institute, which was founded by Robert and Beverly Grappone to honor their late son’s “quest for learning and for meaningful human connection.”

In addition to helping set up for the Friday forums, Beaudry also writes for the Humanities blog, “Wednesday’s Wisdom.” The blog was inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s, “A Calendar of Wisdom,” and is a place where people in the Saint Anselm community can add their daily reflections to the calendar each week.

Beaudry said, the forums “have become a highlight of my week and a tradition with my friends, and I’m so excited for them to continue.”

Beaudry enjoyed working with Bouchard in the fall semester and is looking forward to continuing that work in the spring. She said, “Professor Bouchard has so much wisdom to offer and is so passionate about the Humanities Institute and the Humanities in general. It’s great to see the effect the Humanities Institute and the discussions have on campus, and I think it will create a lasting impact on the school.”

For more information about the Humanities Institute or the “Come Friday” forums, contact Dr. Gary Bouchard at [email protected], or check out the Humanities blog at humanitiesblog.anselm.edu. The spring 2019 “Come Friday” schedule is now available at the institute’s website, at https://www.anselm.edu/gregory-j-grappone-humanities-institute/come-friday-forum.