Understanding the process behind Big Lecture

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Understanding the process behind Big Lecture

Photo courtesy of Associated Students

Photo courtesy of Associated Students

Photo courtesy of Associated Students

Photo courtesy of Associated Students

Melissa Rojas

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CSUN’s Associated Students are motivating and educating students on following their dreams with this year’s Big Lecture on March 7 with actor, producer and activist Jesse Williams as lecturer.

Big Lecture is an event where influential individuals are invited to come speak about their life, passions and career to inspire and connect with CSUN students. The event will take place at the CSUN Northridge Center at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 7. Tickets cost $5.

According to Student Leadership and Productions Manager Leanne Vincent, Big Lecture began seven years ago when the AS Senate advocated for the Productions department “to move away from lots of smaller, weekly events — which was in direct competition with the USU — and move into programming that drew a minimum of 300 people per event.”

The first Big Lecture was in 2011 and its lecturer was political activist Dr. Cornel West, and because of his well-known profile the event was hosted at The Soraya. The lecture was an extremely successful sold out event, which allowed for future Big Lectures to take place with individuals such as James Franco, Viola Davis, Magic Johnson and Laverne Cox.

Big Lecture requires a lot of preparation and planning, as there are a lot of things to take into consideration when creating this event. AS Productions advisor, Kira Paczkowski, explains that it takes months to put together. The most important thing when planning Big Lecture is the impact it has on students.

“We do it because it’s an educational opportunity to have a big name come out and speak on some things they’re passionate about, what they are motivated by, the work that they’re doing in their lives, it’s just a way to have those speakers connect with the student body,” said Paczkowski.

The planning process begins with a small group of student employees that are put into a committee and discuss who will be lecturing. This committee communicates with the AS president to see who they would like to have come speak for the event.

“We also consider, what can that person bring to the table, what are they going to talk about,” said Paczkowski. “Is it relevant to the student body?”

When planning Big Lecture, there can be a few challenges for the AS Productions committee that are major decision changers when deciding who they pick to lecture.

The committee chooses a lecturer based on whether or not they are able to connect with the students and if they can impact students with their life story.

“It’s really great to be able to bring somebody who is doing big things, who is making an impact in the world and bring them into college campuses and see how students can relate,” explained Paczkowski.

Money is a huge factor in planning, as it can prevent the AS Productions committee from choosing certain lecturers because they might be too expensive for the budget. Actresses Mindy Kaling and Constance Wu were potential lecturers, however they were too costly.

Another factor is publicity, and whether the individual has positive or negative publicity also determines if they will be picked. The committee did consider Gina Rodriguez but due to controversy last year, she was out of the running. Rodriguez had commented on the intersectionality of the wage gap between women of color during a Net-a-Porter roundtable talk. The AS Productions committee decided it was safer to not choose her in case anyone would be offended.

Paczkowski explained that when an influential individual uses their platform to voice their opinions, whether it’s understood or criticized by society, it can make a big difference when choosing a lecturer.

The committee chose Jesse Williams because of his passion for activism, among many other accomplishments. He has done many projects for his community like producing a multi-faceted media project called “Question Bridge: Black Males,” which acts as a platform to represent and redefine the black male identity in the U.S.

Williams had won the Humanitarian Award at the BET Awards in 2016. He also starred in shows like “Law & Order” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“A lot of the questions we are going to be addressing are related to the activism work he’s done, his early career, how he got into acting, how he uses that platform for activism as well as the importance of the things that he’s doing,” Paczkowski said.

She also explained that the purpose of Big Lecture is to show “people that no matter where you come from, you can make your dreams into reality.” If individuals like Jesse Williams can turn his passion into a positive impact on the world, so can CSUN students.