Everything you wanted to know about... just about everything

Everything you wanted to know about... just about everything McGill University

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McGill Reporter
September 22, 2005 - Volume 38 Number 03
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 38: 2005-2006 > September 22, 2005 > Everything you wanted to know about... just about everything

Everything you wanted to know about... just about everything

Homecoming lecture series is food for the brain

Do you believe it's not a good idea to eat something sweet in the evening for fear it will wire you up and prevent a good night's sleep?

Are you the type to compensate for that second piece of apple pie with promises of running an extra kilometre the next day?

What about money? Do you live in fear or anticipation of a strong Canadian dollar?

To quell your worries or feed your fascination, Maria Keenan has just the remedy. She's put together a concoction of 10 presentations by 12 McGill University academics that can soothe just about any intellectual itch: from understanding Islam to understanding the failings of evolution education in North America; from the effect of mothering on children's genes to the effect of law on parenting; from the role humour plays in health to the truth about food and the brain; and the list continues.

Keenan is associate director of alumni relations and long-time coordinator of Homecoming, an annual fall event usually reserved for returning alumni. This year, Keenan has put together "Classes Without Quizzes," a series of lectures open to alumni, students and staff that will take place on Thursday, September 29 and Saturday, Oct 1.

"For several years, I've wanted to do this," she said. "Then last year, when the Principal's Office indicated that they wanted Homecoming to be more educational, I leapt at the chance to organize 'Classes Without Quizzes'," said Keenan, who first heard of the concept while attending conferences on university development in the United States.

"It's an opportunity for us to highlight the talent in our own university," she continued. "And what better time and place to do it than at Homecoming."

Among the talent selected to speak were people who had participated in earlier Homecomings, such as Brian Alters, professor of education and advocate of evolution education; chemistry professor Joe Schwarcz, who will be moderating the three-professor panel on "Humour and Health"; and Christopher Ragan, professor of economics and columnist at the National Post.

Keenan also invited people whose research concerns questions of public interest. Robert Wisnovsky, for instance, director of the Institute of Islamic Studies, will be speaking on "Understanding Islam." Beyond addressing the "tectonic shifts within Muslim societies," Wisnovsky, a recent recruit from Harvard University, wants listeners to gain an appreciation for the institute itself. "McGill alumni may not be aware of this gem that existed in splendid isolation for 49 years until 9/11."

Louise Thibault is also happy to have the opportunity to strut her stuff. Professor of Dietetics and Human Nutrition for the past 19 years, Thibault is a specialist in neuronutrition, or the study of the effect of food on behaviour. She's also the author of the novel, Nourir son cerveau, and "Feeding Your Brain" is the title of the talk she will give at the Macdonald Campus. Thibault will have some surprising things to say about sugar and the brain, for instance. Long believed to be a culprit in the hyperactivity, Thibault has found that sugar has a calming effect. "So, if you get sleepy in the afternoon, don't have dessert at lunch!" she warns.

Another who will be speaking about food and behaviour is psychology professor Bärbel Knäuper. One of the "Health and Humour" trio, including Schwarcz and professor of political science, Antonia Maioni, Knäuper will speak on compensatory health beliefs that include such common behaviours as dealing with the guilt of having a second piece of cake by promising oneself to get to the gym later on. "We all want to maximize our pleasure without feeling guilty," she said.

Acting to maximize income - or, at least, minimize losses - is also a common behaviour and Chris Ragan will try to help his listeners understand why there are fluctuations in the Canadian dollar and whether that's good for them. "Before you know if appreciation or depreciation of the dollar is good, you have to know why it has happened," he said. "If the dollar goes up because the price of commodities [such as base metals, oil and gas] goes up, for instance, it's good for the general economy but bad for those of us wanting to borrow money."

People attending David Covo's talk on the coming changes to McGill's downtown campus and Johanne Pelletier's archival presentation on McGill won't have to worry about their wallets or their waistlines. Covo, who is the director of the School of Architecture will review recent and upcoming projects for McGill's campuses, while Pelletier, who is the university archivist, will take - virtually - her listeners back to the time when most of them were at McGill: 1955 to 1975.

"I want to enliven the sense of history for the alumni," said Pelletier, explaining that in her Power Point presentation she'll be presenting the posters, photos, yearbooks, the minutes from student organizations, newspaper articles, etc. that captured student life during that era. "I've got photos of students occupying the principal's office during the sixties and seventies and scenes of anti-Vietnam war demos," she said.

"I'll be depicting student life in a serious way but intend to have lots of fun with nifty images," said Pelletier, who recalls her own student participation in the 1980s campaign for McGill to divest its interests in South Africa. "Plus there will be some surprises," she said, refusing to elaborate.

Surprises, fun and illumination will be the stuff of "Classes Without Quizzes." Those interested should book their seats now as places are going quickly, said Keenan. Tickets are free, she emphasizes, but room size is limited.

See www.mcgill.ca/homecoming/2005special for more information and www.mcgill.ca/homecoming/order for free tickets.

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