Nicholas Schmidle speaks to Jefferson Society on Pakistan

Nicholas Schmidle
Nicholas Schmidle

Nicholas Schmidle spoke to the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society on Friday, September 11, 2009 on the subject of his new book, To Live or To Perish Forever: Two Tumultuous Years Inside Pakistan.

In early 2006, Nicholas moved to Pakistan, backed by a writing fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs. He lived and reported in Pakistan for two years, before being deported from Pakistan in January 2008. He has also worked in Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Nicholas received the 2008 Kurt Schork Award for freelance journalism, based on his work in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He speaks Persian and Urdu, and is a graduate of James Madison University and American University.

Mr. Schmidle is a freelance writer whose work focuses on the intersection of culture, religion, politics, and security in the developing world. He is a fellow at the New America Foundation. Mr. Schmidle contributes to The New York Times Magazine, Slate, The New Republic, The Washington Post, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Smithsonian and others. He has written on a range of topics, including Sufi festivals and Taliban lashings in Pakistan, rising sea levels in the Maldives, women’s boarding schools in Saudi Arabia, and al-Qaeda’s franchise in Mauritania.

W. Heywood Fralin speaks to the Jefferson Society

Picture of Heywood Fralin, RectorW. Heywood Fralin, Rector of the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia, gave a “state of the University” address to members of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society on October 31, 2008.

Mr. Fralin revisited his undergraduate experience of 50 years ago before outlining the Board’s long-range plan for the University. He then took questions from the audience, who sought his opinions on matters ranging from the role of social networking technology to the honor system. Mr. Fralin also fielded questions about the extent to which the University should bind itself to Mr. Jefferson’s original vision, how state government affects long-term planning at the University, and the ideal balance between an emphasis on research and on improving the undergraduate experience.

00:20:00 Who are the University of Virginia’s closest competitors?

0022:00 Please describe a First Year dorm experience from 50 years ago.

00:25:00 Have you observed that students today are not making deep connections with each other, and what role does the University play in this process?

00:28:00 Will the University of Virginia become less of a public institution as it attains great autonomy from the state?

00:30:00 A question about funding for graduate students.

00:32:30 To what extent should we bind ourselves to Mr. Jefferson’s vision for the University? Can we do so and remain competitive today?

00:35:00 Does undergraduate teaching suffer when there is a “publish or perish” emphasis on research?

00:36:30 Given the good-will alumni have toward the University, why is their giving rate relatively low?

00:38:00 How do officials in state government influence long-range planning at the University?

00:41:00 Are there ways to involve graduate students in undergraduate training?

00:43:00 How do you see the apparent disconnect between the Darden School of Business and the rest of the University?

00:45:00 What are your thoughts and opinions on the single-sanction honor system?

Photojournalist Ashley Gilbertson speaks to Jefferson Society

Award-winning photojournalist Ashley Gilbertson showed images from his coverage of the Iraq War and described the war’s toll on the homefront to a meeting of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society on October 10, 2008. This presentation was jointly sponsored by the Jefferson Society and the Virginia Quarterly Review to mark the publication of his article, “The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce,” in the Fall 2008 issue of VQR.

Following his talk, Gilbertson took questions from the audience:

0:32:00 How did you find Noah’s story?

0:37:00 In covering the war, did you encounter any resistance from the military or from soldiers’ families?

0:42:00 Have you met any soldiers who have gotten effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder?

0:46:00 What was your relationship with the soldiers who were protecting you while you were on assignment?

0:51:00 To what extent do you think the military is sweeping PTSD under the rug?

0:53:00 How do the Iraqis feel about the war?

0:57:00 How did your photography change as a result of your change of opinion about the war?

1:00:00 What can we learn from the Coalition Forces?

1:03:00 What problems do we face in transitioning veterans back into society?

1:06:00 Would the leadership of this country benefit if our leaders had experience in war?

1:08:30 Who did you work with in Iraq? How are soldiers of different ranks handling PTSD?

Dr. Strangelove in the Caucasus; Or, How Saak Goes his War Game On

Nicolai PetroNicolai N. Petro is professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where he was an Echols Scholar and member of the Jefferson Society. In addition to authoring eight books on Russian politics, he has served as special assistant for policy in the US State Department, and as advisor to the mayor of the Russian city of Novgorod the Great. In addition to commenting in the International Herald Tribune, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, and Asia Times, he writes an occasional blog devoted to Russia at

On September 26, 2008, Petro addressed the Jefferson Society on the topic: Dr. Strangelove in the Caucasus; Or, How Saak Goes his War Game On. Visit Mr. Petro’s website for a detailed timeline of the recent crisis in the Caucasus.

Rodney Cohen addresses Jefferson Society on historically black colleges and universities

Rodney Cohen is the director of Multicultural Affairs at Presbyterian College in South Carolina.On September 5, 2008, he addressed the Society on the subject of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

Cohen is the author of two books on the history of Historical HBCUs: The Black Colleges of Atlanta and Fisk University along with a number of articles published about HBCUs in the International Journal of Educational Advancement and the Journal of Urban Education. He is currently researching the history and legacy of black fraternal groups, literary and debate societies prior to the 20th century.His other research interests include alumni giving traditions at historically black colleges and black alumni groups at majority colleges and universities.

Dr. Cohen received his Bachelors degree from Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia and his masters from Western Kentucky University and his doctorate from Vanderbilt University. His dissertation was Black College Alumni; the perceptions, attitudes and giving behaviors of African American alumni at selected HBCUs. Dr. Cohen is an active Rotarian, a member of the National Eagle Scout Association, the Laurens County Cycling Club and a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.