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BHSU panel to showcase and discuss religious diversity at first Geek Speak of 2018

Author: BHSU Communications/Tuesday, January 9, 2018/Categories: Events, Community, Faculty, 2018

The Black Hills State University Honors Program will kick off the first three weeks of the 2018 Geek Speak lecture series with an ongoing panel discussion about religious diversity. A panel of BHSU faculty, staff, and alumni will represent the various minorities represented in the Spearfish community and will be facilitated by Carrie Gray-Wood, adjunct professor for the School of Math and Social Sciences. This three-part series “Religious Diversity in the West,” will begin Thursday, Jan. 11 at 4 p.m. in Jonas 110. The following two panels will take place on Jan. 18 and 25 at the same place and time.

“When we talk about religious diversity, we are actually talking about the coexistence of two or more religious communities within a specific area,” says Gray-Wood. “Spearfish hosts an incredible diversity of religious minorities.”

Members of the panel will include Dr. Parthasarathi Nag, professor of mathematics at BHSU, representing Vedic and Hindu philosophies; Dr. Tim Steckline, professor of speech at BHSU, representing Buddhism; Dr. Jace DeCory, professor emeritus of BHSU, representing Lakota spirituality; and Naveen Malik, BHSU alumni, representing Islam.

“Religious pluralism is a value system that positively welcomes an encounter with other religious organizations and viewpoints,” says Gray-Wood. “It makes space for the idea that there can be multiple religious viewpoints within the same area.”

The first week’s panel will serve as an introduction to the religions represented, giving each panel member 15 minutes to introduce themselves and a background about their religion. In the following weeks, discussion will center on what it is like for religious minorities to practice in this area, in a space far from a larger religious community, and what it is like to be perceived as a standard bearer for that religion. Each week will allow time for interactive question and answer sessions.

One point Gray-Wood hopes to emphasize is that the panel members are not token representatives of their religions. “We all have our own idiosyncrasies and beliefs that may not fit within the larger context of that religion,” says Gray-Wood. “It’s important that we emphasize that these are individuals, not one-dimensional representations of a specific religion.”

Gray-Wood and her panel believe that this discussion is timely and will encourage our community to be more inclusive and supportive of those around us. “National and local events indicate increasing polarization. It’s really important to promote religious pluralism on our campus and in our community, and the best way I know to do that is through education,” Gray-Wood shares. “If you come, you’ll leave with a much better understanding of what is here and promoting a more inclusive space for people from all religious walks of life.”

The Geek Speak lecture series, sponsored by the BHSU Honors program, features academic discussion and topics not normally discussed in the traditional classroom. The goal of the weekly lectures is to expose students to diversity within the disciplines. Some Geek Speaks will be presented at the Jacket Zone store located on Main Street in downtown Spearfish.
  • Feb. 1: “Berlin Now: A Portrait of a City after the Wall” by Dr. Adam Blackler, assistant professor of history
  • Feb. 8: “America’s Favorite Carnage: Selling Wilderness Ordeals as Spectacle” by Dr. Timothy Steckline, professor of speech
  • Feb. 15: “Fano-Plane and Di-Graph Poetics: Intersections of Math and Poetry” by Dr. Dan May, professor of mathematics, and Dr. Courtney Huse Wika, associate professor of English
  • Feb. 22: “A little more than kin and less than kind” by Dr. Amy Fuqua, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of English
  • March 1: “Trash Has Two Parents: The Person Who Threw It and the Person Who Walked by…” by Dr. Jami Stone, professor of mathematics education
  • March 15: “Wonder Woman, Board Breaking and Performance Art” by Naomi Even-Aberle, instructor of mathematics
  • Mar. 22: “The Geometry of Redistricting,” by Daniel Swenson, associate professor of mathematics
  • Apr. 5: “Sustainability, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Making the Connection” by Petrika Peters, Sustainability Coordinator for BHSU
  • Apr. 12: "Rebel Girl: Celebrating a Century of Exchange Between American Popular Music and Feminism” by Dan May, professor of mathematics, and Dr. Laura Colmenero-Chilberg, professor of sociology
  • Apr. 19: "Avi Jain: Science, the expert problem, and mass hysteria” by Max Marc, professor of business
  • Apr. 26: “From Bach to Braindrill: Exploring the similarities between Metal and Classical music and fandom” by David Berberick, professor of music
  • TBA: University Honors Capstone Defenses
To read short descriptions of each lecture topic, visit

For more information, contact Dr. Courtney Huse Wika, director of the University Honors Program and assistant professor of English, at 605-642-6918 or email

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