Paola Sensi-Isolani. Photo by Nicolo Serturio

The traveling speakers' series called Inspiring Wonder, which was launched last year by the alumni office to bring together alumni, parents and friends for an evening of camaraderie, learning and discussion led by Saint Mary's faculty, became an instant success.

In its first year, professors led discussions on topics ranging from the Supreme Court's role in American politics to the history of the Christian Brothers in California in the Bay Area, the Central Valley, Southern California and Denver. More talks are planned for Portland, Seattle, Washington, D.C., New York, Reno and Phoenix.

"We wanted to provide some programming off campus for people who don't live nearby," says Chris Carter, director of Alumni and Volunteer Engagement. "This is a way to do regional programming even in areas where we don't have the resources to support large regional chapters."

Having professors give presentations on a wide range of topics helps extend the College experience, Carter says.

"Everybody remembers the academic component at Saint Mary's as special – the smaller classes, the intimate setting," Carter says. "We're highlighting the professors who are well known or have areas of interest that are unique. It's kind of like Jan Term – doing a class that's not just on a typical academic topic."

For example, anthropology professor Paola Sensi-Isolani gave a talk on the history of Italian immigrants and wine in the Sonoma Valley, and politics professor David Alvarez spoke on how the novelist Dan Brown's thrillers, particularly The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, have had an impact on historians and political scientists who study the Vatican.

"The talks are unique and topical," Carter says. "We find professors who we know will be a good draw and who are interesting in themselves. We don't have a lack of that at Saint Mary's."

To learn more about the Inspiring Wonder Series, choose a link below:

Inspiring Wonder - Oakland

Inspiring Wonder -West Los Angeles

Inspiring Wonder - Tiburon

Inspiring Wonder - San Francisco

Inspiring Wonder - New York

Inspiring Wonder - Newport Beach

Inspiring Wonder - Sacramento

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