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Popular UW Saturday University Program Returns to Gillette Oct. 25

October 17, 2018
Matthew Craig, Kara Pratt and Marcus Watson

Campbell County residents have the opportunity to be college students once again when three professors from the University of Wyoming and Gillette College present lectures during UW’s popular Saturday University program Thursday, Oct. 25.

The half day of college classes and discussion begins with a light meal at 5:30 p.m. at the Campbell County Public Library, followed by a welcoming address. The guest lectures begin at 6 p.m. The program is free and open to the public.

Topics to be discussed are changing African behaviors in creative and colonial ways; studying tadpoles to understand humans; and how political and business decisions matter. Participants may attend one, two or all three lectures.

“During the fall and spring terms, Saturday University visits locations throughout Wyoming discussing today’s most captivating topics,” says Saturday University Coordinator Paul Flesher, a UW religious studies professor.

In its 11th year, Saturday University is a collaborative program that connects popular UW and Wyoming community college professors with lifelong learners. Offered nine times a year -- twice each in Jackson, Gillette and Sheridan, and once in Rock Springs, Pinedale and Cody -- Saturday University is sponsored by the university, Wyoming Humanities, Wyoming community colleges and local communities.

Listed below are program topic descriptions and professors lecturing:

-- 6 p.m.: “Are Cell Phones the New Development Workers? Reflections on Anthropological Studies in Africa,” Marcus Watson, UW Department of Anthropology associate professor.

Watson will discuss his research, which includes the study of development in South Africa and new media in Ghana. Over the years, he has noticed a strange parallel between development workers and cellphones.

“Forget, for a moment, that one is human, and the other is a hunk of metal and glass. Both are agents of change,” Watson says. “What they both try to do is to get Africans to disentangle themselves from their kinship and community networks, and reposition them as the kind of autonomous individuals we associate with the modern Western world.”

In his talk, Watson asks: Do development workers and cellphones have parallel intentions despite their differences in appearance, or are they helping Africans make progress or subjecting them to a new form of colonialism?

-- 6:50 p.m.: “How the Brain Learns to See: Studying Tadpoles to Understand People,” Kara Pratt, UW Department of Zoology and Physiology associate professor.

Pratt says brains process information through neural networks, but a new brain contains masses of neurons without connections. She will detail how the proper connections are made.

“The study of Xenopus tadpoles -- whose see-through skin lets us view the brain directly -- reveals how the brain creates itself by self-assembling neurons into networks that teach the brain to see,” Pratt says. “One key discovery is that visual experience -- the act of looking -- actually guides the precise wiring up of the visual system.”

Pratt’s talk will describe her research and explain what it reveals about the nature of human sight.

-- 7:40 p.m.: “In Business and Political Policy, Biology Matters,” Matthew Craig, Gillette College biology instructor.

When entrepreneurs develop business plans and politicians create public policy, they usually draw from economic or political practices and thinking, Craig says.

“It turns out, though, that success in these areas parallels the ways that biological organisms achieve reproductive success,” he says. “Indeed, successful political and business approaches could learn from basic biological principles.”

In his talk, Craig “thinks outside the box” to develop strategies for successful business and political decisions.

For more information about UW’s Saturday University program in Gillette, call Flesher at (307) 766-2616 or email

For more information about Saturday University, visit the website at

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