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Popular UW Lecture Series Scheduled in Rock Springs Saturday

April 12, 2018
Holly Ernest, Franz-Peter Griesmaier and Mark Neels

The spring term of Saturday U -- the half day of college lectures and discussion offered by the University of Wyoming -- concludes Saturday, April 14, in Rock Springs.

Two UW professors and a Western Wyoming Community College (WWCC) visiting professor will discuss topics including UFOs, Abraham Lincoln and genomic testing in Room 3650 at WWCC.

The program begins with coffee and donuts at 8 a.m., followed by welcoming remarks at 8:20 a.m. The guest lectures begin at 8:30 a.m.

Participants may attend one, two or all three lectures. A question-and-answer session will follow the program. Lunch will be provided.

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

In its 10th year, Saturday U 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 U is sponsored by the university, the UW Foundation and Wyoming Humanities. The program is presented locally by UW, the Wyoming Humanities Council and WWCC.

“Enjoy three intriguing lectures delivered by professors from the University of Wyoming and Western Wyoming Community College,” Flesher says. “Complimentary lunch is provided, giving participants an opportunity to engage with the speakers during a roundtable discussion following the three lectures.”

Listed below are program topic descriptions and professors lecturing:

-- 8:30 a.m.: “UFOs, Psychics and other Weird Stuff: What to Make of It, Rationally,” Franz-Peter Griesmaier, UW Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies associate professor.

“We have all encountered claims about extraordinary phenomena -- about UFOs allegedly visiting Earth, about psychics being in touch with the spirits of the dead, and don’t forget about Bigfoot, homeopathic remedies and iridology,” Griesmaier says. “How should we react to such claims?”

He will explore rational ways of evaluating the evidence supporting extraordinary claims, and, for that matter, ordinary claims.

-- 9:45 a.m.: “The Martyr for Freedom: Abraham Lincoln as National Hero,” Mark Neels, WWCC visiting assistant professor of history.

In a recent poll, Americans deemed Lincoln the greatest president in United States history.

“A person living during the Civil War, however, might have been surprised by this,” Neels says.

He will discuss how much of Lincoln’s greatness was posthumously realized, adding that the president’s contemporaries did not perceive him far-sighted in his vision for America, but that vision helped shape the country.

“The nation we inhabit is very much Lincoln’s creation,” Neels says. “Is it any surprise, then, that he has supplanted founding fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson to become America’s great national hero?”

-- 11 a.m.: “Genomic Testing: Good for Humans, Good for Wildlife,” Holly Ernest, Wyoming Excellence Chair and UW professor of veterinary sciences.

“As more people benefit from having their genes tested, it should not surprise us that wildlife have genomic testing services, too,” Ernest says. “Genetic diversity is key to the long-term survival of a healthy population of any animal species.”

She says this is true for those at risk of decline, such as bighorn sheep, great gray owls, hummingbirds and sea otters. Ernest, through her UW lab, studies these populations to work out their genomes and family trees, which, in turn, helps wildlife and land managers evaluate ways to assist in the species’ long-term survival.

For more information, call Flesher at (307) 766-2616 or email For more information about Saturday U, visit the website at

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