By Stacey Robertson
When my predecessor, Dr. Marji Morgan, issued a summons for greater interaction between the College of Arts and Humanities and the Ellensburg community, Associate Professor Jason Dormady of the our Department of History was one of the first to reply.
His response led to the creation of the “Wicked Smaht; Third Thursday Thinks” speaker series.
As described by Dr. Dormady, the Wicked Smaht talks are a partnership between the College of Arts and Humanities and Iron Horse Brewery, and serve as a conduit between the university and the City of Ellensburg.
Held in the back room of the craft brewery on Main Street, the talks are informal and most have participatory elements, and a little IPA, too.
“Getting off campus and going out into the community is something that’s beneficial for both the university and the Ellensburg community,” Dormady said.
According to Dr. Dormady, the name of the series, ‘Wicked Smaht’ was inspired by a line of dialogue from the film, Good Will Hunting.
In the film, the main character participates in an intellectual discussion in a bar, and is described by one of his friends as ‘wicked smaht.’
“This idea of people from the community and from the university (e.g. Town and Gown) getting together and having an intellectual exchange in a local craft brewery was our response,” Dormady said.
Free and open to everyone 21 or older, the talks have covered a wide range of subjects including subversive knitting, Irish World War I veterans, and music advocacy.
Last June as part of the series, I presented on the historic roots about the global phenomenon of modern-day slavery, a global crisis affecting 30 million people today.
The only requirement for speakers is they hail from the College of Arts and Humanities. Beyond that, faculty members may choose their topics.
“There is really no single theme… and I think that’s what the fun part of this is,” Dormady said. “The faculty speakers can talk about anything they want.
“For example, Xavier Cavazos from our Department of English led a fantastic participatory performance poetry. We had 20 people up, dancing around, while chanting poems.”
Each talk is an hour long with presenting faculty members usually taking the first half hour for a topic overview, leaving second half for Q&A. If it’s a workshop, then the hands-on portion takes the full hour with the faculty member moving throughout the room.
“We really discourage the use of Power Point … this program is not designed for lectures,” Dormady said. “It’s intended as ‘here are some ideas, now let’s talk about them.’ We generally say people have to rely on their own wit and wisdom to make things happen.”
The series is unique on campus, primarily because of its informal nature and its craft-brew and bar-food setting.
“I think the informality really sets it apart from formal classroom lecture,” Dormady said.
This month, Dr. Marji Morgan will lead a discussion about wine and champagne. Next January, the series will host Dr. Gary Weidenaar, our director of Choral Studies, as he leads a ‘beer choir.’
CAH faculty who are interested in presenting at Wicked Smaht are encouraged to contact Dr. Dormady at Jason.Dormady@cwu.edu