UTA considers moving Maverick Speakers Series online due to COVID-19

Common, award-winning artist and activist, waves to the crowd as he leaves the Maverick Speakers Series on Feb. 11 at College Park Center. 

UTA is examining the possibility of moving the Maverick Speakers Series experience to an online format for the fall semester amid COVID-19.

The series, which started in 2008, brings speakers to the university to present speeches on a variety of topics. Five speakers are typically invited to present throughout the academic year. The series has been a tradition with free admission for students, staff and faculty.

The series, which usually takes place in Texas Hall or College Park Center, had its 2019-2020 season cut short last spring by COVID-19.

Vivek Wadhwa, an American technology entrepreneur and academic, was scheduled to speak in March, but the event was canceled after the campus closed. The university hopes to reschedule Wadhwa as a speaker next spring, said Mark LaVelle, assistant vice president for alumni and donor engagement.

The series has been on hold since the pandemic began, but the university is exploring the possibility of organizing one virtual event this fall to keep the tradition going, LaVelle said.

UTA is working with agencies who represent potential speakers. Not every speaker is doing virtual presentations, but some are, and UTA is considering which speakers might interest the university community, he said.

“Some of them who make their living doing speeches don’t want them on a platform that can be recorded because then people can pirate them and not have to pay the speaker,” LaVelle said.

The agencies they have reached out to have been very responsive, he said. Lists of available speakers were provided, and the university will review them to consider potential presenters.

Most agencies are using Zoom and work with the speaker to provide needed equipment. A Zoom link is advertised for people to log on, but nobody else would be on camera, LaVelle said.

“It would be much more of a webinar thing where people are just watching the speaker,” he said.

The university’s TrailBlazer and alumni outreach newsletter will advertise any event scheduled this semester that can be viewed through a provided link.

Some universities with speaker series are doing the same as UTA, he said. Others have postponed their series, including the University of Texas at Denton, which announced they will not have any speakers until Aug. 2021.

LaVelle said he is hopeful that things will be better in the spring semester and that the series can be attended in person.

The series aims to create an opportunity to bring the community together on campus, exposing people to different ideas and topics, he said.

“We’re trying to make sure we have all of the pieces in place before we launch it virtually,” LaVelle said.



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