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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is hosting its inaugural “Listen. Learn. Lead.” Week March 28–April 2 to engage students, faculty, and staff in thoughtful programming centered around understanding different perspectives, learning from the experiences of others, and leading with courage.

The week will feature Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and professor of ethical leadership. He is also a renowned author of several books, including The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.

Hosted as a partnership between UT’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, the Division of Diversity and Engagement, the Division of Student Life, Human Resources, and the Office of the Provost, “Listen. Learn. Lead.” Week recognizes Baker’s legacy and his charge to “listen more often than you speak.” Events will provide participants with opportunities to consider their collective responsibilities to protect and encourage free speech on campus, to encourage diverse viewpoints inside and outside the classroom, and to be responsive to those varying viewpoints in their leadership strategies.

“Senator Howard Baker’s legacy is one of courageous and inclusive leadership. ‘Listen. Learn. Lead.’ Week is an opportunity to highlight that legacy for our students, staff, and faculty, and the week’s schedule will give us all an opportunity to put that legacy into practice,” said Marianne Wanamaker, executive director of the Baker Center and associate professor of economics.

Jonathan Haidt
Jonathan Haidt

On Thursday, March 31, Jonathan Haidt will give the Baker Distinguished Lecture from 5:30 to 6:45 p.m. in the Student Union Auditorium. Haidt is a professor of ethical leadership at the Stern School of Business at New York University. He is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of morality, and his research helps people understand those who differ from them morally—not just across nations but also across political divides within nations. Haidt’s lecture, “The Three Bad Ideas Damaging American Universities,” will be followed by a moderated audience Q&A. The event is open to the public.

Additional events are open to the campus community:

  • Navigating Difficult Conversations: A Dialogue with Students, Monday, March 28, noon–1 p.m., Baker Center Toyota Auditorium. This lunch-and-learn event for staff will include an informal dialogue with members of the UT Speech and Debate Society and the Public Administration Student Association. Students will host tabletop discussions on engaging with people who hold differing opinions, encouraging others to speak up, discussing various topics while remaining inclusive, thinking on your feet, and identifying misinformation. Lunch will be provided. Advance registration is required.
  • The Art of Public Deliberation, Monday, March 28, 3:30–4:45 p.m. This virtual session for staff focuses on building civic capacity across campus. Public deliberation is a values-based approach to facilitating difficult conversations about tough topics that invites many perspectives to the table instead of promoting only one or two dominant voices. Session presenters include Kardiahouse co-founders Sharyl Loeung and Josh Ritter. Advance registration is required.
  • Story Corps’ One Small Step, March 28–30. This program brings people with different political views together to record a 50-minute conversation—not about politics, but about who they are as people. Each conversation is archived at the Library of Congress. Participants registered in advance to take part in virtual interviews over the course of three days.
  • Innovative Teaching and Learning Conference, Tuesday, March 28, 8:45 a.m.–5 p.m. The annual conference will highlight the importance of good teaching in higher education settings by featuring the innovative teaching practices that happen in classrooms and learning spaces at UT, as well as at other universities. This year’s theme is Transforming the World through Innovative Teaching and Learning. The keynote speaker is UT alumna Saundra McGuire, director emerita of the Center for Academic Success and retired assistant vice chancellor and professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University. Advance registration is required by March 25.
  • Creating Classrooms for All: Fostering Open and Respectful Exchange, Thursday, March 31, 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Student Union Room 362B. Hosted in partnership with PEN America and the Office of the Provost, this faculty workshop will cover principles of free speech, respectful communication, and creating a respectful learning environment that includes robust engagement and open exchange of ideas. Advance registration is required by March 23.
  • Student Summit on Free Expression as a Fundamental Human Right, April 1–2, Student Union. A two-day student summit hosted in partnership with PEN America concludes the week, providing a foundational understanding of free expression as a fundamental human right and an ongoing topic of contemporary social and political conversation.

For a full list of programs during “Listen. Learn. Lead. Week,” see the campus events calendar.


Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993,