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COVID-19 Update: Read latest guidance for Spring and Summer 2021 campus residential programs.

Academic Speaker Series

The mission of the Academic Speaker Series is to promote the intellectual environment of the College and to facilitate discussion of important issues in the community.

Spring 2021 Schedule

Dying and Death in the Age of COVID-19
Tuesday, March 23, 7 p.m.
Online Presentation

Four scholars discuss research for a forthcoming book, A Plague For Our Time: Death and Dying in the Age of Covid-19.


  • M. F. Alvarez, Ph.D., “’The Cure Can’t Be Worse than the Disease': Resignifying a Meme in an Online Suicide Forum”
  • Carmen Hernández-Ojeda, Ph.D., “We Foresaw It, We Did Nothing: How Neoliberal Necropolitics/Necroeconomics Sowed Covid-19 Pandemic”
  • Alexander B. Joy, Ph.D., "Technologies Beyond the Self: Im/mortality in the Age of the Retweet."
  • Gyuri Kepes, Ph.D., “'Help Me, I Can’t Breathe’: Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and the Mortal Economy” 

This is an online presentation taking place on the BlueJeans Events platform. A Chrome web browser is recommended for best experience.
Click here to join on the evening of the event.

Author Bios

M. F. Alvarez, Ph.D., MFA 

Dr. Alvarez is Postdoctoral Diversity and Innovation Scholar at the University of New Hampshire, where he teaches and conducts research in end of life communication. He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Paradox of Suicide and Creativity, and has completed a memoir, The Color of Dusk, that explores the impact of trauma on mental health, and the role of human connection in reigniting hope in the wake of a suicide attempt. His latest research has focused on suicidal persons’ use of digital technologies to co-create meaning and community. Dr. Alvarez is the recipient of numerous awards, including a top paper prize from the National Communication Association’s (NCA) Mass Communication Division, and the prestigious Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship, awarded to 30 candidates in a national competition that attracts up to 2200 applicants annually. He previously served as Chair of the diversity steering committee at Goddard College, whose up and coming PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies program he helped create. He has taught a broad range of communication courses at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, including an advanced seminar titled, “Death in the Digital Age.” In addition to two books, Dr. Alvarez has authored more than twenty journal articles, book chapters, critical and personal essays, and feature articles for popular outlets. 


Carmen Hernández-Ojeda, Ph.D. 

Dr. Hernández-Ojeda uses performance autoethnography to decolonize academia and critically examine her experiences of oppression and resistance as an “in-betweener”: as queer, cisgender, woman of color, diasporic scholar, and colonizer/colonized. Her current projects focus on decolonizing the Canary Islands, her homeland, from a feminist and intersectional perspective, and on youth bullying as discourse in the United States. Previously, Dr. Hernández-Ojeda launched a social entrepreneurship project, ALesWay, that offered empowering leisure for lesbian and bisexual women in Spain, and served as Coordinator of Lesbian Issues and Board Member at the Spanish Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (FELGTB) in Madrid. More recently, as Coordinator of Faculty at Centro Universitario Internacional/ Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Seville, she supervised academic matters, coordinated 40 professors teaching more than 400 international students, and facilitated faculty's transition to emergency remote teaching. Dr. Hernández-Ojeda is the recipient of a Top Paper Award from the Activism and Social Justice Division of NCA, and she has published her work in the International Review of Qualitative Research, and in the anthologies, Cultura, Homosexualidad y Homofobia, and Feminismos Lesbianos y Queer: Representación, Visibilidad y Políticas. 


Alexander B. Joy, Ph.D. 

Dr. Joy holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, and has taught classes in literature, composition, philosophy, and film throughout his academic career. His research has examined methods of self-representation in autobiographical films by Hollis Frampton, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Mercedes Álvarez. He has presented his work at the annual meetings of the American Comparative Literature Association and the Northeast Modern Language Association. Joy’s writing has appeared in a number of popular and academic venues, including Medium, The Atlantic, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Philosophy Now, Juxtapositions, and Evental Aesthetics. He is also an avid short-form poet, having published more than 130 poems in journals 15 such as Modern Haiku, Tinywords, Mayfly, Acorn, bottle rockets, The Heron’s Nest, and many others. Joy’s poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and shortlisted for the Haiku Foundation’s Touchstone Award for Individual Poem. He has previously worked as a technical writer and editor in the engineering and technology industries, and is currently a curriculum editor in his native New Hampshire. 


Gyuri Kepes, Ph.D. 

Dr. Kepes is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Landmark College in Putney, Vermont, where he teaches courses in media production, crisis communication, and interpersonal communication, and directs MiniLab, a center for digital storytelling. His most recent research has focused on racialized patterns of representation in the coverage of the opioid crisis in the Merrimack Valley region of New England. Previously, Kepes’ research brought him to Dhaka, Bangladesh, where he studied the educational uses of public computer kiosks by economically disadvantaged urban youth. His wide-ranging work has been presented at numerous professional conferences and was recently published in the edited volume, The Praxis of Social Inequality in Media: A Global Perspective. Kepes has also taught undergraduate courses in film, writing, mass communication, and public speaking at several institutions of higher learning, including the University of Hartford, UMass Amherst, Westfield State University, as well as the Connecticut prison system. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his seven-year old daughter.

Previous Spring 2021 Speakers

Headshot of Sejal Shah, a woman with long brown hair and brown eyes.
Sejal Shah—This is One Way to Dance
Tuesday, February 23, 7 p.m. ET
Watch this presentation

Reading from her recent memoir in which she “brings important, refreshing, and depressing observations about what it means to have dark skin and an 'exotic' name, when the only country you've ever lived in is America” (Toll, NPR), Shah shared her experience moving through place and time, reflecting on identity, race, and the challenges of finding voice as a woman of color in America.  Sejal also brought the perspective of neurodiversity to her experience and touched on the relationship between mental health and academia.  

Sejal Shah is the author of This Is One Way to Dance (University of Georgia Press, June 2020). Her work explores race, place, belonging, and what it means to be Brown and South Asian American in a country that sees race in Black and White. Her stories and essays have appeared widely in print and online—including Brevity, Guernica, Conjunctions, the Kenyon Review, and Longreads. She has presented her work on invisible disability and neurodiversity as an invited keynote speaker at conferences at Princeton University (2019) and the University of North Carolina (2020). Sejal recently completed a story collection and is at work on a memoir about mental health. The daughter of immigrants from India and Kenya, Sejal lives in Rochester, New York. Visit to learn more and purchase her book.

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