Pitts Center Events – Asbury University
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Pitts Center Events

Check out some of the previous events hosted by the Pitts Center!

February 23, 2024

David French

Asbury University’s Journalism Department and the Joe Pitts Center for Public Policy hosted David French for a series of events on Feb. 23, 2024. French is an author, professor, New York Times columnist, and co-teacher of a new online course by Redeeming Babel called The After Party: Toward Better Christian Politics.

French visited campus for Chapel for the ‘Faith & Culture Series’ on February 23, followed by a talkback for students at 3 p.m. in the Miller Screening Room and an evening event at 7 p.m. that was open to the public in the Walt and Rowena Shaw Collaborative Learning Center.


December 5, 2023

Aida Kasymaileva, Kyrgyz Republic

During a break in finals week, seven AU students joined Dr. Stephen Clements in the Pitts Center office in Kinlaw Library to participate in a Zoom session to hear a speech by Aida Kasymaileva, Ambassador to the United Nations from the Kyrgyz Republic.  The speech was held at Utah Valley University in celebration of International Mountain Day, and was organized in part by Dr. Baktabek Abdrisaev, former ambassador of the Kyrgyz Republic, who attended the Fall 2018 Ambassadors Roundtable event at Asbury University.  Former Congressman Joe Pitts, sponsor of the Pitts Center (and Asbury University Board of Trustees member), also participated in the event via Zoom.  International Mountain Day honors an a program of the United Nations dedicated to enabling more sustainable economic growth and development in parts of the world with significant mountainous regions.  UVU has been a participant in this initiative, given its location, as has the Kyrgyz Republic.


November 14, 2023

Dr. Patrick J. Deneen, Notre Dame University

On Tuesday during the lunch hour, the Pitts Center sponsored an invitational event, as opposed to a plenary talk open to the public.  During that time, nearly 20 AU faculty members, and about a half dozen political science majors, were treated to lunch in Kinlaw Boardroom, and had the chance to listen to a talk, and engage in Q&A, featuring Dr. Patrick J. Deneen, a political philosophy professor from Notre Dame University, who has written extensively about the current “post liberal era” in US politics.  Deneen was in central Kentucky for a talk the previous evening at the C.S. Lewis House, the Catholic center on religious and civic affairs near the University of Kentucky, and had enough extra time in his visit to include Asbury’s event as well.  Deneen’s talk was stimulating and provoked numerous questions from those who were able to attend.


November 7-8, 2023

Dr. John Inazu, Washington University

Asbury’s Joe Pitts Center for Public Policy was pleased to join with the Office of Intercultural Affairs in sponsoring this November’s EMBRACE Conference, featuring Dr. John Inazu, a noted scholar of politics and religion from Washington University’s school of law in St. Louis.  On Tuesday, Inazu spoke at several events, including an afternoon session moderated by Dr. Dan Strait, that focused on how liberal arts education can contribute to civil discourse and the “confident pluralism” Inazu has discussed in one of his books, and an evening session, moderated by Dr. Steve Clements, that focused more on our polarized political environment in the US, and how we can foster goodwill and tolerance in our current context.  On Wednesday morning, November 8th, Inazu spoke in chapel, in a message that combined all of these elements. 


September 26, 2023

Abbie Wood, University of Kentucky

On Tuesday afternoon the 26th, UK doctoral student Abbie Wood presented to Asbury students, faculty, and staff on her research on the US Supreme Court.  Wood’s dissertation project has to do with so-called public-facing statements by members of the Supreme Court—speeches, lectures, articles, conference remarks, or anything outside of Court opinions—over the past two decades, and how these affect our understanding of Court jurisprudence and politics.  Following her plenary talk in Kinlaw Library Boardroom, a smaller group of students and faculty joined Abbie at Windsor Manor for a dinner and a fireside chat.


October 5, 2022

Dr. Paul Miller, Georgetown University

The Kinlaw Boardroom was packed to capacity on Wednesday afternoon, with students, faculty, staff and community members present to hear Dr. Paul Miller of Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  Miller summarized the main arguments from his recent book, The Religion of American Greatness: What’s Wrong with Christian Nationalism, a volume that has gotten a substantial amount of attention in major national media outlets and podcasts.  Miller’s talk—originally scheduled for January of 2022 but rescheduled due to travel difficulties—was the second Pitts Center event to be co-sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, DC.  Though Miller is an academic, with both an MA and a PhD in international relations from Georgetown University, he has also spent much of his career in the US military, having been both deployed for a time in Afghanistan, and having served as a national security advisor on Afghanistan-related matters to both the Bush 43 and Obama administrations.  Following Dr. Miller’s presentation, a group of students and faculty had an opportunity to visit with him informally over dinner and a fireside chat at Windsor Manor.


April 19, 2022

Dr. Alexander Negrov

This afternoon the Pitts Center was happy to partner with Dr. Skip Elliott, retired AU history professor and scholar of Russia and Eastern Europe, to host Dr. Alexander Negrov, speaking on “Putin’s War Against Ukraine: The Perspective of a Crimean/St. Petersburg Immigrant.”  Dr. Negrov, an academic theologian and former President of St. Petersburg Christian University, emigrated to the US and is now based in the Pacific northwest.  Negrov was on a research and speaking tour of the eastern US, and we were honored to have him appear on our campus, to discuss recent developments in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began in February of this year (although its initial phase was an invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014). 


March and April, 2022 (various dates)

Thanks to a small grant from the CCCU, this Spring the Pitts Center is partnering with AU’s Office of Intercultural Affairs to offer a series of presentations on “Biblically Informed Views of Immigration.”  These include:

  • March 25, 12-1 pm, Dr. Steve Clements on “Immigration in America: The Policy, Political, and Cultural Landscape of a Contemporary Nation-State.”
  • March 30, 12-1 pm, Medeline Black AU/ATS Student Panel Discussion on immigration.
  • April 6, 4-5 pm, Dr. Esther Jadhav, “Word and Deed: Biblical Teachings on Immigration.”
  • April 11, 12-1 pm, Dr. Henry Zonio, “Immigration Attitudes Among Evangelical Christians and Other Groups.”
  • April 20, 12-1 pm, Dr. Glenn Harden, “Immigration and Human Trafficking.”

March 28, 2022

Dr. Catherine Wanner, Penn State University

This afternoon Asbury University’s Pitts Center for Public Policy sponsored a talk by Dr. Catherine Wanner, of Penn State University, on “The Weaponization of Religion after Russia’s Invasion of the Ukraine.”  Wanner, a long time professor History and Cultural Anthroplogy, has studied religion and public life in the Ukraine, has made numerous trips to the region, and has published several book on these topics.  She is currently interested in how the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine has broken into two networks of churches, with one loyal to the leader of the church in Russia, and the other loyal to church leaders in the Ukraine itself.  Attitudes toward the conflict vary across Ukraine in part due to these religious loyalties, which are taking place technically within the context of a single church organization.  Dr. Wanner’s visit to Wilmore was arranged by Dr. Skip Elliott, came in conjunction with her giving a version of her same talk the previous day at the University of Kentucky, and was also co-sponsored by the Provost’s Office of Asbury Theological Seminary.  This Pitts event, held in the Luce Auditorium of the Shaw Collaborative Learning Center, involved an unusually large turnout of members of the larger Wilmore community.


February 24, 2022

Dr. Miroslav Volf, Yale Divinity School

For February of 2022, the Pitts Center collaborated with Asbury University’s Office of Intercultural Affairs and the University Chapel Office, to sponsor a visit to campus by noted Yale Divinity School theologian and scholar Dr. Miroslav Volf.  On Thursday afternoon, February 24, nearly 100 students, faculty, and members of the ATS and Wilmore communities, assembled in Bennett-Bernard auditorium in Morrison Hall to hear Wolf lecture on loving those who treat us with spite or disdain.  Having been raised in eastern Europe during the communist era, Volf’s spiritual and personal formation was forged in a crucible of ethnic and religious hatreds that had torn his homeland asunder for centuries.  Bringing a healthy Christian theological perspective to this state of affairs has been a significant portion of his life’s work.  As part of his visit to campus, Volf also spoke in Asbury’s chapel service on Friday, February 25.


November 17, 2021

Dr. Kim Stoltzfus, University of Kentucky Lewis Honors College

The final Pitts Center student event of the Fall semester featured a dinner and after-dinner presentation at the Francis Asbury Society conference room featuring Dr. Kim Stoltzfus, adjunct faculty member at the University of Kentucky Lewis Honors College, presenting on “30 Years of the WWW:  What Hath It Wrought?”  (This event was originally scheduled for April of 2020 but cancelled due to COVID, and this was our first opportunity since that time to bring Dr. Stoltzfus to our campus.)  Dr. Stoltzfus brought to her discussion a broad background in the field, having been a consultant in computer science for various private sector companies and the US Office of Technology Policy in Washington, DC.  After having worked directly in the technology field, Stoltzfus earned a PhD in Organizational Communication and Behavioral Science from UC-Santa Barbara, and then served as a faculty member at Pepperdine University and later UK’s College of Communications. 


October 20, 2021

Dr. Mark LiVecche, US Naval Academy

This afternoon the Pitts Center welcomed to campus Dr. Mark LiVecche, currently a visiting fellow at the US Naval Academy, for a talk co-sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy (in Washington, DC).  Entitled “Christian Realism and US Involvement in Afghanistan,” LiVecche’s presentation focused primarily on an articulation of the concept of Christian realism, an idea being explored extensively in various IRD publications, and then the concept was applied to the US’s long-term involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan, which began within a few weeks after the 9/11 attacks on the US in New York and Washington, DC.  Joining AU students, faculty, and staff for this discussion was Mark Tooley, executive director of IRD in Washington, who helped introduce LiVecche.  The IRD has received funding to collaborate with CCCU institutions such as AU for a speaker series, and LiVecche’s presentation was the first in what is envisioned as an annual collaborative event on AU’s campus.  Following the presentation, a group of students and faculty joined LiVecche and Tooley for a dinner and information conversation.


September 22, 2021

Prof. Glenn Harden

 The Pitts Center kicked off its Fall 2021 programming today with a presentation by Asbury University Lecturer in Political Science Glenn Harden, entitled “US Foreign Policy and Human Trafficking:  The Pursuit of Justice?”  This is the subject of Harden’s PhD dissertation in the Political Science Department at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, which he is about to defend before his dissertation committee.  Harden spent numerous years in the Dominican Republic, where he worked with trafficking survivors, and which in turn spurred him to write his 2016 book entitled The Sex Trade, Evil, and Christian Theology.”  Harden’s presentation today was based on his quantitative analysis of the extensive data on trafficking collected over the previous two decades by various international agencies, to determine if specific anti-trafficking policies by certain countries actually impact global rates of human trafficking.  Following the talk a group of students and faculty members shared dinner at Windsor Manor, and then a Q&A with Harden about his trafficking work and other interests.


April 8, 2021

Dr. Homer Pointer, Oklahoma City University

Within two weeks after our early March 2020 Pitts Center talk, the advent of the COVID pandemic led Asbury University to join most other institutions nationwide to send students home for spring break, and to finish the spring semester with students online.  Asbury brought students back to campus for Fall 2020, but COVID restrictions on social distancing and travel prompted Pitts Center public events to go on hiatus for nearly a year.  This afternoon, programming restarted with a Zoom-based presentation by Asbury alumnus Homer Pointer, who currently teaches law at Oklahoma City University, where he also serves as a senior fellow at that University’s Murrah Center on Homeland Security Law and Policy.  Before coming to his current position, Pointer had a long legal career—following his graduation from the University of Texas School of Law—serving in the Navy JAG Corps, with the Naval Academy, in the FBI, and with the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.  He spoke in his Zoom session on the topic of “Law, Policy, and Targeted Killing,” which draws heavily on the FISA period of his career. 


March 2, 2020

Dr. Tricia Posey, John Brown University

Asbury University’s Pitts Center was pleased to welcome to campus today Dr. Tricia Posey, professor of history at John Brown University, where she also serves as director of their Honors Program.  In the afternoon, Dr. Posey made a public presentation in the Kinlaw Boardroom entitled “Lament and Memory in American History,” based on a recent scholarly article she had published with a similar title.  Following the presentation, she took part in a dinner with students and faculty at Windsor Manor, followed by a fireside chat.  Before returning to her campus in Arkansas, Dr. Posey met the following day with Dr. Paul Nesselroade’s Honors Program Advisory Committee of faculty members to discuss the unfolding plans for AU’s own Honors Program, which launched—thanks to donor support—in the fall semester of 2021 with some 38 incoming students.


February 5, 2020

Dr. George C. Wright, University of Kentucky

This evening the Pitts Center welcomed to Windsor Manor Dr. George C. Wright, visiting scholar at the University of Kentucky and recently retired president of Prairie View A&M University in Texas, to discuss his work and career.  Following a dinner with students and faculty in Windsor’s large dining area, Dr. Wright, a historian by training (with a PhD in history from Duke University), gave a presentation about his scholarship, which includes several books and numerous articles on race, lynching, and the pursuit of racial justice in Kentucky, and also discussed his move into academic administration, which included his work as dean, provost, and then president at various universities. 


November 15, 2019

Lyman Stone

This evening the Pitts Center hosted its final speaker event of the fall semester, a dinner and presentation featuring independent scholar—and Wilmore native—Lyman Stone.  A prolific blogger with Demographic Intelligence, Stone presented a talk on “Millennials and Capitalism,” to over two dozen AU students, faculty, and staff members, as well as numerous community members familiar with Stone’s work.  The talk fostered vigorous debate over the shifting political views of different cohorts of people within the American population, and about the distribution of resources and power across those groups.  Given the hectic schedule of events on campus, this Pitts program was held off campus, in the ground floor facilities of the Francis Asbury Society offices.  In addition, this program was co-sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute’s Values and Capitalism project, which helped underwrite the cost of the event.


October 14, 2019

Marissa Castellanos

The topic of human trafficking has been an ongoing concern of many Asbury University students, and this fall the Pitts Center sponsored a talk, in the Kinlaw Boardroom, by Marissa Castellanos, who deals with this issue on a day-to-day basis.  Specifically, Castellanos directs the Bakhita Empowerment Initiative, which is the human trafficking program of the Catholic Charities of Louisville, Kentucky.  A social worker by training, Castellanos helped found this program in 2008, and has been helping build the Initiative since then.  She also serves on both state and national level organizations that focus on human trafficking.  After her public presentation, she participated in a dinner and fireside chat with students and faculty at Windsor Manor, which also included Glenn Harden, Lecturer in Political Science at Asbury, and Michelle Harrison of the Central Kentucky Refuge for Women.


September 10, 2019

Dr. Mark Hall, George Fox University

In October of 2019, George Fox University political scientist Dr. Mark Hall published

Did America Have a Christian Founding? Separating Modern Myth from Historical Truth.  Leading up to the book’s release, Hall was on sabbatical and giving lectures on the volume in various venues in the eastern half of the country.  On September 10, he came to Asbury’s campus, where he summarized the book for students, faculty, and community members in a Pitts-sponsored event in the Miller Center screening room.  Following the public talk, Hall had dinner with a select group of faculty and students at Windsor Manor, and then engaged with all in a fireside chat in Windsor’s great room.

April 4, 2019

Dr. Elizabeth Corey, Baylor University

Asbury’s Pitts Center was pleased to host Baylor University political science professor Dr. Elizabeth Corey, for an afternoon talk on “politics, worldly achievement & the Christian Life,” followed by a dinner and fireside chat at Windsor Manor with Asbury students.  Dr. Corey is the Director of Baylor University’s Honors Program, and teaches various “great texts” courses within that division.  She is also serving during 2018-19 as a fellow in the American Enterprise Institute’s Values and Capitalism program, and AEI helped underwrite the costs of her visit to Asbury’s campus in Kentucky.  During the fireside chat, Dr. Corey was particularly interested in hearing how Asbury’s foundations curriculum provided a liberal arts grounding for our students.


February 18, 2019

David Iglesias, Wheaton College

Asbury University’s Pitts Center hosted a presentation in Jameson Recital Hall by David Iglesias, director of the Wheaton Center on Faith, Politics, and Economics.  Iglesias grew up in Panama in a multi-cultural missions family, graduated from Wheaton College in 1980, then attended law school.  After graduating from law school, he served in the US Army’s JAG Corps as an Officer, and in the 1994-95 cycle he was a White House Fellow.  During his years in the military, he dealt with issues of border security, counter-terrorism, and intelligence.  In recent years he has served as a faculty member in politics and law at Wheaton, and the center he directs there offers programming on that campus similar to what the Pitts Center provides at this University.


November 27, 2018

Amy Wickliffe, Colmon Elridge, Dr. Tom Martin

This evening the Pitts Center sponsored a panel discussion on the 2018 fall election cycle, held in the Miller Center screening room.  Dr. Clements moderated the conversation, which included three guests.  Amy Wickliffe is a Republican campaign strategist and lobbyist, who has held positions in the Ernie Fletcher administration and with the state Republican Party.  Colmon Elridge played senior roles during both terms of Gov. Steve Beshear’s Democratic gubernatorial administration in Frankfort.  And Dr. Tom Martin is serving as executive director of Eastern Kentucy University’s Center for Economic Development, Entrepreneurship, and Technology.


October 23, 2018

Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, Mouloud Said, Rep. Joe Pitts

The Pitts Center hosted an afternoon panel “roundtable” discussion, in the Jameson Recital Hall space, featuring current and former ambassadors from far-flung regions of the globe.  One guest was Dr. Baktybek Abdrisaev, who served for several years as ambassador from the Kyrghyz Republic.  Since leaving his ambassadorial role, he has served as a professor of international relations and politics at Utah Valley University.  Another guest was Mouloud Said, ambassador from Western Sahara to both the United States and to the United Nations.  The panel conversation was moderated by former Rep. Joe Pitts himself, the sponsor of the Pitts Center.  These individuals, as well as other ambassadors (and their families), were part of a hospitality outreach program offered by Congressman Pitts during his years in Washington, DC, and they continue to interact periodically to maintain their friendships and to offer spiritual support to one another.


October 1, 2018

Sen. Tom Buford, Dr. Carolyn Dupont

Heading into the fall 2018 mid-term elections, the Pitts Center hosted in the AU Student Center a debate between two candidates for Kentucky’s 22nd District Senate seat.  Representing the Republican Party was long-time incumbent Sen. Tom Buford, from Nicholasville.  Opposing him for the Democratic Party was Dr. Carolyn Dupont, a resident of eastern Jessamine County and a history professor at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond. The two candidates spent an hour and a half debating an array of issues of concern to area voters, including education, religious liberty, and abortion.  The event was moderated by Dr. Gary Cox, of Lawrenceburg, President of the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities in Frankfort.


September 26, 2018

Kentucky Court of Appeals

The Pitts Center hosted a three judge panel of the Kentucky Court of Appeals, in the University’s Kinlaw Library Boardroom, where a packed roomful of students and community members heard several hours worth of oral arguments on a range of cases.  Though the judges from this Court typically hear cases in their home chambers in Frankfort, they will periodically travel to area venues so that members of the public can have easier exposure to the judicial process in action.  The three judges who attended—Glenn Acree, Rob Johnson, and Gene Smallwood—all took time to discuss their backgrounds and careers, and to answer questions from the audiences, during breaks in the proceedings.  This event provided a marvelous opportunity for students potentially interested in a legal career to witness attorneys presenting cases and answering questions of law, procedure, precedent, and facts.


April 2018

The Opioid Problem Conference was the first event held at the Pitts Center. Read More