Smile Politely

Get your Culture here: U of I Campus edition

An aerial view of the U of I Campus, with the main quad and Illini Union in the center.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign website

This month is an homage to the cultural offerings of the University of Illinois. As an official townie (I’ve been here for more that 20 years post graduation so yeah, that’s me), I have a great appreciation for the richness the University adds to our twin cities. I have tried, in raising my kids here, to take advantage of its cultural institutions and programming, though I feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface.

The academic year creates an ebb and flow of activity level in our community, as our population swells and shrinks. This month, we will experience both ends of the spectrum as Spring Break approaches. It’s a great opportunity to experience the U of I campus in its fullness, perhaps by checking out my suggestions below (all of which are free!), as well as in its quietness as students vacate for a week. That’s the time to frequent campus restaurants ( maybe the line at Raising Cane’s won’t be so long, and the empty seats at Sakanaya will be more plentiful) and take a stroll or a bike ride around the Quad. 

A large brown horseshoe crab with a hard exoskeleton and spiky tail sits on a gravelly surface.
Insect Fear Film Festival on Facebook

Spend some time with living fossils

We have a renowned entomology department at the University, and much of that renown can be attributed to May Berenbaum, head of the Entomology Department. She has achieved much in the field, including being awarded the National Medal of Science by Barack Obama. She also founded the Insect Fear Film Festival 40 years ago. The annual festival addresses our culture’s “ick” factor surrounding insects, by showing films and television shows that portray them as monsters. They counter this narrative with interactive displays, crafts, insect petting zoos, and more. Each year is themed, and this year’s theme is Living Fossils. You’ll learn about creatures that are very closely related to now-extinct species. The event, hosted by the Entomology Graduate Student Association, takes place on March 4th at Foellinger Auditorium. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and the films will began at 7:30 p.m. This year’s special guest is Jacob Lenard, creator of Pike’s Lagoon animated series. He’ll be doing a Q&A beginning at 6 p.m. at Foellinger, as well as a meet and greet brunch the following day at 11 a.m. in 407 Morrill Hall. 

Graphic with a black and white photo of a young Japanese girl in a hat and coat, next to a man in a military uniform.
Spurlock Museum website

Learn about Executive Order 9066

On March 7th, at 7 p.m., Spurlock Museum will be showing the documentary Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066, which looks at the order that authorized the relocation and incarceration of more than 100,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. Part of the museum’s AsiaLENS Film Series, it’s being shown in conjunction with the Nikkeijin Illinois exhibit, a comprehensive look at how students and faculty at U of I were affected by the policies of that time. Jason Finkelman, curator of the exhibit and of the AsiaLENS series, will be on hand for a post-screening discussion. Even if you aren’t able to make the screening, be sure to spend some time exploring and absorbing the exhibit, which will be on display through December. 

Graphic with a blue background and white box with an orange order that says "International Women's Day, 12 Women Who Changed the Word" Next to it is a photo grid of 12 headshots.
Humanties Research Institute on Facebook

Celebrate International Women’s Day

Each year, Humanities Research Institute and The Women and Gender in Global Perspectives Program host an International Women’s Day event, where 12 speakers from the University and the community share the stories of women in their discipline who have made a significant impact. The event will feature an impressive group of speakers, including Charlotte Davidson, Director of Native American House; Venetria Patton, Harry E. Preble Dean of LAS; Ollie Watts Davis, Suzanne and William Allen Distinguished Professor of Music, Jaya Kolisetty, Director of R.A.C.E.S. and more. The event is on March 8th, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., on the third floor of Levis Faculty Center.

Two very large tesla coils with purple colored light reaching between them.
Engineering Open House on Facebook

Immerse yourself in science-y things

On March 31st and April 1st, the Engineering campus at U of I will be teeming with hands-on activities, demonstrations, and researchers ready to talk to you about the work that they do. The Engineering Open House, and simultaneously occurring Beckman Institute Open House, happen each year at the end of March, and they are really premier annual events. Look, I cannot even begin to understand the depth of knowledge, and the extent of the research that exists within those buildings on the north end of campus, but I am glad that it is happening, and I am happy to take a gander at some really cool things. For the EOH, the Tesla Coil concert is always a highlight. You can also expect a fire demo, Oobleck pool, solar cars, and a coffee serving robot. 

At the Beckman Institute Open House you can virtually play with DNA, see the first MRI scanner, operate a microscope, do a scavenger hunt, and more. A main goal of the event is to get people from the community into the building, comfortable in the space, and present the work that happens there in a fun and accessible way. 

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