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UMPI alum serves as next Distinguished lecturer

The University of Maine at Presque Isle will host Dr. Theodore C. Van Alst Jr.—author, UMPI alumnus, and Associate Professor and Director of Indigenous Nations Studies at Portland State University in Oregon—as the first guest speaker in its 2019-2020 Libra Distinguished Lecture Series on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. in the Campus Center. The theme of this year’s LDLS series is Dirigo. During his talk, Matters of Place, Dr. Van Alst will discuss the importance of place and authority in voice and word, and read from his latest book Sacred Smokes. The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Whether in a potato house or the Ivy League, a sense of self and understanding of people is crucial to one’s growth and development. Having been in both, Dr. Van Alst will share insights and stories from a journey that “thankfully began at UMPI.”

In addition to his other academic work, Dr. Van Alst is co-editor and Creative Editor for Transmotion (an open-access journal of postmodern indigenous studies). His novel in stories about growing up in Chicago, Sacred Smokes, already in its second printing, was published in 2018 by the University of New Mexico Press, which also published his edited volume The Faster Redder Road: The Best UnAmerican Stories of Stephen Graham Jones. He is a chapter contributor for collections such as Seeing Red: Hollywood’s Pixelated Skins, and Visualities: Perspectives on Contemporary American Indian Film and Art, both from Michigan State University Press, as well as The Routledge Companion to Native American Literature. His fiction, essays, and photography have been published widely.

Dr. Van Alst has served as a grant reviewer for the National Geographic Society and as a consultant for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. He also has delivered presentations and lectures at venues from the New York University School of Law to Princeton University.

Prior to his time at Portland State University, Dr. Van Alst was at the University of Montana, where he chaired the Native American Studies department. He previously served as Assistant Dean of Yale College and Director of its Native American Cultural Center.

Dr. Van Alst’s talk is one of the activities connected with Voices in the North Country, UMPI’s writer’s symposium, which makes its return after nearly 20 years on Sept. 26 in the UMPI Campus Center. The symposium will focus on the theme Writing What You Know, with activities from 1:30-4 p.m.—including readings by local students and published writers and a panel discussion and Q&A with Maine writers—and Dr. Van Alst’s talk at 7 p.m. Designed for writers, literature lovers, and general enthusiasts, Voices in the North Country is an event that allows participants to hone their writing craft, meet fellow writers, and celebrate good writing.

The University’s Libra Distinguished Lecture Series was established in 1999. Each year, the LDLS Committee sponsors four to six speakers who come from Maine and beyond, representing a range of disciplines and viewpoints. While the emphasis tends to be on featuring visiting academics, it is not exclusively so. The speakers typically spend two days at the University meeting with classes and presenting a community lecture.

UMPI welcomes the campus and community to hear Dr. Van Alst speak on Sept. 26. For more information about this event, contact Lisa Smith at 207-768- 9525 or email lisa.m.smith@maine.edu.