ORIAS Speakers Bureau

Speakers Bureau

What is the ORIAS Speakers Bureau?

The ORIAS Speakers Bureau is a cohort of graduate students who offer 45-minute interactive presentations specifically geared to students from middle school to community college. Each presentation models important skills, such as analysis of texts and use of evidence to build an argument, while also while building global competence. Most presentations are appropriate for multiple grade levels and subjects because they address broad questions while focusing on specific events and topics.


"Diaries of the Night" from Nazi Germany

Speaker: Sloane Nilsen

How can dreams inform us about history?

In 1966, German-Jewish journalist Charlotte Beradt released her magnum opus "The Third Reich of Dreams," a slim book containing over a hundred nightmares she had collected from ordinary Germans who lived in Berlin during the first six years of the Nazi dictatorship (1933-1939). What they demonstrate is a persistent political climate of anxiety and fear that could follow city residents under threat of...

Aesthetics of Geopolitics: Art and Politics of Crisis at the Front Lines of the Taiwan Strait

Speaker: Chris Chan

What is the relation between art and war?

Taiwan and the islands in the Taiwan Strait have increasingly become the locus of heightening geopolitical tensions in the world and the site of a cultural and psychological contestation of the region’s uncertain future. This talk examines how artists, politicians and everyday villagers are mobilized at the front lines of China’s maritime border with Taiwanese-administered islands. Students will be introduced to a...

At Home in the World: Nature Writing through Climate Crises

Speaker: Coryna Ogunseitan

How can we explore our feelings about climate change through creative writing?

As environmental crisis escalates, creative writers across genres are increasingly centering feelings related to climate change in their work. Reading this literature can help us access our feelings of grief or anxiety related to the climate crisis, and can illuminate the ways in which poets guide the way for us to reshape our relationship with the natural world to be one of...

Building the Nation, Building History: Monuments as Tools of Nation-Building in Twentieth-Century Europe

Speaker: Blaze Joel

How do states and ethnic groups use monuments as tools of unity and division in the aftermath of conflict?

All states seek to create a national identity to strengthen their domestic legitimacy. This is especially the case when a state and/or ethnic group undergoes a crisis moment that challenges its national narrative or sense of self. A central way in which nations do this is by commemorating national traumas. Memorials and monuments help to standardize, valorize...

China's Social Credit System: A Case Study in Misinformation

Speaker: Junius Brown

How does China’s “Social Credit System” actually work, and why is there so much misinformation about it?

For the last few years, the internet has been flooded with chilling stories about China’s social credit system. Bloggers, YouTubers, and even seemingly reputable news sources portray a high-tech dystopia in which AI and facial-recognition cameras track citizens’ every move to create a numerical loyalty rating that brings life-changing rewards and...

Climate Justice for U.S. Territories: Islands and Communities

Speaker: Kieren Rudge

How is climate change impacting island territories and how are people responding to those impacts?

As international organizations, national governments, and private entities race to limit emissions and reduce climate change impacts, small island developing states (SIDS) face disproportionately high levels of risk. This is a clear issue of environmental injustice, as these islands are among the lowest producers of greenhouse gasses but are burdened with the greatest impacts. The United...

Contemporary Memory Wars: Lessons for the United States from Eastern Europe

Speaker: Pawel Koscielny

What lessons can we learn from conflicts over monuments in post-communist Germany, Poland, Czechia, and Hungary?

Fights over Civil War monuments in the US have forced Americans to face and try to work through painful, controversial, and profoundly divisive aspects of their collective past. At the same time, history appears increasingly central to public life, with calls to make the nation great again from the Right and to institute a 'Green New Deal' from the Left. Young people may struggle to...

Courage and the Fight for Democracy in Hong Kong

Speaker: Alex Chow

What is the role of courage in the experiences of democracy protesters in Hong Kong?

Note: This presentation is possible in a 45-minute period but would benefit from a longer class period.

When students read about past social movements, they are able to assess historical actors’ choices and strategies with the benefit of hindsight. But people working for political or social change do not have this vantage point...

Farming for the Future: What should modern agriculture look like?

Speaker: Miguel Ochoa

How can we make the world a better place through food?

Agriculture is over 12,000 years old and forms the foundation of modern civilization. It is not one singular advancement, but rather many technological innovations built on top of each other. Yet while many of these technologies have helped humans produce staggering amounts of food, they have also brought new issues with them, such as soil degradation, excessive fossil fuel use, unhealthy diets, water...

Fire the Monster, the Teacher, the Gift

Speaker: Ghaleb Attrache

How do we become friends of fire in a society that mostly teaches us to fear it?

"Fire the Monster, the Teacher, the Gift" is adapted from Ghaleb's dissertation project on fire management and intentional burning practices in California. The dissertation explores the different ways that, through burning, fire practitioners from governmental, non-governmental, and tribal backgrounds understand and engage with fire as a living being, and how these
understandings inform...

Jewish and Muslim Coexistence in Morocco

Speaker: Leo Franks

How did Jews and Muslims coexist in Morocco?

This talk gently introduces students to Jews and Muslims in nineteenth-century Morocco. It explores how we can understand their coexistence. It introduces the topic of Jews' and Muslims' Moroccan coexistence to students through a series of interactive exercises. These exercises focus on encouraging students to understand the concept of coexistence. The exercises will teach them how to approach this word, which...

Poems and Policies of Transnational Labor Migration

Speaker: Jenny Silver

How can different kinds of text analysis help us understand a complex social issue?

This talk looks at the experiences of transnational labor migrants in Southeast Asia through the lens of contemporary poetry written by domestic workers in Singapore. Students will use two primary texts to explore a critical question in the history of Singapore’s migration policy: whether it is necessary, reasonable, or ethical to require that domestic workers pass a test to prove English proficiency. First, we will read an excerpted...

Preserving Nature’s Gifts Without Making the World More Unequal

Speaker: Sayantan (Sunny) Mitra

How can we mitigate climate change while also keeping in mind the inequalities that climate change has made worse?

On one hand, the negative effects of frequent extreme weather events brought about by climate change are being felt by people around the world. On the other hand, human activities that contribute to the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere show no signs of stopping. While mitigation efforts to decrease our CO2 emissions are...

The "Dark Side" of AI: Technological Oppression in the Modern Era

Speaker: Lauren Chambers

How do we identify, understand, and resist the negative implications of widespread adoption of artificial intelligence?

As hype and excitement grows around algorithmic technologies and artificial intelligence, it's more important than ever to understand the broad impacts that AI can have on our society. Especially when governments adopt harmful technologies, or use technology in inappropriate ways, the scale of harm can be massive. Indeed, from facial...

Trust, Lies, and Misinformation

Speaker: Hannah DeBrine

When should we tell the truth? When should we believe someone?

Citizens today are subject to a wide variety of misinformation. But despite the risks, we can't get by without trusting other people. How can we deal with misinformation? In whom should we place our trust?

This lesson will introduce some basic concepts from epistemology (the theory of knowledge), with a focus on feminist epistemology, in an effort to give students some...

What can an Abandoned Village in Cyprus Tell us about Religion and Coexistence?

Speaker: Aliosha Pittaka Bielenberg

What can the ruins of Agios Sozomenos tell us about how people live together across differences?

This talk focuses on Agios Sozomenos, an abandoned village near Nicosia, the capital of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, which has a many-layered past and complexly resonating present. The Greek and Turkish Cypriot inhabitants of Agios Sozomenos fled after intercommunal violence on 6 February 1964. Independence from Britain in 1960 had not secured lasting peace and stability, as was made clear by the...


How do I request a speaker?

At the end of each presentation description you'll see a link that says "Invite [Speaker Name] to Speak." Click the link and fill out the required information. Your request will be sent to the speaker(s) you request via email and scheduling will be dependent upon speakers' personal availability and transportation. For best results, please try to schedule several weeks in advance. You must submit a separate request for each individual speaker.

How much does it cost to bring a speaker to class?

Presentations are currently FREE to schools, though speakers are paid for each engagement. The ORIAS Speakers Bureau is generously funded by the following offices: 

California Global Education Project

Center for African Studies

Center for Latin American Studies

Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Center for Southeast Asia Studies

Institute of East Asian Studies

Institute of European Studies

Institute of Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies

My school is not close to Berkeley. Will speakers visit my classroom?

Each speaker will answer this question differently, depending on their own transportation options and schedule. They may be more likely to make a longer trip if you are inviting them to speak to multiple class sections and/or if you are able to help them with transportation (e.g. picking them up from the closest BART station). It is possible to request a virtual visit, but please be aware that presentations were created with in-person interaction in mind.

What are the teacher's responsibilities?

ORIAS asks three things of teachers who engage speakers.

(1) Help the speaker work with your class.

Give the speaker a sense of class size, composition, and atmosphere. Let speakers know about presentation-related technology and be ready to copy paper materials ahead of time, if applicable to the presentation. If your class period is longer or shorter than 50 minutes, let speakers know so that they can adjust accordingly. Last, please work as partners with them, remaining in the room at all times and helping with classroom management as appropriate.

(2) Prepare your class to engage with the speaker.

Some talks require a bit of pre-teaching of vocabulary or concepts, while others simply require guidance about behavioral expectations. All talks include some element of student engagement, so please let your class know that speakers will appreciate positive participation. If you feel a talk will be challenging for your students, please help set their expectations appropriately.

(3) Complete the short post-presentation review.

After a speaker comes to your classroom, you will be asked to complete a short review. This review will help individual speakers improve and will enable ORIAS to improve the Speakers Bureau as a whole. Your review is very important.

How are talks prepared?

Graduate student speakers underwent a multi-step process in designing their talks. The presentation topic was identified through discussion with ORIAS, to draw out the elements of their research that were most aligned with content standards, Common Core skills, and discipline-specific skills.

Speakers then presented draft talks to experienced teachers and made revisions based on teacher suggestions and questions. Teachers who engage speakers in their classrooms are asked to complete a short written follow-up review, as well, so that speakers are able to improve and adapt their talks.

Where can I find more speakers?

The University offers an extensive list of potential speakers for events featuring 40+ audience members. You can find out more at the UC Berkeley Speakers Bureau page.

The Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion also hosts a speakers bureau. Like ORIAS speakers, their speakers offer prepared talks. Click the logo to learn more.

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