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Free, thought-provoking, expert-facilitated discussions on important issues facing our communities produced in partnership with Arizona Humanities and the Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records.

What are FRANK Talks?

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FRANK Talks are face-to-face conversations on ideas that matter. Attendees discuss issues of local and national importance in local libraries at a single-session 75-minute program, led by a humanities scholar/expert on the topic. FRANK Talks engage participants with important issues and provide the opportunity to put them in context, weigh facts, and consider different points of view. The goal of FRANK Talks is to inspire people to practice the skills of citizenship – to listen respectfully and engage thoughtfully with one another on important issues that affect our communities. Topics can include: education, immigration, religion, civil rights, and more.

How can my library host a free FRANK Talk?

FRANK Talks launched in 2016 at Arizona Libraries. The application process is very similar to the AZ Speaks program; libraries review topics, contact scholars to schedule a program(s), and complete an online application. Unlike the AZ Speaks lecture-style format, FRANK Talks are interactive, participatory, and designed to engage people in conversation about topical issues.

Libraries will be selected to participate based upon the completeness of an online application, their capacity to promote the program, and the availability of funding. FRANK Talks are FREE for approved library applicants. A partnership between Arizona Humanities and the Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records pays for honorarium and travel for speakers and moderators.

FRANK Talks Cycles – New topics are updated each cycle. Libraries can book unlimited FRANK Talks per cycle.

  • October 1, 2016 – March 31, 2017
  • April 1, 2017 – September 30, 2017

What is the process to schedule a FRANK Talk?

At this time, FRANK Talks are only available for Arizona libraries. 

  1. Review the FRANK Talks scholar and topic below that your organization is interested in hosting.
  2. Contact the scholar to schedule their participation and confirm date and time. Scholar contact information is available below under the FRANK Talks topic.
  3. Go to the Arizona Humanities online Grants and Programs Dashboard and complete the online application form. You should contact the speaker and submit your application to book presentations. We encourage organizations to book FRANK Talks 4-6 weeks in advance.
  4. Once your application is processed, we will provide follow-up steps to administer your program.
  5. FRANK Talks are free for libraries. A partnership between Arizona Humanities and the Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records pays for honorarium and travel for scholars.

Why the name FRANK Talks?

Lorraine Frank 400x265FRANK Talks is named in part to honor Lorraine W. Frank, the founding Executive Director of Arizona Humanities. During her tenure from 1973 to 1989, she elevated public discourse and understood that engaging communities in dialogue was critical to the life of our state. Lorraine W. Frank passed away in 2005, and in 2015 she was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame.

FRANK Talks Topics

Libraries can book unlimited FRANK Talks programs.

Topics available through September 30, 2018 unless otherwise noted.

Current FRANK Talk Topics

Challenges to Democracy from the Extremes *NEW*

Dr. Albrecht  Classen, University of Arizona, Department of German Studies and Director of Undergraduate Studies

The recent death of a demonstrator in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the ongoing tension between political parties, highlights the danger of ideological extremism in the U.S. What is Neo-National-Socialism? How do we address ideological extremes within the framework of our Constitution and the First Amendment? Cultural clashes spurred by divergent views and values are not new to our national history. What have we learned from the past? How can we apply these lessons? Who is “the far right?”  What is Neo- Nazi ideology? How does a democratic nation balance free speech against national security?  Join us for a FRANK Talk on the rise of extremist ideology and its relationship to the core of our democratic principles.  Contact: aclassen@email.arizona.edu / 520-621-1395


Eradicating Global Hunger: Is Genetically Modified Food (GMO) a Solution? *NEW*

Julian Kunnie, University of Arizona, Religious Studies/Classics/Africana Studies/Indigenous/Globalization Studies

Technological innovations in the early 21st century have promoted the development of genetically modified seeds and foods, as a potential solution to the crisis of world hunger.   Eighty percent of the corn, soy, and cotton cultivated in the U.S. today, is genetically modified. Is GMO seed and food production the best solution to address hunger and food shortages? What are the environmental and agricultural consequences of pervasive GMO seed cultivation in the U.S and abroad? Are GMO’s dangerous? Do GMO’s affect our health and welfare today? Join us for an exploration of the impact of technology on our food and future. Contact: jkunnie@email.arizona.edu / 520-621-0017


Is Incarceration the Best Approach to Address Criminal Behavior? *NEW*

Julian Kunnie, University of Arizona, Religious Studies/Classics/Africana Studies/Indigenous/Globalization Studies

In 2017, 47,604 people were either incarcerated or under some form of criminal justice supervision in the state of Arizona, with 119 adults/54 minors on death row,  and 2,485 veterans serving prison time. The U.S. represents 5% of the world’s population, yet holds 25% of the world’s prisoners.  We incarcerate people for non-violent and substance abuse-related crimes.  Private-for-profit prisons in Arizona and the country are a lucrative industry, viewed by some as contributing to the rise in incarceration.  What economic, political and social factors play a role in today’s mass incarceration?  Do poverty, race and class contribute to the disproportionate imprisonment of the poor and people of color? Does incarceration rehabilitate people who are incarcerated? Is imprisonment the best solution to address criminal behavior?  Join us for this FRANK Talk on the impact of mass incarceration.  Contact: jkunnie@email.arizona.edu / 520-621-0017


Talking to Each Other About Controversies Now *NEW*

Matt Kundert, University of Arizona, Department of English

Current social controversies reflect our nation’s complex history, politics and values. Our views can differ sharply on whether or not America has changed for the better, or for the worse. We can point to specific cultural and technological developments that have made it difficult to feel part of one country.  Media can shape our sense of inclusion and exclusion, what is true and false, what connects us and divides us. But democracy is based on hope, the hope that we might solve our problems by talking to each other.  How should we approach each other today?  How do we balance respect for the people around us, and our common humanity, against suspicion and fear in the face of ideological differences?  How do we keep the conversation going about difficult political and social events? How can we listen to, and learn from, experiences and opinions different from our own?  Join us for a FRANK Talk exploring the skills and attitudes of citizenship and conversability.  Contact: mkundert@email.arizona.edu / 206-518-0512


Where to start: Building Civic Engagement in a Politically Charged World *NEW*

Mónica Pérez, Organizational Development Consultant and Political Strategist

Arizona is a global community. We work and live together in schools, neighborhoods, and workplaces that are becoming increasingly diverse. How can we rise to the challenge of this new community landscape? How can we connect with our public leaders to shape the future? What are the best tools and methods that we can use? Explore the best and most effective ways to engage your elected representatives at any level, and make impact and change in your neighborhood. Learn how to become a more active participant in shaping your community, state and nation.  Join us for a FRANK Talk on the basics of civic engagement and community activism. Contact: monica@ocotillogroup.com / 520-234-1560.


“Fake News”: The Impact of Fake News in the Real World

Jamie Bowen, Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Although not new, our awareness and use of the term “fake news” has risen in prominence. In general, “fake news” is media that consists of deliberate misinformation, news whose main purpose is to distort “the truth for emotional persuasion, seeking to drive action.”  More recently it has become a catchall term used to discredit stories, and in the political arena to influence the political process and elections.  With social media, fake news can reach a large audience with little cost.  How can we tell what is fake news and what is real news? What is the impact of “fake news”?  How does “fake news” affect public opinion and civic engagement? How do we balance the benefits of free speech against the burden of propaganda? Join us for a lively FRANK Talk about “fake news,” free speech and journalism today. Contactjamiebowen26@gmail.com / 801-707-0528


School Choice in Arizona

Dr. Angelina Castagno, Northern Arizona University, Educational Foundations

Arizona is one of the nation’s most “choice friendly” states regarding educational opportunities at the K-12 level. “School choice” is a term for K–12 schooling options in the U.S. describing a wide array of alternatives to public schools, including charter schools. The expansion of charter schools and vouchers (often called educational savings accounts) is not without controversy. Does school choice improve school quality? Does school choice increase educational opportunity for all students? Has school choice fostered the privatization of education in the U.S.? Join us for a FRANK Talk about the policy and practical implications of school choice.  Contact: angelina.castagno@nau.edu / 801-856-9509


Weaponized Narrative: Information Warfare as the New Battlespace

Dr. Braden Allenby, Arizona State University, President’s Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering, and Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics

Weaponized narrative is the latest evolution in information warfare, focusing specifically on the role of new media in shaping opinion. Weaponized narratives attack the shared beliefs and values of a person or society, and undercut culture and resiliency.  Adversaries use tactics such as deceptive information to attack identity, manipulate narratives/stories, and create emotional and psychological damage.  What are the effects on our psychology and behavior?  How do we begin to understand the role of information warfare in social media, news, and marketing? Can weaponized narratives cause social polarization?  Join us for this timely FRANK Talk to discuss the impact of information warfare on public opinion, civic engagement   and democracy.  Contactbrad.allenby@asu.edu / 480-727-8594


What is racial disproportionality in schools and why does it matter?

Dr. Angelina Castagno, Northern Arizona University, Educational Foundations

Education laws are supposed to ensure fairness in the identification, access, placement and discipline of students, but students are not always treated equally. “Racial disproportionality” refers to practices which reflect the differential treatment of students in regards to disciplinary practices, special education, and access to AP and Honors courses and more, based on their race. How does racial disproportionality occur, and why does it matter? What is the impact upon students?  How can parents and educators ensure that all students have equal access to an education? Explore various examples of racial disproportionality in schools, and learn about what race-based patterns in schools look like, and why they matter for our children. Contact: angelina.castagno@nau.edu / 801-856-9509



Energy in an Uncertain World

ends March 4

Dr. Jennifer Richter, Arizona State University, School of Social Transformation and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society

With the advent of modern technology, energy can be affordable, accessible, and sustainable for all Arizonans. However, accessibility to sustainable energy is not just about technology, but also about the values and ideals that a society has about access to energy.  What are the values that drive energy production and distribution today? Who has access to sustainable and affordable energy, and who does not? What is the impact of unequal access to sustainable resources?  Join us for a FRANK Talk examining the history of energy production in Arizona, and exploring potential ideas, policies, programs, and technologies that will shape the production of energy in the future. Contactjennifer.richter@asu.edu / 480-727-9308


Immigrants and the American Dream: We the People Today and Tomorrow  

ends March 31

Dr. T.J. Davis, Arizona State University, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

The U.S. is a nation of immigrants, and is now more demographically diverse than at any time in our nation’s history. Yet immigrants, and their status, rights and obligations, have been the subject of continuous debate. How do domestic conditions, regional competition, geopolitics, and foreign policy affect immigration today? Who can become an American citizen, and who cannot? How do immigrants affect America’s social and economic vitality?   Join us for a Frank Talk to ponder the question, what does it mean to be an American. Contact: tjdavis@asu.edu / 480.812-0823


Is This Racist? Racial Literacy and Social Media

ends March 31

Dr. Kathy Nakagawa, Arizona State University, School of Social Transformation

Many parents and educators avoid conversations about race and racism with their children and students, yet young people are regularly exposed to images, stories, videos and statements that reflect racial societal attitudes. This exposure often comes through social media, such as YouTube videos, tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram, Snapchat, and blogs. Despite this exposure, many young people are unprepared to discuss race and racism in productive ways. Parents and educators are unsure how to guide these discussions. So how do we develop a “racial literacy” to have these conversations? Like learning to read and write, racial literacy equips us to talk about race and can help us understand the historical and systemic contexts of race and racism in America. Join us for a FRANK Talk about race, racism, racial literacy and social media in today’s world. Contactnakagawa@asu.edu / 480-965-0582

Local Democracy and Politics in Education: Does it help or hinder student achievement?

ends March 31

Dr. Carrie Sampson, Arizona State University, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

In 2008, The Atlantic published an article entitled “First, Kill All the School Boards: A modest proposal to fix the schools.”  The article examined the failure of school boards to lead school districts in creating systems that foster student success. Do school board members possess the necessary experience to provide effective school district leadership? As elected or appointed officials, can school boards effectively represent the interests of local communities? Join us for a FRANK Talk exploring the role of democracy in education and civic engagement. How do school boards and citizen initiatives help or hinder student achievement? What role should community members play in education? In what ways do politics affect student opportunities to succeed? Contactcsampso4@asu.edu / 315-480-8661


Mothering & Conversations on Reproductive Health

ends March 31

Dr. Kathy Nakagawa, Arizona State University, School of Social Transformation

Our roles as parents encompass caring for our children through all aspects of development, but we often falter when it comes to talking about sex and sexuality. For our daughters, in particular, having healthy attitudes about sex can promote equitable relationships, foster more positive body images, and nurture thoughtful choices regarding intimacy.  Cultural and social values in our country can directly impact conversations about sex and intimacy. What happens when parents and children can’t talk about sex and sexuality? Who has access to reliable and accurate information about sex, sexuality and reproduction, and who does not? How can parents have better conversations with their children about sexuality? Join us for a FRANK Talk about mothering, sexuality and reproductive health.  Contactnakagawa@asu.edu / 480-965-0582

Securing the Borders and Stopping Terrorism: A Constitutional Framework

ends March 31

Dr. T.J. Davis, Arizona State University, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

Protecting its people is among the first priorities of any government. The Constitution’s Bill of Rights provides both for protection of the people, but also protects against undue intrusion by the government. How should the U.S. Constitution’s system of checks and balances operate in securing U.S. borders and stopping terrorism? Who poses a danger to U.S. security and safety, and what do we do about it?  What public policies address competing duties to protect people, and simultaneously respect civil liberties?  Join us for a Frank Talk examining national security and civil liberties at the border. Contact: tjdavis@asu.edu / 480.812-0823

FRANK Talks Facilitators

Scholar Bios

Braden R. Allenby is Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics, and President’s Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering, and of Law, at Arizona State University.  He moved to ASU from his previous position as the Environment, Health and Safety Vice President for AT&T in 2004, where he was instrumental in the development of the field of industrial ecology.  Dr. Allenby received his BA from Yale University, his JD and MA (economics) from the University of Virginia, and his MS and Ph.D. in Environmental Sciences from Rutgers University.  He is past President of the International Society for Industrial Ecology, ex-Chair of the AAAS Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy, ex-Chair of the IEEE Presidential Sustainability Initiative, an AAAS Fellow and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts, Manufactures & Commerce. His latest books are Industrial Ecology and Sustainable Engineering (co-authored with Tom Graedel in 2009), The Techno-Human Condition (co-authored with Dan Sarewitz in 2011), The Theory and Practice of Sustainable Engineering (2012), The Applied Ethics of Emerging Military and Security Technologies (an edited volume released by Ashgate Press in 2015), and Future Conflict and Emerging Technologies (2016).


Jamie Bowen is a second year doctoral student at ASU in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He is a associate faculty member teaching news writing and reporting and graphic design. His research interests include propaganda theory and post 9/11 American wars. 



Dr. Angelina E. Castagno is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Foundations at Northern Arizona University. She is also the Executive Director of Just Perspective, LLC, which provides equity consulting, diversity education, and culturally responsive program evaluation to schools, universities, and community organizations. Her teaching and research centers on equity and diversity in U.S. schools, and particularly issues of whiteness and Indigenous education. Her most recent publication is an edited volume (with Teresa L. McCarty) called The anthropology of education policy: Ethnographic inquiries into policy as sociocultural process, with Routledge. She also published Educated in Whiteness: Good intentions and diversity in schools in 2014, with the University of Minnesota Press.


Dr. Albrecht Classen is University Distinguished Professor of German Studies and Grand Knight Commander of the Most Noble Order of the Three Lions (GCTL). He has published well over 90 scholarly books on German and European medieval and early modern literature, and he is teaching the whole range of German cultural history from the early Middle Ages to the present. He has given many public lectures on a wide range of topics concerning European history, politics, religion, and literature, and he has always been an attentive observer of the current political situation. Past events have served him throughout his academic career to reflect on modern issues, especially as they concern the humanities.


Thomas J. Davis teaches U.S. constitutional and legal history at ASU and has taught as a visiting professor of law at the ASU College of Law. As an historian and lawyer, in addition to constitutional matters he focuses on civil rights (particularly on issues of race, identity and law), employment, and property law. He received his Ph.D. in U.S. history from Columbia University and his JD cum laude from the University at Buffalo Law School. He is the author most recently of History of African Americans: Exploring Diverse Roots (Santa Barbara CA, 2016).


Matt Kundert is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Arizona’s English department.  His primary area of study is 19th-century American literature and his dissertation is on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writing as a philosophical meditation on democracy and the gnomic.  He has taught freshman composition for the last 6 years in UA’s Writing Program, affording him the opportunity to think about how to help people articulate better their own views while also thinking harder about their own and understanding those of others better.


Julian Kunnie is a Professor of Religious Studies and Classics and Affiliate Faculty in Middle Eastern and North African Studies as well as Latin American Studies and Teaching Faculty in Africana Studies, at the University of Arizona. He has taught numerous courses on Pan African and Indigenous philosophy, religion, history, politics, political economy, and society, as well as courses on globalization and the environment. He is involved in movements of Indigenous peoples globally, particularly in North America, Africa, and Asia and the Pacific in the struggle toward reclamation of Indigenous lands, restoration of sacred ancestral sites, and protection of religious rites and ceremonies, especially in Arizona and the U.S. southwest. He has lectured and taught at colleges and universities around the world.  He is the author of four books, Models of Black Theology: Issues in Class, Culture, and Gender (1994), Is Apartheid Really Dead? Pan Africanist Working Class Cultural Critical Perspectives (2000), Indigenous Peoples Wisdom and Power: Affirming our Legacy Through Narratives (with Nomalungelo Goduka) (2006), and The Cost of Globalization: Dangers to the Earth and Its People (McFarland & Company, 2015), and numerous articles in journals and books such as the Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Pan African Studies, the African Studies Review, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, the Journal of African American History, Theology Today, Cross-Currents, and the Journal of World History (in Chinese).


Dr. Kathryn Nakagawa is a faculty member with Asian Pacific American Studies and Culture, Society & Education in the School of Social Transformation. Her research explores the relationship between families and schools, and includes work on parent involvement and school reform, charter schools, family literacy programs and early childhood dual immersion programs. She received her doctorate from Northwestern University in Human Development and Social Policy.


Mónica G. Pérez is Principal and Owner of Ocotillo Group, a consulting firm which specializes in strategic communications, organizational training and facilitation, campaign management and community engagement work. Most recently, Mónica was a Principal in Public and Political Leadership at Wellstone Action, where she actively trained and worked to build long-term partnerships and a community of diverse, progressive leaders across the country to run for public office. She was previously the Electoral Campaign Manager for Democracy for America, and has over 15 years of experience with training and facilitation, communications, government affairs, Latino community organizing and voter engagement, with both local and national organizations. Prior to consulting, Mónica worked for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Secretary Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. Mónica is a proud Arizona native and first-generation American, who grew up in a small border town, which helped shape her sense of community, need for inclusivity and passion for Latino community engagement.


Dr. Jennifer Richter is an assistant professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and School of Social Transformation and the Consortium of Science, Policy and Outcomes. Her research interests are at the intersections of science and society, and how federal policies are enacted locally. Dr. Richter’s focuses on energy justice, specifically in relation to nuclear renewable energy production, and how production affects different communities. By examining how science and technology policies collide with local expectations and understandings of environment and economy, Dr. Richter explores the different scales of energy technologies and policies and their effects on people.


Carrie R. Sampson is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Her educational leadership, policy, and community organizing research has been published in Teachers College Record, Urban Education, Urban Review, and in the edited book Law & Educational Inequality: Removing Barriers to Educational Opportunities. Her most recent research project focuses on the role of school boards addressing equity-oriented policies in the U.S. Mountain West. Sampson’s other ongoing research projects include the influence of school district reorganization on educational equity, the role of nonprofits in addressing issues of educational equity, and the use of online learning as a space for critical dialogues within doctoral programs.  Sampson also serves as a senior fellow for the Guinn Center for Policy Priorities.

Additional Reading/Handouts for Topics

FRANK Talks encourages further exploration and research of certain topics. From time to time, we will post materials shared during FRANK Talks programs and after by scholars and facilitators.

Shared by Dr. Braden Allenby, Arizona State University, President’s Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering, and Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics

Shared by Jamie Bowen, Arizona State University, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Shared by Dr. Jennifer Richter, Arizona State University, School of Social Transformation and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Shared by Dr. Angelina Castagno, Northern Arizona University

Shared by Dr. Julian Kunnie, University of Arizona

  • Vandana Shiva, Seed Sovereignty, Food Security: Women in the Vanguard of the Fight Against GMOs and Corporate Agriculture (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2016);
  • Vandana Shiva, Making Peace with the Earth (London: Pluto Press, 2013, Fernwood Publishing, Winnipeg, 2012);
  • Julian Kunnie, The Cost of Globalization: Dangers to the Earth and Its People (McFarland, 2015), chapter 1 especially;
  • John Fagan, Michael Antoniou, and Claire Robinson, GMO Myths and Truths (London: Earth Open Source, 2014).

Shared by Dr. Kathy Nakagawa, Arizona State University, School of Social Transformation

  • Kids: 20 empowering children’s books that celebrate diversity and social justice
  • Adults: Howard Stevenson’s Promoting Racial Literacy in Schools: Differences That Make a Difference is a very good way to discuss how to address the topic in relation to school practices and policies. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s book Racism without Racists: Color-blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States provides an accessible way of understanding how racism permeates our everyday conversations and ways of thinking.
For questions, contact:

Ellie Hutchison, Programs Manager

602-257-0335 x26 or ehutchison@azhumanities.org.

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