Rachael Warecki
Portrait of Mary Helen Immordino-Yang

Acclaimed neuroscience professor Mary Helen Immordino-Yang will speak at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, in Choi Auditorium as Occidental College’s 2024 Phi Beta Kappa Speaker. The event is free and open to the public.

Immordino-Yang is the Fahmy and Donna Attallah Professor of Humanistic Psychology and a professor of education, psychology, and neuroscience at the University of Southern California, where she is also the founding director of the USC Center for Affective Neuroscience, Development, Learning, and Education. She writes and speaks extensively on the implications for redesigning schools around curiosity and civic reasoning to promote intellectual vibrance and help students thrive.

Her lecture, “Weaving a Colorful Cloth: Toward a Humanistic, Neurodevelopmental Science of Civic Engagement for Social Justice,” will focus on her transdisciplinary, longitudinal studies of young people’s civic meaning-making, purpose, identity development and brain development, reflecting on why and how college-age youth can be among society’s most visionary citizens, and how educational institutions can support and empower them. 

The Phi Beta Kappa Speakers Series was created in 2006 with a gift from New York entrepreneur Robert M. Ruenitz ’60 and his wife Jeri Hamilton through the Ruenitz Trust to honor the memory of Ruenitz’s parents, Esther Merriman Ruenitz and Dr. Robert C. Ruenitz. 

Founded in 1926, the Occidental Delta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa is one of the first chapters of the country’s oldest academic honor society to be chartered at a liberal arts college in the western United States.

Previous lecturers have included Winona LaDuke, an internationally renowned activist, environmentalist, and two-time vice presidential candidate; Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the physician, scientist and activist who exposed the Flint water crisis; law professor, civil rights advocate and intersectional theorist Kimberle Crenshaw; John Holdren, climate and energy scientist and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for President Barack Obama; physicist and computer scientist Stephen Wolfram; former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, MD; Ahmed Zewail, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist; author and educational critic Jonathan Kozol; social critic Judith Butler; author and activist Ayaan Hirsi; Bill Nye the Science Guy; medical activist Paul Farmer; mental health legal expert Elyn R. Saks; and psychologist and human memory expert Robert A. Bjork.