Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Jocelyn Bowie
IU College of Arts and Sciences

Jennifer Piurek
University Communications

Last modified: Thursday, August 6, 2009

IU's first-ever themed semester to focus on evolution, diversity and change

"Themester" coincides with 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's evolution book

Aug. 6, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Bloomington will commence its first-ever themed semester this fall with "Themester 2009: Evolution, Diversity and Change." More than 40 related courses will tie in with the themes of diversity and evolution to coincide with the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection and the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth.

Themester, an initiative of IU's College of Arts and Sciences, is grounded in the undergraduate curriculum and will draw parallels between different disciplines by offering a range of courses, performances and discussions surrounding related topics, said IU Professor Jean Robinson, associate dean for undergraduate education for the College of Arts and Sciences and director of Themester.

"It's an opportunity to connect learning inside the classroom with outside the classroom and find exciting ways to get students -- particularly undergraduates -- more engaged in thinking about serious problems, issues and concerns," said Robinson.

Themester is designed to offer students multiple opportunities to connect to the theme, starting with the wide range of classes for undergraduates. In addition to the 46 Themester-related courses -- which will outlive the fall semester -- there will be related theatrical performances on campus and in the community; special gallery and museum exhibitions; and speaker and film series and panel discussions. Speakers will address issues that include evolutionary game theory, the evolution of apes and monkeys, and the tension between evolution and faith.

"We'll have a philosopher who does work on evolution and creationism; a religious scholar who tries to find a middle path for people who have strong faith beliefs to show how faith can live side-by-side with evolution; and at the end, we'll have federal appeals court Judge John E. Jones III (who presided in a Pennsylvania case that determined intelligent design was religion and couldn't be taught in schools)," Robinson said.

"Students need to be exposed to big questions and big ideas requiring interdisciplinary knowledge that does not conveniently fall within individual disciplines," said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Bennett I. Bertenthal. "Themester is an exciting opportunity to imbue in students the importance of studying major issues from multiple perspectives that are addressed through educational activities occurring in as well as outside the classroom. We fully anticipate that Themester will become a very popular program attracting students throughout the campus."

Cardinal Theater Company will stage Inherit the Wind, a play based on the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, during which a high school science teacher (John T. Scopes) was convicted for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in opposition with Tennessee law. IU's Department of Theatre and Drama will do a staged reading of Palmer Park, about "white flight" from Detroit in the 1960s, which will also be staged by universities throughout the Big 10.

Speakers during IU's Themester include well-known evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (sponsored by Union Board) and Arthur Robson of Simon Fraser University who will give a public lecture titled "We Are Impatient Because We Die. But Why Do We Die?"

Special exhibitions will be on display at the IU Art Museum, Lilly Library, Kinsey Institute and Mathers Museum of World Cultures, while Myers Hall will have displays titled "Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle" and "Evolution" and Jordan Hall will display "Tropical Biodiversity."

"We don't want to shy away from controversy," said Robinson. "We embrace the idea that universities are communities where we need to explore ideas and consider lots of different sides and question things in a safe place."

For a complete schedule of Themester events, many of which are open to the public, see