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Swarthmore Discussion Group

Department Overview

A Special Message from the Board of the Swarthmore Discussion Group

The Swarthmore Discussion Group board considers the health of its members to be its highest priority. After evaluating the current conditions, we decided that our Spring 2024 Series — January, February, March and April —  will be held in-person as we did prior to COVID.  We are excited that we can gather together again at The Inn, and we hope you'll join us for a memorable in-person experience.

Learn more about Swarthmore College's response to COVID-19.


The Swarthmore Discussion Group (SDG) offers members the opportunity to hear knowledgeable speakers and engage in lively conversation with local community members as well as Swarthmore College staff, faculty, and alumni.

Our speakers are distinguished scholars, community leaders, and experts in their field. Following their presentations on topics including politics, foreign affairs, economics, cultural, and social issues they welcome the questions, discussion, and debate engaged in by members.

Please  join our Spring 2024 Series of four monthly presentations on Wednesday evenings. We will meet in-person at The Inn at Swarthmore. The membership fee includes a catered dinner to accompany each inspiring lecture. No refunds are available.

Spring 2024 Swarthmore Discussion Group Series

Jan. 17, 2024

Viruses Versus Hosts: The Evolutionary Arms Race

​​​​​Sergei Pond, Professor of Biology and Director of the Center of Viral Evolution, Temple University

Viruses are nearly as old as life itself. They are a deadly and fascinating marvel of evolutionary efficiency, and modern genomics technologies and data science allow us to follow their evolution almost in real-time. This talk will describe how we learn where Sergei Pond, Professor of Biology and Director of the Center of Viral Evolution, Temple University pathogens come from, track and predict how they change and evolve, and how we can harness large volumes of genomic data to improve our ability to defeat them.

Feb. 21  2024

Missing Women in the Workplace 

Jennifer Peck ’06, Associate Professor of Economics, Swarthmore College

A surprising number of companies around the world still do not hire women. Why not? How can we encourage firms to overcome the practical and cultural barriers to change in the workplace?  This talk explores the challenges firms in many countries face in integrating their workforce and points to ways forward.​​​​​ 

March 6, 2024

Social Justice: Realist or Idealist?

Erec Smith, Associate Professor of Rhetoric, York College of Pennsylvania,President and Co-founder, Free Black Thought

In this talk, Smith argues that much of social justice activism is performative and prefigurative in nature. This "idealist" take on activism differs from a "realist" or materialist take, which seeks concrete change through community organization, policy change, etc. Smith contends that we can have both, but the realist take must be primary.

April 17, 2024

Love Call Us to the Things of This World

Nat Anderson, The Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor Emerita of English, Swarthmore College

Using the phrase “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” as a kind of talisman, poet and Swarthmore Professor Emerita Nathalie Anderson has recently begun to explore the world’s physicality through ekphrastic poems, poems responding in particular to the things we keep in our museums and our houses. Why do we treasure certain objects? How, for humans, do precious things signify? Professor Anderson looks forward to sharing this work with you and talking about her process of moving from object to page.

When and Where

SDG's Spring 2024 Series convenes on the second or third Wednesday of each month from January through April. We are delighted to return to our in-person format, and will gather together at The Inn at Swarthmore. 

Time (ET)

5–6 p.m. Happy Hour at The Inn at Swarthmore, Broad Table Tavern
6-7 p.m  Dinner in the Gathering Room at The Inn at Swarthmore
7–8:15 p.m. Presentation and Q & A

Location, Cost, and Registration

The Spring 2024 Series will be held in person, and includes a catered dinner. Registration is now open. The fee for the series of four presentations with dinner is $190 per person, with payment due by Jan. 10.  Space may be available after Jan. 10 for individual talks ($55 each).  Register for the Spring 2024 series.


Contact Meghan Bloome at We thank you for your support of the Swarthmore Discussion Group.