Skip to main content

Swarthmore Discussion Group

Department Overview

The Swarthmore Discussion Group talk for April 22 has been canceled. In the interest of social distancing and keeping our community as safe as possible, all campus activities between now and May 31 have been canceled. For more information on Swarthmore College's course of action with COVID-19, please click here


The Swarthmore Discussion Group (SDG) offers attendees the opportunity to share a meal and engage in conversation with local community members and 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, and social issues they welcome the lively discussion and debate engaged in by attendees.

We hope you’ll join us for the entire eight-program series and enjoy a night out for dinner and discussion.

2019–20 Swarthmore Discussion Group Series

September 11, 2019 "An Intimate Conversation with WHYY's Marty Moss-Coane"

“An Intimate Conversation with WHYY’s Marty Moss-Coane”

Marty Moss-Coane, Host and Executive Producer, Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane​​​​​​

Radio Times’ Marty Moss-Coane joins the Swarthmore Discussion Group for a wide-ranging conversation about her roots and her tenure as the host of the long-time Philadelphia radio staple. We’ll hear from her about how she found herself in the radio business, how the show works and what it’s like covering currents news and issues. We’ll also discuss her most memorable moments and of course will take lots of audience questions.

October 16, 2019 “The Paradox of Repression and Nonviolent Movements”

“The Paradox of Repression and Nonviolent Movements”

Lee Smithey, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Sociology, Swarthmore College

Lee Smithey, Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Sociology, will discuss his recently published co-edited book, The Paradox of Repression and Nonviolent Movements (Syracuse University Press). Rather than undermining resistance, repression often fuels popular movements. When authorities respond to nonviolent people power with intimidation, coercion, and violence, they often undercut their own legitimacy. Moreover, activists in a wide range of movements have engaged in nonviolent “repression management” that can help turn the potentially negative consequences of repression to their advantage. Smithey studies peacebuilding, social conflict, and social movements, particularly with respect to ethnopolitical conflict and nonviolent conflict methods. He coordinates the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Swarthmore College and directs the Global Nonviolent Action Database at

November 13, 2019 “Regional Economies: Uniting Rural and Urban Communities to Confront Climate Change ”

“Regional Economies: Uniting Rural and Urban Communities to Confront Climate Change ”

Judy Wicks, Author, Entrepreneur and Activist

Author, entrepreneur and activist, Judy will tell her story from living in an Eskimo village in 1969, moving to Philadelphia in 1970 to cofound the Free People’s Store (which became Urban Outfitters), founding the farm-to-table White Dog Cafe in 1983, to her current projects in supporting our regional economy. Judy’s talk will include the importance of moving from “me to we” as individuals and a society in order to address the historic challenge of climate change and build an inclusive, self-reliant and life-sustaining economy in the Philadelphia region.

December 4, 2019 “Amid the Climate Crisis, Steps for Meaningful Action”

“Amid the Climate Crisis, Steps for Meaningful Action”

Melissa Tier ’14, Sustainability Program Manager for Swarthmore College, brings signs of progress in dealing with the climate crisis. Despite the US federal government’s refusal to acknowledge or confront the crisis, citizens and elected officials in the US and around the world are making important progress at local, state and international levels, including here in the Swarthmore area. Melissa will highlight some of the most notable efforts, including how some US states and municipalities are working to help the US keep our commitments under the Paris climate agreement, and how "trans-national" organizations of cities from across the world are working to drive faster adoption of climate protection strategies. 

Her talk will also include a look at how two local governments in the area – Philadelphia and Delaware County – are responding to the climate crisis. She will close with advice on how citizens can get involved and make a difference in pushing for the broad changes needed to prevent catastrophic change in the earth’s climate. Melissa has a master's degree in Sustainable Urban Development through Oxford University and studied environmental psychology while at Swarthmore

January 22, 2020 “First Ladies: From Ceremony to Substance”

“First Ladies: From Ceremony to Substance”

Katherine Sibley, Professor of History and Director of American Studies at St. Joseph’s University

The position of first lady has been transformed beginning with Edith Roosevelt, considered the first modern first lady, through the activist works of women like Nellie Taft, Florence Harding, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lady Bird Johnson and Michelle Obama. What was once a position requiring mostly the skills of a good hostess has become an influential platform for change in areas ranging from civil rights to healthcare.   Katherine A. S. Sibley published A Companion to First Ladies in 2016, and is also an authority on Soviet-American relations.

February 12, 2020 “Sub-Saharan Africa’s Debt and Development Finance Challenges”

“Sub-Saharan Africa’s Debt and Development Finance Challenges”

Antoinette M. Sayeh’79, Former Director of the IMF’s African Department, Former Finance Minister of Liberia

Sub-Saharan Africa must better manage debt.  But the rapid pace of debt accumulation notwithstanding, the development community’s concerns must remain grounded in the region’s need for large volumes of financing to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. Sayeh currently serves as Co-Chair for the IDA19 Replenishment, the World Bank’s fund for the poorest, is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development, and a Swarthmore Board Manager.

March 25, 2020 “Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary: What does art have to do with empathy and belonging?”

“Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary: What does art have to do with empathy and belonging?”

Peggy Seiden, College Librarian Swarthmore College & Katie Price, Associate Director, Lang Center

Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary (FPS) was a two-year project (2017-2019) funded by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage that sought to address antipathy towards refugees and create a greater sense of belonging for recently resettled Iraqis and Syrians through art that was based in historic and contemporary stories of displacement, migration, and resettlement. FPS brought together world-renowned book artists and a community of over 20 Iraqis and Syrians to create new works that were exhibited at Swarthmore College, in Philadelphia, and New York City.

April 22, 2020 “The State of the LGBTQ Movement”

“The State of the LGBTQ Movement”

Rea Carey, executive director, National LGBTQ Task Force

Now, 50 years after the Stonewall riots, where is the LGBTQ movement headed? Through HIV/AIDS, anti-violence work, securing some non-discrimination protections, and winning marriage, the LGBTQ movement has been resilient, adaptive and creative. Now is the time to think expansively about a movement grounded in racial, economic, gender and social justice – one that allows each person to be “all of me, all the time.” Carey has spent three decades serving in leadership roles in the LGBTQ movement, and serves on the boards of the Freeman Foundation and the Flamboyan Foundation.

When and Where

The Discussion Group convenes on the second or third Wednesday of each month from September to April at The Inn at Swarthmore. The Inn is on the Swarthmore College campus, next to the Swarthmore train station. Parking is available behind The Inn at Swarthmore on Fieldhouse Lane.


5:15–6 p.m. Happy Hour
6 p.m. Dinner
7–8:15 p.m. Talk and Q & A


The Inn at Swarthmore, 10 S. Chester Road, Swarthmore, Pa.


Contact Marty Roelandt at