Ursa International

The Lecture Circuit


I've been giving lectures to various university classes for many years now - from my Alma Mater, UMass, to University of Pennsylvania, University of Georgia, Georgia Tech - at Zoo Conferences, Primate Conferences, for Clients at Docent Meetings, board presentations, and Rotary Clubs - and each time I have felt that I was adequate - not great, and not terrible, just OK. The other day I gave a talk to a Zoo Biology Class from Georgia State. This is a class that the Deputy Director at Zoo Atlanta and the Curator of Reptiles have been giving for the last 10 years or so, and each year they ask me to give a Zoo Design Talk. Being interested in maintaining a good relationship with the Zoo, I oblige. I have been using the same general format for years, making adjustments and additions each year to make it more interesting for me. The students change every year, so I can actually get away with the exact same lecture - and actually get better at it - instead I mix it up and each lecture is somewhat different.

This year I made big changes and added a lot of materials that I used in one of my lectures from the Brazil course that Jon Coe and I taught this spring. Turned out that my lecture was to be on the same morning and same place as the 100 day Panda Naming Ceremony held at Zoo Atlanta . Good Morning America was broadcasting live, the mayor was here and the place was packed with 'panda fans' and dignitaries, including me and Gail. It was a fun early morning activity, but by 9 am the cameras stopped rolling and the place cleared out and I was good to go for my talk. I only mention that because, even though I've given this lecture many times before, this time, Gail actually attended it - and this is what she posted on Facebook:

"The best thing about today was that I got to watch Nevin Lash teach his class on Zoo Design 101 for Dr. Dwight Lawson's Zoo Biology class. It was awesome! Nevin is a natural when it comes to explaining that which he knows so well and loves. I am so proud of him. It was a joy to watch - made my heart sing!"

It's amazing what a good review does for you…now all I can think about is how I can turn this into a more permanent thing. Maybe I can teach part time, or maybe write a book on the subject, or do a Lecture Circuit? I'm sure it was the 50+ Facebook "likes" (it's got traction!), and the appreciation I received from Dwight and Joe ("this is the best lecture of the course"), and most certainly having Gail say those nice words didn't hurt. But this was truly fun to do. I enjoyed working on the lecture - adding more zoo theory and more recent projects - i even included some videos which made the 30 or so students actually perk up from their catatonic state that they seemed to reside during most of the 2 hour presentation….yes 2 hours…it's actually a 3 hour class - the last part is for questions and discussion, then we go out in the zoo and look at a specific exhibit and pick it apart. But the point is - while I enjoy design work and project work, the idea of Education and Teaching has always been a part of what I do, and what I enjoy doing. Now I am encouraged to actually think I should do more of this. As it turns out, I've been involved with this field for almost 30 years - and in that time I might have something to contribute and maybe this is a worthwhile pursuit.

I'm not sure what the next step is, but it was a nice realization that there is something more that I can do with this Zoo Design work. And if it makes my wife's "heart sing"! That's better than just OK.