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The 20th annual 60-Second Lectures series will launch on Sept. 14 at the Benjamin Franklin statue in front of College Hall.

Credit: Kylie Cooper

Penn’s annual 60-Second Lectures series will return for the fall semester this Wednesday afternoon.

The lecture series will entirely take place on Sept. 14, starting at noon at the Benjamin Franklin statue in front of College Hall. Topics range from midterm election poll results to the James Webb Space Telescope. 

60-Second Lectures, a Penn tradition since 2003, traditionally took place once a week every semester on College Green, rather than in one block. This year’s format change was not entirely new, however, as the School of Arts and Sciences has put on different iterations of 60-Second Lectures over the years, according to the University.

“60-Second Lectures have taken different formats during the years,” Loraine Terrell, executive director of communications for SAS, said. “During the academic year, it has been consecutive Wednesdays, but during other events like Alumni Weekend or [Family] Weekend, we did one-hour events where we had people vote on their favorite lecture.”

Terrell explained that SAS had planned a format for the fall 2022 semester in which the audience could engage with various topics and the lectures could also connect to each other.  

Mitchell Orenstein, a professor of Russian and East European Studies, will be giving a lecture titled “Russia vs. the West: Hybrid War, New Cold War, or World War III?” He said that participating in the event allows more students and community members to learn about Russia’s war in Ukraine. 

“Given the way things are going with the war in Ukraine, I normally take any opportunity to talk about what is going on and try to explain it to people,” Orenstein said. 

Jennifer Morton, a professor of Philosophy, will host a lecture focusing on upward mobility and first-generation college students. 

“I decided to give it because a couple of my colleagues have done it, and it seemed like a cool idea. I am relatively new to Penn, and I thought it might be a good way to have other people hear what I was working on,” Morton said. “It also seemed like an exciting challenge. How can I say what I’m working on in 60 seconds?”

Amber Grier, associate director of programs and events for SAS, said that she hopes the new format of 60-Second Lectures will be refreshing and engaging to the Penn community.

“It is always kind of nice to keep things fresh and change it up a little bit. You never know, maybe this format will attract even more people, and we will do it again in the spring,” Grier said.