Claritas Distinguished Lecture in the Sciences 

George E. ’64 and Margaret Lauver ’66 Harris endowed the Distinguished Visitor Program at Susquehanna University. This program is designed to facilitate lectures, seminars or residencies by nationally acclaimed figures in business, government, or education, focusing on topics of public interest. The series invites a distinguished scholar in the sciences to deliver a public address on our campus, usually in the fall of the academic year and is organized by the School of Natural & Social Sciences.

Auditing Algorithms

Cathy O’Neil, Chief Executive Officer of ORCAA

Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.
Stretansky Concert Hall

Naively constructed algorithms propagate the past into the future, including the past we’d rather not repeat. In this talk, we will scrutinize the notion that algorithms are “following the math” and instead understand the human values that algorithms intentionally or unintentionally adopt, either through the training data, through the definition of success, or through contextual use or misuse. Moreover, we will learn how to think critically about such design decisions and contexts in order to anticipate such problems proactively, and to even head off problematic choices before they become actually harmful to the stakeholders of the system. With most or all bureaucracies becoming automated, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

About the speaker 

Cathy O’Neil earned a doctorate in math from Harvard University and worked as a math professor at Barnard College before switching over to the private sector, working as a quant for the hedge fund D.E. Shaw and as a data scientist in the New York startup scene. O’Neil is the chief executive officer of ORCAA, an algorithmic auditing company, and a member of the Public Interest Tech Lab at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is a regular contributor to Bloomberg Opinion and in 2016, she wrote the book Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy . Her new book, The Shame Machine: Who Profits in the New Age of Humiliation , was released last year.


Past speakers

  • 2022–23: Michael S. Davis, The James Webb Space Telescope: It Works; Perfectly!
  • 2021–22: Sam Sternberg, Rewriting the Code of Life with CRISPR
  • 2019–20: Jackie Faherty, Our Cosmic Ballet
  • 2018–19: Mary Lou Zeeman, Dynamical Systems and Their Application to Mathematical Biology
  • 2017–18: Richard Robinson, nanoparticles
  • 2016–17: Robert S. Pickart, In Search of Sinking Water: Wintertime Fieldwork in the North Atlantic Ocean
  • 2015–16: John Rogers, Electronics for the Human Body
  • 2014–15: Bonnie Bassler, Tiny Conspiracies: Cell-to-Cell Communication in Bacteria
  • 2013–14: Sonia Kreidenweis, Clearing the Air: 25 Years of Visibility Observations in US National Parks … And What They Tell Us About Our World
  • 2012–13: Chris Stringer, The Origin of Our Species
  • 2011–12: Kerry Ressler, Fear and its Inhibition: From Mice to Men
  • 2010–11: Edward O. Wilson, The Creation: An Appeal To Save Life on Earth
  • 2009–10: Tyrone B. Hayes, From Silent Spring to Silent Night: A Tale of Toads & Men
  • 2008–09: Larry R. Squire, Conscious and Unconscious Memory Systems of the Mammalian Brain
  • 2007–08: Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers
  • 2006–07: Rita Colwell, Climate, Infectious Disease and Human Health
  • 2005–06: Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed

Lectureships & Speaker Series 

Susquehanna’s diverse selection of lectureships and speaker series brings together esteemed scholars, industry leaders and influential voices to share their expertise and perspectives with the campus community. These events serve as vibrant platforms for critical thinking, fostering a culture of intellectual exploration and innovation.

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