Honors Discussion Event

Operation Brain Gain

Dinner and Discussion

2022 Event Give to Operation Brain Gain

Operation Brain Gain 2024

An evening of conversation and community co-sponsored by University Honors Program.

Save The Date

February 8, 2024

5:30 PM

6:00 PM

Purchase Tickets By
January 26, 2024



Nebraska Union Centennial Room (2nd floor) - 1400 R St, Lincoln, NE 68588
Accessible Ramp Entrance Located on the West Side of the Union


Paid parking is available at 17th and R or 14th and P

At its core, Nebraska Honors is about the exploration of ideas through discussion and preparing students to be community-minded learners and leaders. Central to all Honors classes is time for thoughtful discussion and debate. This year, the University Honors Program is inviting community members to come together to Honor the Future with a dinner and discussion fundraiser. This fundraiser, co-sponsored by Beyond School Bells, a Program of Nebraska Children and Families Foundation; Lincoln Community FoundationNebraska Community Foundation; and Union Bank & Trust will feature fantastic food from Nebraska prepared by a local chef. Like our Honors classes, the dinner & discussion will encourage thoughtful discussions around important topics, facilitated by some of the University’s best faculty. The event format encourages all guests to be active participants, to learn, to share, and to build community.

All donations from this event will go toward providing internships opportunities for students in a nonprofit setting addressing Nebraska's most urgent needs. The research on internships is clear – for both students and the community. The more professional development opportunities students have, the more successful they will be. Moreover, the more opportunities they have in a community, the more likely they are to stay in the community. Internships help Nebraska address its brain drain. Inspired by Aim 1 of the N2025 Strategic Plan, which emphasizes the need for experiential learning for all UNL students, Honors and its partners created a new campaign, Operation Brain Gain. This year the campaign supports one of Honor's key intiatives: the Intern Foundry (IF) program. IF matches talented Honors students with internship opportunities in nonprofit organizations for a win-win. Students learn key professional development and project management skills and are able to directly contribute to ensuring Nebraska remains "the good life." The nonprofit partners gain capacity to increase their impact on the people of Nebraska. In addition to developing a pipeline of future volunteers, board members, and donors invested in addressing Nebraska's areas of urgent need,  IF helps ensure communities and populations throughout the state benefit from an infusion of Honors talent. We want the best and brightest to see Nebraska as a place where they can intern, innovate, and grow professionally, both now and in the future.

Invest in Nebraska, invest in Operation Brain Gain, and enjoy a great evening of Nebraska food with the best and brightest talent in the state.

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Support Tiers

Seat - $100
Single guest seat.

Table - $800
Tables include 6 guests seats and sponsorship for the faculty and student hosts who will be at the table. Guests will be able to select to join any discussion topic at the event and will not be required to all join the same table. If you wish to purchase a table but don't yet know guests names, you may put "Guest 1," "Guest 2," etc. and Honors will follow up with you later for those details. 

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Note: A receipt will be provided following purchase. If you need an invoice prior to purchase, please let us know and we will send it to you! 

Voluntary Donation
Choose support level for Operation Brain Gain.

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Table Topics

These topics and more will be available at the dinner, and attendees will choose their conversation and table at the event. 

portrait of Tamy Burnett

Makers and Making: The Value of Creative Outlets

Tamy Burnett
College of Arts and Sciences

Humans are creative beings, and that creativity comes out in all sorts of ways, from professional pursuits to personal pastimes. Too often, creative making activities—ranging from baking to woodworking, from gardening to quilting—are dismissed as simple hobbies. But these activities provide creative outlet, stress relief, and tangible output that can be displayed, gifted, and sometimes even turned into profit. Prof. Tamy Burnett, associate director of Honors and affiliated faculty with English and women's and gender studies, teaches Honors seminars in popular culture, like "Sitcoms and Social Change" and "Female Action Heroes." She is also an avid quilter. This conversation will explore the benefits of engaging in making, the role of creative outlets for healthy and happy lives, and the ways making can connect us to friends and family.

portrait of John Carroll

The Lure of Africa: “The eye never forgets what the heart has seen” (African proverb)

John Carroll
College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Africa captivates the senses and lingers in the memory long after one's departure. Its skies, landscapes, and wildlife have inspired literary giants like Hemingway, Blixen, and Kipling, leaving a mark on anyone who visits. Professor John Carroll, from the School of Natural Resources, will share experiences garnered from extensive work and travel across the continent. The conversation will focus on the essence of what makes Africa unique, fostering an exploration of cultures, wildlife, and its evolving identity.

portrait of Valerie Jones

We Are Lonely. Here’s How Technology Can Help

Valerie Jones
College of Journalism and Mass Communications

Loneliness and social isolation are major public health issues, associated with anxiety, depression, dementia, and premature death. The pandemic brought this into sharp and painful focus. And the number of Americans 65+ is projected to double in less than 40 years. Is this an opportunity for new communication technologies like Amazon’s Alexa to help facilitate independence and companionship? Can artificial intelligence (AI)-powered voice assistants also help us feel less lonely? Valerie Jones, Associate Professor in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, will lead a discussion based on her 2023 Fulbright Scholar Award to Australia that studies the use of emergent technology in facilitating social connectedness in aging adults.

portrait of Patrice McMahon

Why We Need Good Leaders

Patrice McMahon
College of Arts and Sciences

Who are the leaders in our society? What qualities of good leadership are most important to you? Despite its importance, why is there such a leadership crisis today? Patrice McMahon, director of the University Honors Program and professor of Political Science, will facilitate a conversation based on her seminar From Presidents to Protestors and her research on humanitarianism and peacebuilding. The conversation will consider not just presidents and podiums, but the everyday acts of courage, vision, and conviction in our community and the world. Together we will reflect, imagine, and share our experiences and ideas.

portrait of Sophia Perdikaris

What is ecotourism, really?

Sophia Perdikaris
College of Arts and Sciences

We may all want our trips to be “responsible” to natural areas and conserve nature and culture, but do we do this? Dr. Sophia Perdikaris, Director of the School of Global Studies, will facilitate a conversation on the benefits and downsides of ecotourism based on her seminar “Big Weather, Big Politics.” This conversation will delve into the lesser known sides of ecotourism, encouraging people to think about where they have traveled and how they can be more responsible to the environment.

portrait of Wes Peterson

Exploring Our Love of Cheese

Wes Peterson
Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Although the French consume the most cheese, Americans love of this diverse and delicious dairy product is at an all-time high. Cheese reflects culture, nutrition, family, and how we have fun. Professor Wes Peterson from the Department of Agricultural Economics will share with you his love of French cheese, explaining some important differences (cow vs. sheep vs. goat) while you discuss your preferences, pairings, and favorite cheese memories.

portrait of Joann Ross

What Movies Can Teach Us

Joann Ross
College of Arts and Sciences

Movies serve as powerful educational tools, offering profound insights into many subjects. This is particularly true for films rooted in reality. Professor Joann Ross, Honors Faculty Fellow and UNL’s Staff Senate Coordinator, will guide a thought-provoking conversation centering around her seminar, "Famous Legal Cases on Film." The discussion will shed light on select movies integral to Ross's seminar and attendees will be prompted to reflect on their own cinematic learning experiences.

Jacob Schlange

Our Favorite Cities, and Why We Love Them

Jacob Schlange
University Honors Program

Great cities are dynamic, energizing, and beautiful but also, sometimes, chaotic and confounding. What is it about our favorite cities – those we choose to live in, those we love to visit, and those we only dream about – that makes them so enticing? Jacob Schlange, Assistant Director of the University Honors Program, draws on his Masters in Community and Regional Planning in teaching Honors seminars about cities and urbanism, including “The Great American City, from Injustice to Inclusion” and “How Cities Can Save Us,” which focuses on cities around the world innovating to solve global challenges. This conversation will explore what’s so alluring about our favorite cities.

portrait of John Shrader

The College Sports Industry: How Did We Get Here and What Does It Mean?

John Shrader
College of Journalism and Mass Communications

Have you wondered how the business side of college athletics works? Why and how do certain TV networks gain rights to broadcast certain games? What influences athletic conference alignments and realignments? How do the new NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) opportunities impact students’ experience and position as college athletes? What is the impact on increased usage of the transfer portal for student athletes, college teams, and conferences? Prof. John Shrader, a professor in Sports Media and Communication, teaches popular Honors seminars about sports, such as "Cheaters, Billionaires, and Mega Media: American Sports in the 21st Century" and "Racial Reckoning in Sports Culture." This conversation will focus on these topics and more about the financial side of collegiate sports.

portrait of Jordan Soliz

Prioritizing Others

Jordin Soliz
College of Arts and Sciences

We often look back at mass atrocities and suffering in human history and ask, “How could that have happened?” Yet, we also live our lives often not paying attention to, recognizing, or actively helping to stop or assist those suffering in the world from atrocities, poverty, and other mass suffering. Most of us are caring and concerned individuals and, at the same time, this “minimization of the other” is common in most lives. Is it bias? Is it lack of knowledge? Or is it what Paul Solvi labels “psychic numbing”—the tendency for caring and empathy to decrease with larger numbers affected by tragedies? Prof. Jordan Soliz will draw on his popular Honors seminar, “Dialogue Across Difference,” to lead this conversation focusing on understanding the individual and social barriers to recognizing, valuing, and acting on behalf of others.

portrait of Shinya Takahashi

The Power of Zen

Shinya Takahashi
College of Education and Human Sciences

Meditation offers a straightforward, fast, and powerful means of achieving relaxation. Zen Meditation, rooted in Buddhist psychology, takes a unique approach, aiming to cultivate the art of "thinking without thinking." Professor Shinya Takahashi, from the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, will guide an enlightening discussion on the origins and advantages of meditation. This conversation will delve into the reasons, timing, and methods of meditation, unraveling the benefits it brings to those who embrace this mindful practice.

portrait of Hana Waisserova

Why Do We Travel?

Hana Waisserova
College of Arts and Sciences

We travel for different reasons. Some of us travel because we want to learn about new places and cultures. Others travel because we need to relax. Research also tells us that travel can make us happier. Spending money on doing something leaves us you with a longer lasting sense of happiness than money spent on having something. Dr. Hana Waisserova, Professor of Modern Languages, teaches an interdisciplinary class in Honors called “Freedom, Hope and Belonging and a study abroad class to the Czech Republic, where she is originally from. The conversation will start off with the benefits of travel and will provide ideas on places to explore in Central Europe.

portrait of Robert Woody

Learning about Yourself and Your World through Music

Robert Woody
College of Fine and Performing Arts

Many people describe becoming a musician as an unrealistic dream because they lack innate talent. Human science research, however, tells a different story. All people can become more musical with the right kind of engagement and learning opportunities. Music is a universally human phenomenon and we, as a species, are essentially “hardwired” to be musical. While not everyone can realistically become Mozart, all people can easily find ways to infuse their lives with more music and do so to the benefit to their health and wellbeing. Even among those who do not consider themselves to be "musically inclined," as they explore ways to become more musical, they discover a valued lens for understanding themselves and their world.


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Deadline September 8th

Register online and indicate which level of support you'll be purchasing, and how many tickets (if applicable).

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Chicken and Vegetarian Options Available

Wahadi Allen portrait

Executive Chef Wahadi A. Allen will be preparing an exclusive menu for our event.