Over the past academic year the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs at Colby College led engaging conversations on current events, fostered a strong student leadership board, and supported life-changing student experiences in public affairs. We are proud of our accomplishments and honored to share them in this year’s annual report. Enjoy.
One of the biggest shifts this year was going back to in-person events, including opening our doors to community members. Students were eager to meet and learn from the different speakers we brought to campus. We had over 100 people in the audience for our first and last events of the year — the first a conversation with a former U.S. diplomat about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and the second a dialogue about Asian identity and the rise in hate crimes against Asians with a musical superstar.
Other event highlights include the George J. Mitchell Lecture we hosted on the global pandemic response, delivered by Gayle Smith, one of the world’s leading experts on global development and global health security. We also had a full slate of programming related to freedom of speech, our annual theme, that explored a range of issues from the perils of social media and disinformation to the crackdown on free speech in Hong Kong.
To me, our greatest strength was providing a space for students to thrive as they challenged speakers in event Q&As, honed their leadership skills on our executive board, or showcased their policy knowledge and public speaking abilities in the spring symposium. I am proud of the external partnerships we built, from funding a podcast about the lives of Black Mainers in collaboration with The Maine Monitor to co-sponsoring the Linda Cotter Speaker Series with the Mid-Maine Global Forum. For Jan Plan 2023, I am thrilled to have secured a unique opportunity for Colby students to attend a policy bootcamp at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.
It takes the full Colby community to keep the Goldfarb Center dynamic. Thank you to the impressive students who keep us inspired, to the focused faculty who deepen our thinking, to the remarkable alumni who stay engaged, and to the generous donors who make our efforts possible. YOU are all the Goldfarb Center.
Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs
The annual theme this year was determined by the Goldfarb Student Executive Board; the topic was perhaps even more salient than we expected. We sought out speakers who could talk to us about free speech issues ranging from constitutional rights to the role of social media and big technology. We looked at it from a broad, global perspective to specific rights on college campuses. Colby faculty led panels to explore whether free speech gives us better science, as well as how it is perceived in other countries. We had a particularly compelling conversation with Lisa Kaplan ’13 on the Role and Rise of Disinformation and how to protect ourselves in a digital age. You can see more about events related to the annual theme in the next section.
In April 2022, we hosted our annual Freedom of Expression Policy Symposium, where eight student semi-finalists presented their policy proposals on issues related to free speech on topics as diverse as preserving press freedom and the erosion of freedom to discuss queerness in public schools.
The winners of the policy competition, selected by a faculty panel, are pictured below. The top prize went to Serena Klebba ’25 (left) for her work on Freely Informing Consent: A Plan to Change Mandated Pre-Abortion Counseling, second place went to Chris Ward ’24 and Amir Jiru ’24 (center) who teamed up to focus on Misinfo Ed: Addressing Social Media Misinformation Through Education, and third place was awarded to Anna doRosario ’25 (right) for her compelling thoughts on A Turning Point: Time for an “FDA for Tech”.
“The essence of free speech is the right of every single individual to have the freedom to express their thoughts without anyone punishing or silencing us.”
Author, Hate: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech, Not Censorship
Former president of the American Civil Liberties Union
– Colby College, November 4, 2021
The Goldfarb Center hosted or co-sponsored over two dozen in-person events. We helped draw crowds with a remarkable dessert table and free Goldfarb swag. Many of the 20+ speakers we brought to campus met with select students and faculty for a private lunch or dinner before their talk to provide a deeper opportunity to network and discuss complex topics.
Our major public events are featured below. Click the Learn More button to read a description of the event and view a recording, when available. All recordings can also be found on our YouTube Channel.
The Goldfarb Center approaches student engagement as a core objective, from being a welcoming office with career advice and a never-ending candy bowl to working alongside leaders from the Goldfarb Student Executive Board to help shape and strengthen our programming. We have a team of student workers who help us with photography and social media engagement. We bring together students across campus to talk and network with guest speakers over lunch or dinner ahead of events, providing opportunities for them to better understand how they might build a career in public affairs.
Avery Marti '22 brought fresh energy to our student board. She introduced the first speaker this year in our free speech series, ensured we had the best Goldfarb-branded swag, and co-moderated an event on disinformation with Lisa Kaplan '13.Meet Avery
Gabriel Rivas Orellana '23 organized and co-moderated a conversation with one of the nation’s top First Amendment litigators to discuss free speech, including protest rights to student activism on college campuses. Gabriel will be a co-chair of the student board for 2022-2023.Meet Gabriel
Lauren Gervais '22 has been involved with the Goldfarb Center her entire four years at Colby. This year she served as co-chair, leading weekly meetings with the student executive team, led the Goldfarb social media accounts, and sought out the best speakers for our panel on social media and polarization. Lauren was an exceptional leader within the Goldfarb Center.Meet Lauren
The Goldfarb Student Executive Board started the fall semester with an overnight leadership retreat on Allen Island, one of two islands off the coast that Colby acquired this year. We did a lot of team building, strategic planning, and star gazing.
For the second year in a row, the Goldfarb Center guided and funded the spring publication of Overture, Colby’s only student-led journal of international affairs. This year’s edition featured seven student submissions, spanning a range of topics from the Jihadist insurgency in Burkina Faso to the history of far-right politics in Greece, as well as an interview with Colby Assistant Professor of Global Studies Nadia El-Shaarawi on the treatment of refugees from the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
While in-person internship and research opportunities were still not up to the same level as before the pandemic, the Goldfarb Center was proud to be able to fund the following students to engage firsthand with policymakers and advocacy organizations:
In collaboration with DavisConnects, the Goldfarb Center awarded nearly $23,000 in Sandy Maisel Student Internship and Research Grants to support students interested in public affairs.
worked for Lisa Kaplan ’13 to detect and mitigate disinformation and social media manipulation by building out disinformation databases, strengthening social networks, and analyzing digital threats. Her internship led to a full-time job after graduation.
interned on Capitol Hill this summer with the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee, working alongside policymakers to support the funding process for the nation’s expenditures.
served in the Massachusetts State House for Representative Hannah Kane (R – Shrewsbury) focusing on state policy issues ranging from health disparities to food security.
supported research and program implementation at Cultiva Global Solutions to help young adults in Rwandan refugee camps access higher education. She was also awarded a Jan Plan 2022 grant to work with Assistant Professor of Government Nicholas Jacobs to determine if a change in income during the pandemic affected attitudes towards universal basic income and the importance of stimulus checks.
spent his summer in NYC with Avenues for Justice, an organization dedicated to keeping young people out of prison, where he shadowed court advocates and taught digital creative skills.
conducted research and data analysis over Jan Plan 2022 with the Government Department to look at how the demographics of politicians impacts the way the public perceives them.
Nena Burgess ’22, this year’s winner of the Franko-Maisel Prize for Public Policy awarded by the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs, plans to use her prize money to move to Washington, D.C., so she can begin working on behalf of underrepresented communities.
Burgess, a government and global studies double major, intends to work for a law firm or nonprofit organization that specializes in immigration, civil rights, or housing. After gaining real-world experience, she is going to apply to law school with a goal of becoming a litigation attorney or leader of a legal-aid organization.
“I have learned that policy change and legal aid go hand-in-hand,” she said. “It is one thing to fight for the equitable enforcement of laws, but if the laws themselves are not equitable, then we have to change them.”
The Franko-Maisel Prize recognizes an outstanding senior who intends to pursue a policy-related career. The cash prize is made possible by longtime faculty members Patrice Franko, the Grossman Professor of Economics and Global Studies, and Sandy Maisel, the Goldfarb Family Distinguished Professor of American Government, Emeritus.
At Colby, Burgess served as a class senator for the Class of 2022 in the Student Government Association and as a communications chair for the Students Organized for Black and Latinx Unity (SOBLU). Through the Goldfarb Center, she led discussions on race and identity with diplomat and domestic-policy expert Susan Rice and another on free speech and campus protest rights with American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney Emerson Sykes.
Burgess was a Posse Scholar, a student research fellow for Montgoris Assistant Professor of Government Carrie LeVan, and a community liaison in the Office of Civic Engagement. She also received two Davis Grants for Global Experiences through DavisConnects and a Sandy Maisel Student Internship Grant.
Burgess said the opportunity to host the public talk with Rice “was a critical moment in my Colby experience and a huge reason I even applied for this award. It allowed me to talk with someone who for the most part looks like me about the possibility of actually making changes through policy and the power of my identity in that field. It was a key moment, and I will always remember it.”
Lindsay Mayka, associate professor of government, met Burgess during a government course when Burgess was a sophomore. “She has impressed me with her creative thinking, leadership, and deep commitment to social justice. She is exactly the kind of student I love teaching at Colby,” Mayka said. “The Franko-Maisel Prize will give Nena an amazing opportunity to launch her career in Washington, D.C., and I cannot wait to see what she does next.”
During her time at Colby, Burgess completed internships at the Pro Bono Institute in Washington, D.C., and with the ACLU of Maine. Those internships helped her connect policy reform and legal-aid advocacy to drug policies, criminal justice, and related issues. Her work at the Pro Bono Institute helped her realize the acute need for access to legal aid on a national scale, and the ACLU experience brought that need into focus at the community level.
“When there are institutional gaps such as the need for legal aid, the people who suffer the most are underrepresented communities—Black and brown communities primarily,” Burgess said. “There are so many avenues I could pursue, but after working at the ACLU I was pretty solidified in my commitment to prioritize advocating for underrepresented communities.”
Burgess returned to her home in Houston, Texas, after graduating in the spring. Soon, she will make the trip back to the East Coast and settle into a new career in Washington, D.C. “I feel that this award is an extension of the many other resources that have allowed me to succeed at Colby, and now beyond Colby,” she said.
The Goldfarb Faculty Advisory Committee is a vital part of the Goldfarb Center; faculty help shape the center’s policy themes and priorities and determine funding support for policy-relevant faculty work. Eight members were on the committee for 2021-2022 representing a range of disciplines: Associate Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies Denise Bruesewitz, Assistant Professor of Psychology Jin Goh, Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Science, Technology, and Society (STS) Department Aaron Hanlon, Charles A. Dana Professor and Chair of Education Adam Howard, Associate Professor and Chair of Sociology Christel Kesler, Associate Professor of Economics Rob Lester, Associate Professor of Government Lindsay Mayka, and Robert E. Diamond Professor of Government and Global Studies Jennifer A. Yoder.
We were lucky to have Professor CHRISTEL KESLER serve as the Goldfarb Faculty Associate Director for a second year. She kept the faculty committee engaged, moderated events related to our annual theme, and led faculty panels that decided the student winners for the Freedom of Expression Policy Symposium and the Franko-Maisel Prize for Public Policy.
In the fall of 2021, the center hosted an interdisciplinary faculty panel for a conversation about the compatibility of free speech and scientific inquiry and what we can do to protect both. The discussion, Does Free Speech Give Us Better Science?, was organized by members of the Goldfarb Faculty Advisory Committee and included Professor Kesler, Professor Hanlon, and J. Warren Merrill Professor in Chemistry and Natural History Dasan Thamattoor. They covered many issues from the importance of a free, open society with robust speech norms to the harms of misinformation during a global pandemic.
A faculty panel in the spring explored Global Perspectives on Free Speech. Colby professors discussed the kinds of historical and contemporary factors that help us understand how different countries around the world approach free speech as well as the role of public policy. Professor Kesler moderated the dialogue that featured Professor Yoder, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology Jun (Philip) Fang, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Government Nazli Konya.
Faculty outside of the Goldfarb Faculty Advisory Committee also engaged in Goldfarb Center events. Associate Professor and Chair of History John Turner joined our discussion on the fall and future of Afghanistan and Associate Professor of Anthropology Winifred Tate moderated a panel with Maine lawmakers and policy advocates on the role that academic research plays in informing and impacting public policy.
The Goldfarb Center proudly supported a faculty-student collaborative research project this year related to free speech. Associate Professor of Psychology Tarja Raag, in collaboration with Jason Milch ’24, designed and led a survey to better understand free speech and correlations to political affiliations of Colby students, faculty, staff, and administrators.
Assistant Professor of Psychology Jin Goh (left) moderated an event with K-pop superstar Eric Nam on the rising violence against Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders.