Bringing people together with expert guides to

think expansively

Really big questions are the questions that all of us find ourselves asking in the course of our lives, and that we have to keep on asking, because there isn’t just one answer. Each year, we find one of these questions and invite a handful of guides with very various expertise and interests to get us all thinking by sharing how they ask and answer it.


Doors open, Bangor Arts Exchange and Zoom 

11:00 – 12:30

Keynote and Lunch 

In-person: Chef Joe Robbins 
Zoom: Josh Rubin 

12:45 – 3:30

Small Group Sessions with Kate Dickerson, Cait Maddan, and Dan Sandweiss 

  • 12:45 – 1:30: Session 1  
  • 1:45 – 2:30: Session 2 
  • 2:45 – 3:30: Session 3
3:30 – 3:45

Coffee & Cake 


Closing Session 

2024 Big Question

What do we hold onto?
What do we let go?

Photos: Nolan Altvater

In February of 2024 we gathered at Bangor Arts Exchange and live online via Zoom for a day of wondering, pondering, and discussion led by people who engage with the double question what do we hold onto? what do we let go? in important avenues of life: handling the past, exploring the world, witnessing death, our place in the food web, our relationship with the tools and tech we use.

2024 Guides


Executive Chef, Bissell Brothers Three Rivers

About Joe

Penobscot Chef Joe Robbins is catalyzing change within and beyond indigenous foodways with a deep-rooted connectedness to the land and water and a vision for the future of contemporary indigenous culture that knows no bounds. In his life and work, Robbins is changing the conversation to put Native American food on the map in ways that transcend its complex history as a source of survival to show that cultural preservation is not locked in the past, but is emerging and evolving in dynamic ways. When he’s not in the kitchen, Robbins is creating a ripple effect with the next generation by collaborating to develop indigenous-based educational programming in the classroom and community to shift the paradigms of the past toward a new vision for the future


Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology and program committee member for Africana, Bates College

About Joshua

Joshua D. Rubin received his Ph.D. in Sociocultural Anthropology from Yale University in 2013. He currently teaches in Bates College’s Department of Anthropology, and he is also a member of the program committee for Africana (formerly African American Studies). His research examines the categories of art, sport, and media, and how boundaries are drawn (and blurred) between them. His research to date has centered on rugby and videogame production, and he has just begun a new long-term project about the role that culture plays in claims people make about representations of violence and the implications of those representations for those who perceive them.  

 His ethnographic study of South African rugby was published with University of Michigan Press in 2021, and his second book (on the roles that user research plays in the making of videogames) is forthcoming with University of Michigan Press as well. He has also published on the politics of the NFL Rulebook, the ambiguous violences of videogames, professional wrestling, and rugby, and contestations over artistic autonomy in Zimbabwe. Additional work has appeared in the journals SAFUNDI, Cultural Anthropology, and Africa


Executive Director, Maine Discovery Museum

About Kate

Kate Dickerson is the Executive Director of the Maine Discovery Museum and one of six Inaugural Liaisons for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Local Science Engagement Network. 

 The Maine Discovery Museum uses interactive exhibits and robust STEM programming inside and outside the museum to introduce Mainers to the value and importance of discovery and exploration. Before heading up the museum, Dickerson was the Founder and Director of the Maine Science Festival, an annual celebration of Maine science, technology, engineering, and innovation.  She’s also the Founder, Host, and Executive Producer of the Maine Science Podcast

Over the course of her career, Dickerson has worked for industry, nonprofits, and educational institutions in the areas of environmental policy, pollution prevention, and environmental cleanup. 

Dickerson currently serves on the Maine Innovation Economy Advisory Board (MIEAB), having been appointed by Governor Mills in April 2022. 


Death Educator, member of National End-of-Life Doula Alliance (NEDA) and National Home Funeral Alliance (NEFA)

About Caitlin

Cait Maddan’s (she/her) personal experience with the death by suicide of her best friend, followed two months later by her grandfather’s death, is exactly what propelled her curiosity and life-focus into the unique and vast space of grief, death, and suicide.  

Through that journey, Cait began volunteering with her local hospice and served at the bedside in her community. During that time she chose to take an end-of-life doula course and continue expanding her theory. A passion for serving folks in the death space developed, deeply, and over the years Cait’s journey has led her into different avenues of death care, work, and education. 

Currently, Cait offers digital downloads that you can purchase on her resource site: and value-driven education via Instagram and TikTok, @cait.deatheducation.  

Cait hosts a membership specific to suicide care and conversations, the Aware Care Library, where you gain access to a library of suicide-specific resources and receive new content each month, as well as a private Discord where suicide is talked about openly. 

Cait is proficient with and a member of the National End-of-Life Doula Alliance, proficient with the Home Funeral Alliance, and is passionate about participating in continuing education on a vast array of topics in death care, as death is a vast space.  

Cait is a Virgo, a mother to two teens, and loves finding quiet in the forests and throughout nature. 


Professor of Anthropology and Climate Studies, President of the Society for American Archaeology, University of Maine

About Dan

Dan Sandweiss is an archaeologist who works mainly in Peru on climate change and ancient coastal adaptations, with a particular interest in the prehistory of El Niño. Since 1993, he has been a professor of Anthropology and Quaternary and Climate Studies at the University of Maine, where he teaches classes on archaeology at all levels and inflicts lots of puns on his students. From 2005 to 2014, Dan served as the Dean and Associate Provost for Graduate Studies. He is currently the President of the Society for American Archaeology. 


In Bangor and Online

Registration for the BIG Question Has closed

For more information please contact


Past Questions

What if we go on this way?
What if…?

Our Big Question in 2022 was What if…? The year’s asynchronous event jump-started our engagement with Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism.

How should life be?

One way we engaged with Maine’s bicentennial was to ask How should life be? through four lenses: Many Maines, Migration & Borders, Race & Ethnicity, and Wabanaki Voices.  And to broaden our perspective even further, we heard from Lisa Margonelli, author of Underbug: An Obsessive Tale of Termites and Technology.  From a termite’s perspective, how should life be?  Smooth-walled and a little stinky.

Who is we?

The question “Who is we?” is urgent and political: we the people… we hold these truths to be self evident… who is we?”  But it is also timeless, and both smaller and larger than politics: we friends… we family… we who have suffered… we who breathe the air, bask in the sunshine, swim in the sea… every time we can stop and pay attention. We can say, “Wait, Who is we?

We heard from an astrophysicist, a printmaker, the founder of the Portland Food Security Council, an economist in UMaine’s Forest & Landscape Management program, and the director of USM’s Center for Compassion.

How can we know?

Expert guides shared how they seek answers when they want to know:

  • how can we know what our prognosis is when we’re ill?
  • what a cookbook can tell us about a place?
  • how to transmit emotions through dance?
  • what’s making spots on this blueberry leaf?
  • how to talk about it all?

Related News