Bringing people together

with expert guides to think expansively about a really big question

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.

February 9, 2023


2023 Guides

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Portland, Maine Poet Laureate

Assistant Professor of History, University of Southern Maine

Author, An Unkindness of Ghosts

Maine State Poet Laureate

Raise-OP Housing Cooperative

Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition

Lewiston Public Schools

Master Drummer

Executive Director, H.O.M.E, Inc.

George Lincoln Skolfield, Jr. Professor of Religion, Bowdoin College

Professor of History, University of New England

Professor of Literature, University of Maine-Farmington

Coordinator, Maine Prisoner Advocacy Coalition

What if we knew and shared more about shellfish reproduction, with less concern for money?

Founder and Director, Franco-American Women’s Institute

What if we could all really see who we are?

Assistant Professor of English, University of Kentucky

Historian, Educator

President, Board of Directors Abyssinian Meeting House

Founder and Director, Atlantic Black Box

Assistant Professor, School of Legal Studies, Husson University

Writer, Educator

Staff Writer, Sun Journal

Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education, University of Southern Maine

Professor of History, University of Maine

Poet, Writer, Organizer

Scholar of Cultural Narratives

Historian, scholar, independent museum professional

Assistant Professor of Media Studies, University of Maine

Associate Professor of Africana Studies

Storyteller and oral historian

Professor of Political Science, University of Maine at Farmington

Poet, Writer, Archivist

Community Support Coordinator, Lewiston Public Schools

Associate Professor, Professional Communication and Journalism

Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies, Bates College

Associate Professor of East Asian Studies, Colby College

Professor in Philosophy, Social Theory, and Peace Studies, College of the Atlantic

ETEP Coordinator, University of Southern Maine

Chair, Native American Programs and Director of Native American Research, University of Maine

Professor of Religion and Philosophy, Maine College of Art

Writer, Veteran

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Education, Bowdoin College

Occupational Therapist, Writer, Teacher

Cultural Historian, Penobscot Nation

Journalist, Historian

Associate Professor of Creative Writing, Colby College

Independent Historian

Assistant Professor of Arts and Sciences, Maine Maritime Academy

Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Maine

Educator, Community Interpreter

No Speaker for this Selection

This is such a fantastic ideato have a multidisciplinary approach to these issues to encourage collaboration.”



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Past Questions

What if…?

Our Big Question in 2022 was What if…? The year’s asynchronous event jump-started our engagement with Afrofuturism and Africanfuturism. See the guides’ presentations and work through the whole program, ask and keep asking what if…?

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?

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