VIDEO: Jeff Corwin Comes To Washburn

Brian Dulle / Media Credit: Brittni Knapp

Crowds of people from the Topeka community gathered at White Concert Hall to see Jeff Corwin, animal show host, with live exotic animals at “Jeff Corwin: Tales from the Field” last Thursday.

The Topeka Zoo helped sponsor the event and entertained people with live animals before the show began.

Corwin’s lecture was about how people are killing off different species of animals and are the only ones that can put a stop to it.  

Corwin said the single most important thing an individual can do when it comes to conservation is to recognize the impact one has as an individual, the power you have as a consumer in your community.

From ages 12 to 16, Corwin bussed tables to raise money to visit a rainforest in South America.

“As soon as I walked into that rainforest; I knew what I would be doing for the rest of my life.”

The event was part of the Washburn Student Government Association’s lecture series which brings in big name speakers and get students, faculty and members of the community to attend.

WSGA President Caley Onek and Vice President Lucas Mullin said the lecture series started four years ago during their freshman year.  The lecture series has transformed over the last couple of years helping reach out to the community.

“Caley and I’s first lecture series was our freshmen year and we got excited with over a couple hundred people and now we are getting a couple thousand people,” said Mullin.

Onek said the process to get high profile speakers is a long and complicated one starting off with scheduling a date, finding a location to have the event and picking a date in which a lot of students can come in.  Once that is done it is a back and forth process with negotiating cost, seeing community backing and how much support can be gained from sponsors.

“We are students so sometimes it can be more difficult because a lot of places don’t feel like students can negotiate,” said Mullin

Mullin said his freshman year, the lecture series was supported by student activity fee money 100 percent. But  the last couple years private donations have been the focus and they have been able to get more money, so this way student activity fee money is not spent solely on these lecture series.

“We had an awesome event tonight and hardly any student activity fee money was spent towards it,” said Mullin.

Onek said the Washburn biology department was a great partner with the event and also the Washburn Foundation was a tremendous help, having a call-a-thon specifically for the Washburn lecture series.

A lecture series committee put together a list of names of potential speakers that could be brought in.  

“For the quality of the speaker we could get and the cost, Jeff was definitely at the top of the list,” said Onek. “Seeing him with animals here tonight definitely makes us feel like it was worth it.”

Mullin said the last couple of speakers they have had focused on how to get the community’s support and how they can get the community involved.  

“In our last one we had a big thing on Coaches vs. Cancer, that’s money giving to help something, it’s not just us spending money and giving someone a great performance, we’re giving someone a great performance but then coming in and giving donations, it’s helping the Topeka community.”

Mullin said that at each program they try to reach out to a different audience and be as diverse as possible, bringing in people from different backgrounds.

Corwin brought out five kinds of animals including a marine toad, an alligator snapping turtle, a minotaur lizard, an American alligator and a Burmese python which he invited audience members to come up to the stage and hold them while he discussed the unique features of each animal.  Each animal was rescued from harsh environments in which the animals could not have survived on its own.

The event was connected with Can Emporia, a contest between Washburn and Emporia State University collecting canned goods. The school that collects the most cans gets to throw a pie in the opposing student government president’s face.

WSGA also is excited to connect their lecture events with the city of Topeka

“It’s great when we can get both students and the community to come out,” said Onek. “Tonight we had so many grade school age children here tonight and they were so excited to see Jeff Corwin and it’s awesome when we can get the kids excited and the community as well.”

Onek says they do not have any more lecture series planned for this semester. Typically three speakers visit campus but this semester only featured two.

“We’re trying it out this year and we’ll see how they do it next year,” said Onek. “I’m not sure who they will be bringing but I think it’s something everyone should be listening for.”