Ozark Outdoors

Public Affairs Conference focuses on building healthy communities

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The Avenue of Flags at Missouri State University, host for the XX annual Public Affairs Conference.

The Avenue of Flags at Missouri State University, host for the XX annual Public Affairs Conference.

SPRINGFIELD – Missouri State University will host the 12th annual Public Affairs Conference April 5-8. With a theme of “Building Healthy Communities: Body, Mind and Spirit,” the conference will bring a variety of speakers and workshops to the Springfield campus.

All events are free and open to the public.
Here’s a scheduled and event summary:

Jillian Michaels
Strength trainer and life coach Jillian Michaels is the keynote speaker for the conference. Her presentation, “How to build an exceptional life,” will be held at 7:30 p.m. April 5 in JQH Arena and is sponsored by the Missouri State University Foundation with presenting sponsor Arvest.

Michaels, best known for her appearances on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser,” will offer her belief that a lifetime’s worth of struggle is not overturned in a small moment of positive thinking. But if people have the right attitudes and skills, they can and will accomplish anything and everything they desire. Michaels will address the importance of attitude and action as tools that can change lives.

Dr. Mark Umbreit’s presentation, “Restorative justice in the 21st century: An international social movement loaded with opportunities and pitfalls,” will occur at noon April 6 in the Plaster Student Union (PSU) Theater. Umbreit will provide an overview of restorative justice as a social movement, its achievements, opportunities present, and a small but growing number of pitfalls involving unintended negative consequences.

Umbreit is a professor and founding director of the Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. He is an internationally recognized practitioner and scholar with more than 40 years of experience as a mediator, peacemaker, trainer, teacher and researcher.

Zack Exley
The full-time senior adviser to the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, Zack Exley works with organizations, companies and movements to increase response, build community and raise money.

Exley’s presentation, “Information, technology and the class gap: How does information sharing affect community health?” is set for 7:30 p.m. April 6 at the PSU Theater. He will explore the marginalization of those who are technologically disadvantaged and consider the impact this new class system might have on healthy community building.

Paul Thomlinson
In “Why do people die by suicide?” Paul Thomlinson will include a research-based discussion of the factors known to predict the desire to kill oneself, as well as the acquired ability to do so. The talk is set for noon April 7 in the PSU Theater, and will present the American Association of Suicidology’s model of risk factors for suicide, which are often used as a framework for conducting a “psychological autopsy.”

Thomlinson is a licensed psychologist with specialties in organizational, clinical and experimental psychology, and is the vice president—research and quality assurance for Burrell Behavioral Health.

Dr. Peter Gray
In “Decline of emotional resilience among college students: Causes and potential solutions,” Gray will suggest that much of the problem lies in the overemphasis on academic performance and the loss of free play in childhood and adolescence. The session is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. April 7 in the PSU Theater.

A research professor of psychology at Boston College, Dr. Peter Gray has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology and education. He is author of an internationally acclaimed introductory psychology textbook, “Psychology” by Worth Publishers, now in its seventh edition.

Robert Putnam
In “Our kids: The American dream in crisis,” Robert D. Putnam will address this central tenet of the American dream that seems no longer true, or at the least, much less true than it was, at noon April 8 in Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts.

Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the British Academy and past president of the American Political Science Association.

Schedule, parking and information
The conference has more than 25 panelists from business, nonprofit, government, academia and other areas.

The Public Affairs Conference website provides background information about conference speakers and a complete program.

Free parking will be available at BearPark North, with entrances off Cherry Street and Elm Street, as well as BearPark South, located on the corner of Grand Street and Holland Avenue. A free shuttle service will provide transportation to Plaster Student Union from both parking garages.

For more information, contact Mary Ann Wood, director of public affairs support, at (417) 836-5073.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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