Speakers Committee works to bring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, others to MU campus

Maya Angelou and Aron Ralston are some of the speakers the committee has brought to MU.

Dustin Lance Black, Lisa Ling, Dr. Maya Angelou, Aron Ralston, Blake Mycoskie and, as of next week, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt: these names have had more than 15 minutes of fame. They are also just a few of the high-profile events that The Speakers Committee has brought to MU.

The Speakers Committee is a faction of the Missouri Students Association Department of Student Activities, a department that houses committees for college music, films, black programming and more.

Speakers Committee Senior Chairwoman Amanda Gastler has been instrumental in choosing who comes to speak at MU. She said she asks students, "Who would you like to see on campus?" and contacts agencies to set up a contract.  

"We list speakers we're looking at, see who gets the best response, as well as look at other suggestions people leave," she said.

The committee does not only plan independent events, but also helps organizations bring in speakers as well. One of the most recent partnerships was with Delta Gamma Lectureship in Values and Ethics, when the committee brought in Aron Ralston.

"From the Speakers Committee standpoint, we chose him because we felt he could relate very well to the MU student audience as well as have a great message students would find interesting," Gastler said.

Gastler works with Speakers Committee Junior Chairman Parker Siddall. Both students are hyper-involved in the extensive process that comes with organizing a prominent speaker. The process includes travel and hotel arrangements, advertising, arranging publicity events, informing staff and press personnel, technological requirements and more.

"You have to think of all the small details when it comes to planning an event, especially when it involves a speaker or artist," Gastler said.

Siddall said they often get to meet the speakers in person.

"We pick them up from their hotel, sometimes we get to hang out with them for a little while, and we go to dinner," he said. "Then we take them to Jesse and let them do their thing."

The committee's next speaker is actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who will be coming to talk about his company hitRECord at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26.

HitRECord functions primarily through the website hitrecord.org. The site connects artists to work on creative collaborative endeavors such as short films and music.

With both True/False and Citizen Jane film festivals based out of Columbia, the area has no shortage of film-lovers. 

"We try to cater to the students and if they'd like to see famous people at Mizzou, then great," Siddall said. "As long as the speaker has a message that's worthwhile."

Freshman Kelsey Clark said she is a big fan of speakers. She wanted to see Ralston after she read his book, and she was excited to meet Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin at her MU book signing.

"Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a famous actor as well and I figured, 'When is the next time I'll get another opportunity like this?'" Clark said.

Clark said she loves going to hear speakers because she sees it as an amazing opportunity to be able to listen to such influential people. 

"Plus, it makes my friends back home jealous," Clark said.

In addition to other potential plans, the committee is bringing Salvatore Giunta, who is the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since Vietnam, to campus Nov. 8.

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