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Free to Think Podcast

By: Scholars at Risk
  • Summary

  • Free to Think features conversation with interesting, thoughtful, and inspiring individuals whose research, teaching, or expression falls at the always sensitive intersection of power and ideas. We'll be speaking with those who have the courage to seek truth and speak truth, often at great risk, as well as with those who support them and share their stories. Free to Think is a podcast presented by Scholars at Risk, where we celebrate people with the courage to think, question, and share ideas. For information on membership, activities, or donating to Scholars at Risk, visit
    Copyright Scholars at Risk, Inc. 2021
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  • Nov 29 2022

    In 1997, Henry Reese and his wife, Diane Samuels, were at a public talk by writer Salman Rushdie, and inspired by his call for communities around the world to offer sanctuary to exiled writers. They "kicked each other under the chair" and thought, why not? Six years later, they founded the City of Asylum, Pittsburgh, a multi-unit residency program that has welcomed exiled writers and artists from China, Syria, Bangladesh and beyond. 

    Twenty-five years later, Reese was invited to interview Rushdie at the Chautauqua Institute Amphitheater. Just as the interview was about to begin, Rushdie was violently attacked. Reese has described the audience’s rushing to the writer’s aid, attributing it to what Reese calls the “reader effect” – a real time demonstration of how reading literature and sharing stories builds empathy and meaningful community.

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    31 mins
  • Nov 15 2022

    Free to Think talks with Roya Hakakian, a writer and founding member of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, and Sasha Gladkikh, a student activist and director of philanthropy at the Iranian Student Group at UCLA about the recent protests in Iran. 

    On September 16th, 2022, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman died in the custody of Iran’s notorious state morality police. Since then, sustained mass protests have erupted across Iran, including at more than 50 universities, led by women and girls demanding freedom from state-directed violence. Hakakian and Gladkikh discuss the importance of Mahsa Amini, the protests, and the fight for women’s dignity and rights.

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    24 mins
  • Jun 29 2022

    Free to Think talks with Yulia Bezvershenko, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, and Liz Shchepetylnykova, a civil society activist, on the state of higher education in Ukraine after four months of war. 

    As Russia invaded Ukraine, and war broke out across the country, professors and students in Ukraine fought to keep education going. Even from bomb shelters, they provided lectures online and completed their coursework. “[I]t’s very important to provide this feeling of future, of opportunities." They describe how Ukrainian students and researchers are experiencing the war, explain why many scholars are opting to stay in the country, and offer advice on immediate and long-term strategies for supporting the students, scholars and higher education institutions of Ukraine.

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    31 mins

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