History behind What Matters to Me and Why
The series started in the spring of 1994 with the name “Soul to Soul,” and then it was renamed “What Matters to Me and Why” when it restarted the next fall. Members of the university faculty or staff are invited to speak at the forum. The featured guest spends about twenty minutes addressing the subject of “What Matters to Me and Why,” and then the floor is opened to an informal dialogue for the remainder of the hour. From the beginning, there has been a focus on building a broad base for the program.
“Quintus Jett, founder of WMMW, remembers, “We wanted to reach out to all groups. We didn’t want people to see it as just a ‘Black thing.’ On the original committee we had the presidents of the Black Graduate Student Association (which originally funded us), the Asian-American Graduate Student Association, the Graduate Women’s Network, and the Graduate Student Association, and we invited a diverse group of speakers.”
The broad range of backgrounds of the first four speakers set the tone for the rest of the series. The first group included Dr. Francis Conley from the medical school, who was involved with a sexual harassment lawsuit at the time. She was followed by a guest associated more with the “university establishment,” Dean of Research Charles Kruger. Then came Dean of Students Michael Jackson, who is African-American and was an undergrad at Stanford. Fourth was David Palumbo-Liu, a proponent of Asian studies, who was involved with a hunger strike for that cause.
Jett continues, “But it is also very important to point out that except for Francis Conley, the other speakers didn’t focus on the public issues they were facing at the time. What I remember about Kruger was his talking about walking his daughter to school everyday for several years, as a way to spend time with her. Dean Michael Jackson talked about his experience as the first non-Caucasian student in a prestigious prep school. And, as everyone who was there for Palumbo-Liu’s speech will agree, he will be remembered for his ‘have a baby’ advice when someone asked him what graduate students could do to help them focus in grad school. He went on to explain that having a ‘baby’ or something else that gives you immense gratification, helps the student to maintain a healthy attitude.”