The inaugural Festival of Ideas begins Jan. 28 as a way for the university to position itself as a leader in innovation and thought exchange.

The theme of the festival is “Presidents and Politics.” According to the ETSU Festival of Ideas page, the goal of the events throughout the week is “for the exchange of ideas, information, and experiences between unique speakers, faculty experts, staff, students, community members and alumni around a central theme.”

“The event is really the brain child of President Noland,” Dr. Jeff Howard said. “He has seen different events from across the country either hosted by other institutions or sponsored by other cities. He brought it to several groups on campus, and that’s how the idea came about.”

One of the events that will be held during the week include a panel discussion on “The U.S. Presidency and the Media” in the Reece Museum on Jan. 30 at 1 p.m. The panel will include ETSU staff members Dr. David Briley, Dr. Daryl Carter, Dr. Andrew Dunn, Dr. Colin Glennon and ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland.

“Given what’s going on in our country today with the social media and the ability of the president to tweet instantaneously, I’m excited to see what some of the different academic departments have to say on their thoughts related to that topic,” Howard said.

Another event that will be held during ETSU’s Festival of Ideas is an evening with Jennifer Palmieri, who was White House Communications Director for President Obama and Head of Communications for the Hillary Clinton campaign. That event takes place in the Millennium Center Ballroom Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m.

Another event is “Changing Perspectives of U.S. Presidents” with Stephanie Steinhorst Williams, who is the Chief of Interpretation and Education at Andrew Johnson National Historic Site. This event will take place Jan. 29 in the Reece Museum at 1 p.m.

The final event of the week is Jan. 31 with Doris Kearns Goodwin, who is a Presidential Historian and Pulitzer Prize winning author. That event will be held in the Millennium Center Ballroom at 6:30 p.m.

“Jennifer Palmeiri was kind of the first person that came together,” Howard said. “Once we had her, with her history working for President Obama and the Hilary Clinton campaign, we were like, ‘Wow this really centers around U.S. presidents,’ and we built the week out from there.”

Howard expects the outcome of the week to generate conversation between faculty and students.

“If it generates some new thoughts, ideas and conversation at the academic core of who we are, then it was a success,” Howard said.

The festival events are free and open to the public. For more information contact the ETSU Office of Student Affairs at 423-439-4210 or at