The Effects of Genetic Technologies on Society

Advancements in genetics, including the Human Genome Project and CRISPR, have brought an intersection between science, ethics, and society, raising questions of not only what is possible using these technologies but also what should be allowed.

We urge you to mark your calendars for the week of October 8-11, 2018 as Western Piedmont Community College will host the 2018 Fall Speakers Forum/Ervin Constitutional Issues Program. Our presenters will explore these questions through a series of forums. All presentations are free and open to the public. They will be held in WPCC’s Leviton Auditorium located in Moore Hall [map] with receptions being held after each event.

The Fall Speakers Forum/Ervin Constitutional Issues Program has a long history at WPCC, beginning in 1967. The annual event, hosted by the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Senator Sam J. Ervin Library,  consists of three days where students, faculty, staff, and the local community explore a timely topic and engage in conversation. Discussions have covered a variety of topics over the years and we have an archive of prior Speakers Forum topics online.  The event is sponsored by the WPCC Student Government Association, the Department of Workforce Development and Continuing Education and donors who give to the Western Piedmont Foundation.  To make a contribution in support of the forum, please visit

We hope you will make plans to join us for the discussions on this timely topic in October.

2018 Forum Events

Human Genome-Themed Student Art Exhibition

Begins Thursday, October 4, Artist’s Reception October 4 1:00-3:00 p.m., Goodfellow Gallery, Phifer Hall [map]

Students at WPCC will exhibit their art that is based on this year’s theme in the Goodfellow Gallery, located inside of the WPCC Learning Resources Center/Academic Success Center. A reception for the artists and the exhibit will be held from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 4.

How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids – and the Kids We Have

Monday, October 8, 7:00 p.m., Leviton Auditorium, Moore Hall [map]

Photo of Bonnie Rochman

Bonnie Rochman

Bonnie Rochman is an award-winning journalist and author of The Gene Machine. She has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and numerous other publications. Her presentation is an engaging look at how advances in science are reshaping the experiences of families and highlighting the ethical challenges of modern medicine. She explores the new frontiers of gene technology and their implications for bioethics and society in general. Is DNA testing a triumph of modern medicine or a Pandora’s Box? When it comes to their genes and those of their children, how much do people really want to know?

From the Human Genome Project to Precision Medicine: How Biologists, Statisticians, and Computer Scientists Are Making a Difference in Human Health

Tuesday, October 9, 11:00 a.m., Leviton Auditorium, Moore Hall [map]

Dr. Joan Bailey-Wilson

Dr. Joan Bailey-Wilson

Dr. Joan Bailey-Wilson is a senior investigator and co-chief of the Computational and Statistical Genomics Branch at the National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health. She specializes in genetic epidemiology and is especially interested in risk factors for lung cancer. The Human Genome Project, which was initiated by researchers around the world, has sequenced the genomes of humans and many other organisms and has developed new research tools. Better cancer treatments, progress on preventing or reversing blindness, discoveries that may extend the human lifespan, and work that has given us a better understanding of the rich diversity of life on planet Earth are just some of the benefits that we have reaped from the Human Genome Project. And the best is yet to come!

Documentary Screening: Cracking Your Genetic Code

Wednesday, October 10,  beginning hourly, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Leviton Auditorium, Moore Hall [map]

A free screening of the Nova PBS documentary that discusses the opportunities and issues that are opening up with the arrival of genetic testing and modification will take place starting hourly in Leviton Auditorium. The screening is open to anyone who would like to view the program.

A Neglected Research Policy Challenge: Is Human Enhancement the Price of Editing Genes to Prevent Disease?

Thursday, October 11, 7:00 p.m., Leviton Auditorium, Moore Hall [map]

Dr. Eric Juengst

Dr.  Eric Juengst is Director of the Center for Bioethics and Professor in the Department of Social Medicine and the Department of Genetics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His research focuses on ethical issues raised by new advances in human genetics and biotechnology. He is particularly interested in the boundaries of human gene editing. Should clinical gene editing research be done only for the treatment of disease or disability, or could it be aimed at proactively “strengthening the body to resist disease”? As animal research continues, the possibilities of using its discoveries in preventative gene editing in humans will make the problems of enhancing human traits a practical science policy challenge.

Please Note

WPCC complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and will make every effort to honor reasonable requests made by individuals with qualifying disabilities. Accommodations must be requested three business days in advance of school events or activities through the Office of Disability Services in Room 135 Hildebrand Hall or call (828) 448-3153 (voice/video relay). Sign language interpreters will be available at each event.

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