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Annual 'Raft Debate' to be held Sept. 30

The Raft Debate, a much beloved William & Mary tradition, will be held at the Sadler Center's Commonwealth Auditorium on Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 6:30 pm.
During the event, three survivors of an imaginary shipwreck -- a scientist, a social scientist, and a humanist -- achieve a delicate balance between comedy and lecture as they debate the value of their respective disciplines for the rest of humanity.

Raft Debate posterOnly one of these professors can return to civilization in the life raft.  A fourth faculty member -- a devil's advocate -- joins the survivors and argues sarcastically that none of the academic disciplines  is worth saving. The winner of the debate is chosen by a judge based on audience reaction.

This year's survivors representing their disciplines and the fate of humanity are:

Natural and Computational Sciences:  Physics Professor David Armstrong.  Armstrong teaches introductory physics as well as graduate quantum mechanics and is the technical/content advisor for the Physics Flexbook Project, an online resource for K-12 education in the Commonwealth.  He conducts research in experimental nuclear and particle physics at the Jefferson Lab in Newport News and at Canada's National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics. 

Social Sciences:  Economics Professor David Feldman.  Feldman teaches courses on the international economy in the Department of Economics, the Public Policy program, and the International Relations program.  His current research explores the political-economy and efficiency of development aid, and economic integration.   Feldman has also published articles on health care inflation, higher education costs and car tax cuts. 

Humanities:  Associate Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures Giulia Pacini.  Pacini is a specialist in eighteenth-century French literary and cultural history.  She teaches language classes and more advanced courses on topics such as the French Revolution and early modern theater.  Pacini is currently co-editing an interdisciplinary volume entitled "Arboreal Values," and she has recently published analyses of the early modern discourse on tree pruning, felling and grafting. 

The devil's advocate will be played by Assistant Professor of Education Jeremy Stoddard.  Stoddard directs the secondary social studies education program and teaches secondary social studies methods and other curriculum and instruction courses.   His research interests center on the intersection of social studies education and media, applying critical and socio-cultural theories to understand how teachers and students use different forms of media in teaching and learning (e.g., film, video games, virtual field trips).

The judge will be played by Laurie Sanderson, Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, Arts & Sciences.

The public is invited to join the excitement as the professors cajole, plead, pontificate, and resort shamelessly to props and costumes until the final, lone survivor, is decided.

The Raft Debate, sponsored by the Office of Graduate Studies and Research, the Graduate Center, and the A&S Graduate Student Association, is free and open to the public.  A reception will follow in the Tidewater A of the Sadler Center.

For more information, visit or contact Chasity Roberts at