Off Topic

Off Topic

Off Topic was a series of hour-long radio programs hosted by Steven Hayward and Kathy Giuffre, professors of English and Sociology, respectively, at Colorado College. The intention of the show was to constellate ideas through witty, vibrant conversation and to provide a space to explore issues and ideas in greater depth and from a perspective often absent from the popular media.

Sometimes to get the whole story, you need to go off topic, which is something that the show was not afraid to do. Which is what the show was all about. Quite often, in this digitized, fragmentary world, off topic is the most topical, the most relevant place to be. 

These are the Off Topic archives.

How social networks drive creativity: Katherine Giuffre

Jan 9, 2014

How do communities spark creativity? Social network researcher and Colorado College professor Katherine Giuffre shares what she learned studying what was, at the time, arguably the most creative culture in the world -- on an island in the South Pacific.

Off Topic's Prof. Steven Hayward Featured on As It Happens.

Sep 17, 2013

From his collection Buddha Stephens and Other Stories, here is Off Topic's Prof. Steven Hayward, reading his short story August 7th, 1921.  (Please, forward to 7:00.)

Whether we're talking about banning extra large sodas a la Michael Bloomberg, eradicating high fructose corn syrup from our diets, choosing a box labeled organic or putting a greenhouse in our backyard and growing our own food, one thing is certain, food consciousness in America is reaching increasingly loftier heights each day. In this episode of Off Topic we explore the ways in which food is brought to our tables and whether our current industrialized food production model is a sustainable one, economically, environmentally and from a public health perspective. 

As part of the back-to-school festivities at Colorado College, Off Topic was invited to stage a taping of the show before a live audience of Colorado College faculty and staff members in the Richard F. Celeste Theater. What better issue to explore in this context than the crisis (or crises) facing America's colleges and universities? We spoke with critics, activists, professors, and administrators, to get their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities that will shape the future of higher education.

Off Topic: Race, Racism, and White Privilege

Aug 5, 2013


Despite the long history of racism, white supremacy, and racial violence in this country--and despite the progress that has been made in combating the worst and most glaring examples of it--Americans still have a very difficult time speaking candidly about the contemporary realities of race in our society. However, In the wake of events such as the recent not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman - Trayvon Martin case, it becomes urgently clear that we need to have real, substantive conversations about the undeniable effects of inequality in the United States.

Off Topic: Apocalypse Now! The End of Hollywood?

Jul 23, 2013
The Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection

Of all the industries imperiled by the new economics of the Internet age, Hollywood has seemed among the most resilient. While newspapers crumble and musicians resort to dubious gimmicks to make money off of their music, movie studios have continued to break box office records in much the same way they always did.

Off Topic: Discovery!

Jul 22, 2013

Progress--whether cultural, scientific, political or personal--is propelled by discovery. Or so we're told. History sometimes seems like little more than a string of paradigm-shattering revelations, one leading to the next, each bringing us a bit closer to The Truth. It's no surprise then that we mythologize groundbreaking discoveries (and discoverers) to the extent that we do. Archimedes in the bathtub, Isaac Newton and the apple, Benjamin Franklin's kite experiment: all of these stories are dubious in origin, apocryphal at best.

Why does our culture place value in that which is deemed authentic or original? What happens when we find out that the thing we have enshrined as authentic is determined to be nothing more than a copy? How does our relationship to the ideas of authenticity and originality impact the decisions we make from what dungarees to buy to which presidential candidate we vote for?


In this Episode…

There are times in our lives when we have no choice but to perform. The stakes are high, the pressure is on, the price of failure immense. It seems natural that most of us would try to minimize the amount of time that we spend in such anxiety-inducing situations. But what of those people who seek out these moments of acute pressure, who go so far as to pin their livelihood to them? What inspires them, and what can they teach the rest of us? In this episode of Off Topic, we ask athletes, performers, and academics about the stress of performance, and how to succeed in spite of it.

Off Topic: Space is the Place

Jul 7, 2013

It’s been over 40 years since the Apollo lunar module first touched down on the surface of the moon. So where are the colonies? The Mars missions? Why isn’t it The Future yet? In this episode of Off Topic, we speak with astronauts, writers and space experts about the past, present, and future of space travel.

 In This Episode:

Off Topic: The Fantasy of Childhood

Jul 7, 2013

  In a certain sense, childhood is most acutely experienced in retrospect. As a child, it’s simply life as you know it. But, as an adult, childhood (both one’s own and the developmental category in general) takes on a kind of mythic significance and, perhaps, nostalgic appeal. In this episode of Off Topic we look at the ways in which adults and their adult notions, fantasies, and theories about childhood shape what it means to be a child, and we ask if there is anything essential about childhood apart from what parents, teachers, movie producers, and authors say about it.


The figure of the Genius looms large in our contemporary thinking about art and creativity. Art is a gift given to the masses by those fortunate few who are capable of creating something from nothing, of inventing forms and sounds that the rest of us simply couldn’t imagine. Well, maybe that’s overstating it a bit. But whether or not we believe that great art and ideas emanate from so pure a source, there is certainly a tradition in the West which places the individual at the center of creative production.

In this episode of Off Topic:

  • Professor Stillman confronts the ambiguities inherent in the snake’s side of the story.
  • Canadian novelist Peter Behrens discusses how the Irish established the template for what it means to be an immigrant in North America.
  • Duke University professor Michael Moses shares his insights into the Irish literary tradition.
  • Steven Hayward speaks with Irish poet Eamon Grennan.
  • We visit an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day and speak with Dr. Kristi Erdal about the neurological effects of intoxication.

Off Topic: Death in the Digital Age

Jul 7, 2013

In the premiere episode of Off Topic:

  • Professor Stillman is thrust into the world of the Harlem Shake only to visualize himself as Death in the Danse Macabre.
  • Steven Hayward speaks with Steven Pustay about the digital logic of death.
  • Kathy Giuffre speaks with poet, Jane Hilberry, about the poetic embrace of death.
  • Steven Hayward discusses the demise of Lego Universe with his children.