Record-breaking Bill Nye event encourages climate activism


Elly Herrick

Winona State University hosted guest-speaker Bill Nye on Nov. 1. Nye blended comedy and science to explain topics like the effects of climate change and the vastness of space.

Olivia Prondzinski, News Reporter

One of the biggest names in American science, Bill Nye, visited Winona State University on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Nye was hosted by the Winona State University Lyceum Series.

Originally, the event was supposed to be hosted in Somsen Hall’s Harriet Johnson Auditorium, but after tickets sold out within the first day, the university decided to move the event to McCown Gymnasium.

The Winona State Lyceum Series has been presenting events and presentations since 1989 with the goal to provide speakers in a variety of topics. Last year, the Lyceum Committee hosted Michael Che, an American stand-up comedian, and have also hosted other big names like Maya Angelou. In the past, the Lyceum Committee had been hosting speakers for smaller groups like mathematics and science, but recently they have been trying to bring in speakers everyone would want to see.

The Winona State Lyceum Committee has been trying to bring Nye to campus for a couple years now. Nye was of special interest to the committee due to his academic and nostalgic factors.

“I think this is great for the campus, it’s great for the notoriety, it helps students feel like their fees are going towards something that they are excited about,” George Micalone, the director of student union activities, said. “We had some savings from COVID-19 and a donor for WSU Lyceum whose contributions will help us make the caliber of speakers more relevant down the road.”

Micalone feels having someone with recognition like Nye helps stir excitement in both the campus and Winona community.

After tickets sold out within the first day, the university decided to move the event to McCown Gymnasium. This resulted in record-breaking attendance from students, faculty, and community members. (Contributed from: Winona State University)

When Lyceum tested the idea of Nye as the speaker for this semester with students and faculty, the committee got an overwhelming positive response.

“I’m excited for the university to host this big event, and I am excited to see him since I have followed him for years,” Peter Miene, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said. Miene gave full credit to Micalone for his efforts to make the Bill Nye event possible.

Dr. Jennifer Anderson, associate professor in the department of geoscience, got to moderate the question-and-answer portion of the event with Nye. Anderson was thrilled, as she has been a fan of Nye since college.

“I learned how to program my VCR so I could record his show and then come home and watch him after my classes,” Anderson said.

Nye has been an inspiration to Anderson for years.

“I’m also a little nervous, he’s Bill Nye the Science Guy, so I hope I can do a good job for all of us,” Anderson commented.

The Lyceum Committee interviewed different science faculty for a chance to be a part of the event. Students and faculty were able to submit questions for Nye through the committee.

Anderson was decked in a solar system dress and planet earrings to portray her enthusiasm for science.

On the day of the event students lined up as early as two hours before to snag the best seats, some students even brough signs to cheer for Nye. McCown Gymnasium was packed with excitement. According to Micalone, this was the largest event on campus in years.

Autumn Bartoon, fifth-year student, was excited to hear about the topics Nye was going to speak about.

“I’m mostly excited to see what he has to say about climate change, and what we can do as a younger generation,” Bartoon said.

Ashlynn Leonard, third-year student, was excited to see Nye because of the nostalgia and energy he brings.

Laughing, Winona State University professor, Dr. Jennifer Anderson reads off questions written by students and faculty. Nye recounts an adventure where he rode with a pilot and experienced tremendous g-force pulling at his face. (Elly Herrick)

Bartoon and Leonard explained that Nye is one of the main reasons they are both in STEM today.

Nye opened the show by explaining he was here to talk about Earth and what our generation can do to change it.

“It’s not up to me, it’s up to you,” Nye explained.

Nye spoke about a number of issues with a mix of comedy, but Nye’s main message was that climate change is real, and we need to take action now. Nye stated the number one thing we can do to combat climate is to vote.

“I am not telling you who to vote for but use your judgement and take the environment into account when voting,” Nye said.

Nye works for The Solutions Project which strives to convert our lives to be powered by clean energy. Nye explained in simple terms how America could be running completely on clean energy by 2050. By switching to clean energy, Nye stated there could be around three million jobs created in the process.

After his presentation, Nye left audience members with a message: “I am not telling you who to vote for but use your judgement and take the environment into account when voting”. (Elly Herrick)

“We need big ideas, giant ones to change the world,” Nye said, “if we let this get away from us, it’s our fault.”

At the end of the talk, the audience stood up to cheer for Nye and started chanting his name.

Raven Johnson and her son Nigel Morris drove all the way from Rochester to see Nye. Morris has a learning disability and was jumping for joy after he saw Nye. Johnson explained she grew up watching Nye and has since passed her love down to Nigel.

Nye gave Nigel a signed badge that read, “science rules”.

“I’m going to keep this forever,” Nigel said.

Johnson stated this talk was a great way to reiterate to her son that anything is possible. Nigel asked if Nye himself was going to see this article, and then yelled “anything is possible!”