USAO to host free conference on liberty, justice and equality Oct. 23-25

2023 Building Bridges 2.0
Arlie Hochschild and Reginald Betts will serve as the conference’s keynote speakers.

The Dr. Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Center for Social Justice and Racial Healing, an interdisciplinary academic and social service program at the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma, will present Building Bridges 2.0: Liberty, Justice and Equality Oct. 23-25.

Building Bridges 2.0 will educate and foster dialogue about the nature and status of American democracy. It examines themes of liberty, justice and equality to discuss how the U.S. transformed from a global leader in advancing civil liberties and political rights to a backsliding democracy, and how this transformation is impacting the social contract between the government and its citizens.

The conference is free of charge. For the full conference schedule and to register to attend in person or virtually, visit

“This conference seeks to raise questions about how liberty, justice and equality have been understood presently and historically,” said Dr. Tonnia L. Anderson, associate professor of history and Fisher Center director. “We will examine how these topics intersect with institutional practices in law, education, finance, housing and public policy on both state and federal levels. We will also explore why many Americans feel the social contract seems broken, and the feelings of alienation, discontent and exclusion that result from it.”

Arlie Hochschild and Reginald Betts will serve as the conference’s keynote speakers. Emeritus professor of sociology at the University of California—Berkeley, Hochschild is the author of nine books, including “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” a finalist for the National Book Award. Betts is a poet, legal scholar, educator and prison reform advocate who, after spending more than eight years in prison for an armed carjacking at the age of 16, went on to earn an MFA in creative writing and a juris doctorate before founding Freedom Reads, an organization which gives incarcerated people access to books. He was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2021.

Betts will also be the featured speaker at 2023 Ableson Religious Reconciliation Lecture, which will be held Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. in the USAO Ballroom. This event is free and open to the public.

Another keynote speaker will be USAO’s own Chelsea Fuston, a senior multidisciplinary studies major from Yukon who is currently working on an original research project on Christian Nationalism. Fuston also served as a Brad Henry International Scholar, spending a semester at Swansea University in Wales and has been actively involved in the school’s Student Government Association.

The Dr. Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher Center for Social Justice and Racial Healing at USAO educates and inspires individuals dedicated to the pursuit of social justice and advancing the common good. Students research the fundamental issues and complexities of what constitutes community through the lens of their own academic majors. Working with mentors in the community, students develop service-learning projects so they can employ their education as a mechanism of transformation and healing.

Building Bridges 2.0 is possible in-part thanks to additional support from Oklahoma Humanities, USAO Foundation, Human Community Network, Institute for the Healing of Memories, Respect for Diversity Foundation, Thick Description, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform, Black Lives Matter—Oklahoma City, Sally’s List, TEEM and Columbia University’s Square One Project.

For more information visit