Current Conversations header
Welcome to Current Conversations with RC Davis-Undiano.
  • Welcome to Current Conversations with RC Davis-Undiano.
  • RC talking with Carl Pope during filming.
  • OU Film Video crew behind the scenes at NCORE.
  • Filming guests with RC behind the scenes.
  • RC talking with guest, Adrienne Keene.
  • OU Film Video crew behind the scenes.
  • RC on air with a guest.
  • RC talking with Phil Yu on air.
  • RC talking with Dayton Duncan on air.
  • Provost Harper talking with RC.
  • Prof. Landis and Prof. Shehata on the air with RC.
  • RC gets ready to go on air.

Welcome to Current Conversations at the University of Oklahoma.

Current Conversations is a television show hosted by Robert Con Davis-Undiano and produced by Video and Media Services in OU Outreach. Each episode covers a new, topical event going on in our world.


Making a Difference

This one-on-one lively forum features people who are making a difference in the world—scientists, educators, humanists, writers, and artists. The goal is to focus on people who function as “bridge builders,” or people in the culture who are making important connections between areas of knowledge.

Current Conversations has welcomed famous environmentalists, writers, documentary film makers, political scientists, and many others. Each week the show finds relevant connections between people and areas of knowledge that really matter and gives its viewers a close-up perspective on important developments changing the world around them.

“I hope people will watch the show and be delighted at the research that’s being done at the University of Oklahoma,” Davis-Undiano said. “It’s a chance to meet some accomplished and brilliant people.”












R.C. Davis Undiano sits down with Dr. Cecil Lewis, the director of the Molecular Anthropology Lab at the University of Oklahoma. His work is on the forefront of current research on microbes in the human body, and this thorough discussion sheds new light on the genetic make-up within each of us.


Dr. Joshua Landis, an expert on Syria and the Middle East, and Dr. Samer S. Shehata, an expert on Egypt and the Middle East, discuss the region’s current challenges and the possibility of political breakthroughs. Landis writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 50,000 readers a month. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. He travels frequently to Washington, D.C., to consult with government agencies and speak at think tanks. Shehata is the author of Shop Floor Culture and Politics in Egypt and editor of Islamist Politics in the Middle East: Movements and Change. He has testified before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations in the U.S. Congress.


RC Davis-Undiano sits down with three distinguished scientists who are working in the area of bio-medical research at the University of Oklahoma.  Dr. Ann West is Joseph Brandt Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Dr. Hong Liu is Charles and Jean Smith Chair in Biomedical Engineering and professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.  And Dr. David Schmidtke is associate professor in the School of Chemical, Biological, and Materials Engineering. The discussion includes what the motivating factors are that led them to their fields and the interdisciplinary connections that bring them all together.



Dr. Diana Bairaktarova is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Practice at the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering. Diana’s research focuses on design thinking and the human experience. Image credits for this segment.




Season 1 Episodes

Current Conversations has welcomed famous environmentalists, writers, documentary filmmakers, political scientists and many others.

Robert Con Davis-Undiano discusses the latest issues in the Middle East with Dr. Joshua Landis and Dr. Samer Shehata.

Robert Con Davis-Undiano discusses the latest issues in Indigenous Law with Professors Taiawagi Helton and Lindsay Robertson.


Robert Con Davis-Undiano discusses the latest issues in race relations on college campuses with Dr. Belinda Biscoe and Dr. Kathleen Wong.


Robert Con Davis-Undiano discusses the latest issues in Syria with Dr. Joshua Landis.















Distinguished guests on Current Conversations


Dr. Diana BairaktarovaDiana Bairaktarova

Diana Bairaktarova is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Practice at the University of Oklahoma College of Engineering. Diana’s research focuses on design thinking and the human experience. Diana is a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society (2010) and Sigma-Xi Science and Engineering Honored Society (2012).

Jim CampbellJim Campbell

James E. Campbell is a University of Buffalo Distinguished Professor of Political Science. He is also a past President of Pi Sigma Alpha, The National Political Science Honor Society (2008-10), and Chair of the Political Forecasting Group, a Related Group of the American Political Science Association. He is a former American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and a program director at the National Science Foundation. He has served on six editorial boards of political science journals and on seven executive councils of political science organizations. Professor Campbell has published four books and more than seventy book chapters and articles in political science journals. His most recent book is the second edition of The American Campaign: U.S. Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote, published in 2008 by Texas A&M University Press. He is also the author of Cheap Seats: The Democratic Party's Advantage in U.S. House Elections and The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections. Prior to joining the UB faculty in 1998, he served on the faculties of the University of Georgia (1980-88) and Louisiana State University (1988-98).

Dr. Amy B. CeratoAmy B. Cerato

Dr. Amy B. Cerato is Rapp Foundation Presidential Associate Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. She is a geotechnical engineer who specializes in expansive soil research. In 2009, she was awarded the prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. She also works on projects to enhance science education and awareness of engineering in the public schools.

Dr. Jim ChamberlainJim Chamberlain

Dr. Jim Chamberlain is a graduate of Clemson University and Texas A&M. He currently works as a research engineer at the WaTER Center at the University of Oklahoma, an institute that conducts projects to improve drinking water in emerging countries such as Cambodia, Ethiopia, Bolivia, and El Salvador. He has over twelve years of environmental engineering and consulting experience, and Dr. Chamberlain is an expert in sustainable systems, life cycle analysis, biogeochemistry, and optimization.

Dayton DuncanDayton Duncan

Dayton Duncan is a legendary writer and commentator on the American experience. He has written many books on topics such as the Lewis and Clark expedition, the National Parks, American jazz, the American west, and the Dust Bowl. However, he is most well known for his collaboration with Ken Burns in making a number of high-visibility documentary films that have been very successful on PBS.

Dr. Joshua LandisJoshua Landis

Dr. Joshua Landis, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, is the Director of OU’s Center for Middle East Studies and is an expert on Syrian politics and culture.  He is also a frequent guest on news shows on National Public Radio, CNN, and other news services around the world.

Dr. Cecil M. Lewis, Jr.Cecil M. Lewis, Jr.

Dr. Cecil M. Lewis, Jr., an associate professor, is the director of the Molecular Anthropology Laboratory at the University of Oklahoma. He works in the areas of anthropological genetics, population genetics, the evolution of disease-associated genetic variation, and his current projects focus on human microbiomes from extant and extinct indigenous peoples.

Dr. Hong LiuHong Liu

Dr. Hong Liu is Charles and Jean Smith Chair in Biomedical Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Oklahoma. His research concerns the development of innovative imaging techniques for medical diagnosis and treatment.

Maaza MengisteMaaza Mengiste

Born in Ethiopia, Maaza Mengiste graduated with an MFA in creative writing from New York University. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, BBC Radio 4, The Granta Anthology of the African Short Story, Granta magazine, and Lettre International. Her debut novel, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, chronicles a family’s unraveling in the wake of Ethiopia’s 1974 revolution. The Shadow King, her second novel, takes place during the early days of World War II.

Mengiste is a contributing writer to the 10×10 film Girl Rising, which “uses the power of storytelling and the leverage of strategic partnerships to deliver the message that educating girls in developing nations will change the world” ( The film will have its Oklahoma premiere at the 2013 Puterbaugh Festival.

Maaza Mengiste teaches at NYU and lives in New York City.

Carl PopeCarl Pope

Carl Pope is a noted environmental leader who was the Executive Director of the Sierra Club from 1992-2010. Mr. Pope then served as chairman of the Sierra Club until stepping down from that position in November 2011. Working with the Sierra Club for more than 30 years, he was also Political Director for Zero Population Growth and has founded several environmental organizations and initiatives, most notably the National Apollo Alliance and the Blue/Green Alliance, cooperative efforts involving environmentalists, manufacturers, unions, and policy makers. He is the author of Strategic Ignorance,:  Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress (2004) and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post and writes several blogs.

David SabatiniDavid A. Sabatini

Dr. David Sabatini is David Ross Boyd Professor and Sun Oil Company Endowed Chair of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science at the University of Oklahoma, where he is Director of the Water Technologies for Emerging Regions (WaTER) Center. His research focuses on sustainable drinking water systems for developing countries (Cambodia and Ethiopia), surfactant-based environmental and biofuel technologies, and understanding / characterizing contaminant fate and transport in the environment. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, Associate Editor of Journal of Surfactants and Detergents and Editorial Board member of the Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, and has coauthored or coedited four books and over 170 refereed journal publications. Recent awards include the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Illinois Civil and Environmental Engineering Alumni Association (2012), the Water Environment Federation Award of Merit for Work in Developing Countries (2011), the DaVinci Fellow Award from the DaVinci Institute of Oklahoma (2010), and the Oklahoma Medal for Excellence in Teaching from the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence (2010). In 1997-1998 he was a senior Fulbright Scholar at the Universitaet Tuebingen, Germany. Sabatini received his BSCE from the University of Illinois (1981), his MSCE from Memphis State University (1985) and his PhD from Iowa State University (1989).

Dr. David SchmidtkeDavid Schmidtke

Dr. David Schmidtke is Associate Professor, School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering at the University of Oklahoma.  His research is at the interface of medicine and engineering and focuses on the design and development of new analytical devices and technologies for medical therapy.

Dr. Samer S. ShehataSamer S. Shehata

Dr. Samer S. Shehata, also an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma, is an expert on Middle Eastern politics and culture, especially Egypt, and he is a frequent guest on National Public Radio, CNN, and many other national and international radio and TV news programs.

Dr. Joseph TravisJoseph Travis

Dr. Joseph Travis is Professor of Biological Science and past Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida State University. He has worked with the National Science Foundation Program in Population Biology (1986-89) and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (1999-2002). His research interests include density-dependent selection and its effects on numerical dynamics and population regulation, synergistic effects of biotic and abiotic factors on numerical dynamics, predator-prey interactions in freshwater littoral zones and the effects of ecological factors, especially population density, on sexual selection and mating systems.

Dr. Ann WestAnn West

Dr. Ann West is Joseph Brandt Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma.  She does research on environmental stress and signal transduction in microbes and is the Director of the NIH-sponsored Oklahoma Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) in Structural Biology.


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Phone: 405-325-3588

Current Conversations Credits

VMS logo; Video and Media Services; University of Oklahoma Outreach

Meet Show Host

Robert Con Davis-UndianoRobert Con Davis-Undiano
Host, Current Conversations
Executive Director, World Literature Today
Professor, University of Oklahoma

Robert Con Davis-Undiano is the host of Current Conversations. He is Neustadt Professor of Comparative Literature and Presidential Professor of English at the University of Oklahoma, where he teaches Chicano and Latino Studies. He is executive director of World Literature Today, an organization that oversees two publications and is a humanities center for students.

He is also the general editor of the Chicana & Chicano Visions of the Americas book series at the University of Oklahoma Press, and his many publications are in American Studies, literary criticism, and Chicano Studies. He previously hosted The Power of Ideas, a show sponsored by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and the University of Oklahoma. Airing from 1996-2002 on public television, this show went out to one half of the U.S. market and won ten national broadcast awards.

Meet the VMS Crew

Bryan BowdenBryan Bowden
Director of Photography/Closed Captioning

Bryan is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and has worked at OU VMS since 2006. As director of photography, he creates the look of the show including co-designing the set. Bryan also oversees the closed captioning and plays a vital role in delivering the show in various formats.

Jessica ForehandJessica Forehand
Transcriptionist/Production Assistant

Jessica is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and has worked at OU VMS since 2013. Her role on the show includes assisting with research, set-up and production. She also completes the transcript to ensure we are meeting the accessibility requirements for closed captioning.

Ray LeyvaRay Leyva
Senior Editor/Graphic Designer

Ray is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and has worked at OU VMS since 2003. As senior editor, Ray creates all 3D and motion graphics, works with staff to complete show opens, and sets a tone of quality workmanship. He has extensive training in FCP, AVID, Motion, After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator.

Kevin LoughKevin Lough
Audio Engineer

Kevin is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and has worked at OU VMS since 2010. As lead audio engineer he ensures the host and guest sound clear and broadcast-ready. Kevin also assists with video engineering, preparing the studio for a multi-camera production.

Angela NicholsonAngela Nicholson
Executive Producer

Angela has worked for OU VMS since 2007 and works directly with the department director. As producer she works directly with R.C. Davis-Undiano for show ideas, bookings and marketing. Angela also helped co-design the set and works with the crew to ensure quality and generate new ideas.