Dr. William Wozniak
professor, Department of Psychology, 308.865.8242

“Solving the World’s Social and Environmental Problems Through Soap Operas” will be the focus of a distinguished lecture presentation on Monday, March 28, at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

William Ryerson, president of the Vermont-based Population Media Center, will speak at 10 a.m. in the Cedar Room of the UNK Nebraskan Student Union. His presentation is sponsored by Sigma Xi: The Scientific Research Society, and is free and open to the public.

Ryerson, who has a 40-year history of working in the field of reproductive health worldwide, is considered a global leader in using prime-time serialized melodramas in various developing countries to create characters who evolve into positive role models for the audience to bring about use of family planning and elevation of women’s status.

In a piece for “Population Press,” Ryerson pointed out that there is no middle-ground when it comes to the issue of population. He wrote: “Advocates and activists working to reduce global population growth and size are attacked by the Left for supposedly ignoring human-rights issues, glossing over Western over-consumption or even seeking to reduce the number of people of color.

“They are attacked by the Right for supposedly favoring widespread abortion, promoting promiscuity via sex education or wanting to harm economic growth. Others think the problem has been solved, or believe that the real problem is that we have a shortage of people (the so-called ‘birth dearth’). Still others think the population problem will solve itself, or that technological innovations will make our numbers irrelevant.

“When it comes to controversial issues, population is in a class by itself,” he summarized, adding that, “One thing is certain: The planet and its resources are finite, and it cannot support an infinite population of humans or any other species. A second thing is also certain: The issue of population is too important to avoid just because it is controversial.”

Ryerson has worked with population issues, first, as director of the Population Institute’s Youth and Student Division. He went on to serve as development director of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, associate director of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and executive vice president of Population Communications International before founding the Population Media Center in 1998.

In 2006, he was awarded the Nafis Sadik Prize for Courage from the Rotarian Action Group on Population and Development at meetings in Denmark, and in 2008, he became president of the Population Institute.

Ryerson holds a B.A. from Amherst College and the M.Phil. from Yale University. In addition to the Monday morning presentation, he will address Sigma Xi initiates at a Sunday night banquet.