Asheville Ideas Fest Logo

A World Class Intellectual Experience in one of America’s Great Cities

June 14-18, 2022 | Asheville, NC

Join us in the mountains of Western North Carolina as we gather on the campus of UNC Asheville for the inaugural Asheville Ideas Fest. Engage in some of the most essential topics of our time with global thought leaders and fellow participants -- all within the inspiring backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Featured Speakers

Fareed Zakaria

Fareed Zakaria

Global Analyst & Bestselling Author

Kizzmekia Corbett

Kizzmekia Corbett

Former Lead Researcher, NIH Vaccine Research Center

Jon Meacham

Jon Meacham

American Historian & Pulitzer Prize Winning Author

Lynn Novick

Lynn Novick

Created nearly 100 hours of acclaimed programming for PBS in collaboration with Ken Burns

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben

Gandhi Peace Award Winner & Environmental Scholar

Jason Mott

Jason Mott

2021 National Book Award Winner, author of Hell of a Book
Photo Credit Mallory Cash



See below for a sample of featured activities – please note that our schedule is subject to change. Get ready for days that are full of options, activities and intellectual discourse

Tuesday, June 14 - schedule subject to change

Welcome Reception

6:30 – 8:00 pm

Tapping of the Asheville Ideas Fest Pilsner with Musical Guests LOCATION: Highland Brewing

← Previous Day Next Day →

Wednesday, June 15 - schedule subject to change

Wellness & Guided Outdoor Discovery Activities

6:30 – 9:00 am



9:00 – 9:30 am

by Chancellor Nancy J. Cable LOCATION: UNC Asheville

Enduring Lessons of Literature and the Humanities

9:30 – 10:15 am

with National Book Award Winners Charles Frazier and Jason Mott, and International Best-Selling Author Elizabeth Kostova. Moderated by New York Times Best-Selling Author Wiley Cash ‘00 LOCATION: UNC Asheville

The Vital Importance of Civil Discourse, and How to Practice It

10:45 – 11:45 am



11:45 – 1:00 pm


Our Shared Environmental Legacy: What’s Next

1:00 - 2:00 pm

Keynote by environmental thought leader Dr. Bill McKibben, Professor Emeritus at Middlebury College LOCATION: UNC Asheville

Respondent Panel to Bill McKibben

2:00 - 2:45 pm

with panelists Dr. Max Holmes, Acting President and Exec. Director of Woodwell Climate Research Center; Dr. Jim Fox, Duke Marine Lab Professor of Environmental Studies and former Director of the NEMAC and Senior Resilience Analyst at Fernleaf Interactive; and Ko Barrett, Senior Advisor at NOAA and Vice Chair of the IPCC LOCATION: UNC Asheville

Explore Asheville

3:00 –5:00 pm

Organized experiences bring you to the heart of Asheville

Cocktail Reception & Dinner

5:30 –7:30 pm

LOCATION: Biltmore Estate

Democracy Around the Globe: Myths and Reality

7:00 – 8:30 pm

Lecture and conversation with Fareed Zakaria, author and public intellectual LOCATION: Biltmore Estate

Coffee House Concert

8:30 –10:00 pm

with Grammy winning guitarist and vocalist Graham Sharp of the Steep Canyon Rangers LOCATION: Biltmore Estate photo credit- Sandlin Gaither

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Thursday, June 16 - schedule subject to change

Wellness & Guided Outdoor Discovery Activities

6:30 – 9:00 am


LIVE! Taping of the Waters & Harvey Show: The Renaissance of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities

9:00 – 10:30 am

with Dr. Darin Waters, NC’s State Historian, and Dr. Marcus Harvey, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at UNC Asheville, with an expert panel of Chancellors and presidents; Lynn Pasquerella, President of the American Association of Colleges and Universities; Dr. Harold Martin, Chancellor of North Carolina A&T. LOCATION: Wortham Center for the Performing Arts

“The Soul of the American Journey: The Next Chapter”

11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Lecture by Jon Meacham Author, Historian and Public Intellectual, Vanderbilt University. LOCATION: Wortham Center for the Performing Arts


12:30 pm


Leadership in the Modern Era of Division and Fractured Trust

2:00 - 3:00 pm

LOCATION: Wortham Center for the Performing Arts

Emerging Engineering Technologies for the Common Good

3:00 – 4:00 pm

LOCATION: Wortham Center for the Performing Arts

Reception with Documentary Filmmaker Lynn Novick

5:30 –7:00 pm

Sponsored by Omni Hotels LOCATION: Omni Grove Park Inn

The History of Crime and Punishment Dinner Lecture

7:00 - 8:30 pm

with Filmmaker and Producer Lynn Novick and special guests Rodney Spivey Jones, featured in College Behind Bars, and Reginald Dwayne Betts, graduate of Yale Law school, Mellon grant recipient, and MacArthur Foundation Fellow LOCATION: Omni Grove Park Inn

Asheville Symphony Orchestra (ALT ASO Concert)

8:30 – 10:00 pm

LOCATION: Omni Grove Park Inn and Seely Pavillion

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Friday, June 17 - schedule subject to change

Wellness & Guided Outdoor Discovery Activities

6:30 – 9:00 am


Hallowed Ground: Cherokee History & Current Impact of Native Peoples

9:00 – 9:45 am


“The William L. Roper Annual Lecture in Medicine & Public Health”

10:00 – 11:00 am

The Future of Medicine and Public Health: Key Issues of our Time Moderated by Dr. Patrice Harris, Co-Founder & CEO of eMed and past President of the American Medical Association and featuring Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, Vice President of Global Health from Emory; and Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health and Dean of the UNC School of Medicine. LOCATION: UNC Asheville

Respondent Panel of Medical and Public Health Experts

11:00 am - 12:00 pm

with Dr. Jeffrey Heck, CEO Emeritus of MAHEC; Dr. Susan Mims, CEO, The Dogwood Trust; Dr. Rita Charon, Professor of Medicine, Columbia University and Inventor of Narrative Medicine; and Dr. Ann Bullock, former director of the national diabetes program for the Indian Health Service; Dr. Ann Albright, former Deputy Director of the Centers for Disease Control LOCATION: UNC Asheville

Lunch with Asheville’s Award-Winning Food Trucks & Friends

12:00 pm


The Essential Connection between Food and Culture

12:30 – 1:30 pm

Panel discussion hosted by John T. Edge, Founder of the Southern Foodways Alliance; Meherwan Irani, Founder and Head Chef of Chai Pani; Rosalind Bentley, Journalist; and, Leah Wong Ashburn, CEO of Highland Brewing LOCATION: UNC ASHEVILLE

The Responsibilities of a Multinational Corporation in Today’s World

7:00 - 8:00 pm


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Saturday, June 18 - schedule subject to change

Explore Asheville

All Day

Explore Asheville on your own with a curated list of events and activities that include a float trip on the historic French Broad River, Music on Main (Weaverville, NC), selected day hikes, fly fishing, Asheville Art in the Park and more!