Now Generation’s Simmons initiates post-lecture discussion sessions for younger Chautauquans



The NOW Generation strives to include and engage young Chautauquans and families with a variety of programs. In that spirit, one young Chautauquan has taken the reins organizing a new event this summer.

Kate Simmons, 24, is a multi-generational Chautauquan and a member of NOW Gen. After brainstorming with NOW Gen staff liaison Megan Sorenson earlier in the season, Simmons has started a weekly NOW Gen post-lecture discussion, an event usually following the Wednesday morning lecture that is held informally at the Fowler-Kellogg Gallery Café. Simmons said the idea came from noticing the lack of specific events for younger Chautauquans her age. Recalling her earlier years at Chautauqua, Simmons said there was a definite gap in programming for her age group.

“I’ve been here for the season through high school, and it was really obvious to me how you either go to all the lectures every day and basically live on your parents’ hip,” Simmons said, “or there’s nowhere to meet people your age — except probably the Abrahamic Program for Young Adults. There’s nowhere else to see people, meet people and find that common area to just hang out.”

Simmons also said the post-lecture discussion is intended to be a more relaxed, casual get-together for both older and younger Chautauquans. In addition, Simmons believes discussing the morning lectures together is a great idea because of the interesting themes that also concern the millennial generation.

“I think that every week, there’s something to talk about, and there’s something that younger adults can really connect to,” Simmons said. “[Like the theme] ‘Vanishing,’ in particular, [because] we’re the generation that’s going to have to deal with all of these things that have been vanishing, and we’re not the generation that’s hearing it or conversing about it because we’re not finding each other, and I think that’s a problem.”

Since the discussions began three weeks ago, the gatherings have not garnered the attendance Simmons hoped for, but she has faith that it can eventually gain a larger following.

“This is the kind of place that, when things start out, you get one or two people and then five years from now, it’s like, ‘This has been happening forever,’ ” Simmons said.

Sorenson was excited Simmons put together this initiative, offering something new for those in the NOW Gen.

“A growing number of NOW Gen volunteers, like Kate and those who are organizing weekly playdates for young families, are recognizing an opportunity to come together as young Chautauquans,” Sorenson said. “It has been great to see this shift toward peer-driven initiatives that are taking root within the NOW Generation.”

The idea of conversing after a lecture a natural thing many people already do, Simmons said. With her event, Simmons encourages people who may not know each other to talk about the lecture, sharing more diverse conversation and perspectives with one another.

“People who go to the lecture are talking about it with their neighbors and families after the lectures,” Simmons said. “So why not just make it a NOW Gen event? We can talk about it together and get a few more voices in the room.”

Having recently graduated from Colorado State University, Simmons is on her way to New York City in the fall, and she knows she might not be in Chautauqua as much next season. Her hope in launching these discussions is to plant the seed for this type of event and lay the groundwork for others to continue in the future to bring together younger Chautauquans who will make new lasting connections.

The NOW Gen is invited to join Simmons for a post-lecture discussion at 12:30 p.m. today at the Fowler-Kellogg Gallery Café. Lunch is optional and available for purchase at the café.

For more information on how you can become involved with the NOW Generation, or learn about upcoming events, please visit or contact Megan Sorenson, staff liaison, at or at 716-357-6243.