Megan Mack

Connections Producer

Megan Mack the producer of Connections with Evan Dawson and Unleashed: The Pet Show. She joined the WXXI News team from WHEC-TV, where she produced newscasts and The Olympic Zone, and from the University of Rochester, where she served as an assistant director of public relations. Her background extends to television sports and entertainment, and to communications and social media management for non-profits.

Megan earned her B.S. in Television-Radio-Film from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and her B.A. in Italian Language, Literature, and Culture from the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. She is also a graduate of The Second City’s Conservatory program.

Ways to Connect


First hour: Innovation Hub: Buying The Holidays

Second hour: A Season's Griot

NPR: Denise Mattox/Flickr

First hour: Tinsel Tales 4: So Much More NPR Christmas Favorites

Second hour: Selected Shorts Gift Set 2017: "Not How I Imagined It"

Weekend Connections is a collection of some of the most noteworthy moments from the week on Connections with Evan Dawson. This episode includes conversations about:

  • The bullying epidemic;
  • Phenomenon-based learning in schools;
  • Our future with artificial intelligence;
  • Why 2017 will not be remembered as science's best year.

There’s a dark, mysterious object visiting our solar system, and astronomers in Hawaii say its behavior has them wondering if it could be an artificial object. They’ve named it Oumuamua – Hawaiian for “messenger” – and it’s the first object of its kind to be observed by humans. Researchers say it behaves oddly and has a strange shape. They argue that while it is probably made of natural materials, they haven’t yet ruled out that it could be a spaceship. Scientists will soon probe the object for signs of technology, and we’ll learn more in the coming weeks about its size and composition. But in the meantime, if it is more than a lifeless rock, what will humans do if we aren’t alone in the universe? 

University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank joins us to discuss that, and some news surrounding Mars and beyond.

First hour: Could an object visiting our solar system have extraordinary origins?

Second hour: Marketplace - "The Tax Bill: Now What?"

We continue a Connections tradition by discussing new words added to the dictionary this year. Maybe you're a "normie" and don't know these 250 new words, even though your "grauntie" did. It's okay; just text a "shruggie" to your friends. We'll take a quiz this hour to test our guests' knowledge and yours, so get a pen and paper and get ready to learn some new words. We'll also talk about the origins of language and how it changes over time. In studio:

How well do you know your neighbors? Well enough to wave hello? Stop by for coffee? Sleep over at their homes? Peter Lovenheim is the author of the book, In the Neighborhood. In it, he describes his mission to become better connected to his neighbors and he does that...by having sleepovers.

A third of Americans say they've never interacted with the people next door. It's part of an overall decline in neighborliness over the past 40 years.

This hour, we discuss why we've become more isolated and how to reverse the trend. Our guests are all community builders:

  • Peter Lovenheim, author of In the Neighborhood
  • Marcus Ebenhoe, director of outreach ministries at Sacred Heart Cathedral
  • Yvonne Ferreira, president of the tenants' association for St. Bernard's Park
  • Brad Huber, leader of the Irondequoit round table

First hour: The decline in neighborliness 

Second hour: New words added to the dictionary, part 2

What can the U.S. education system learn from Finland? Perhaps the better question is, do students need school subjects? Teachers in Finland are gearing up for a significant shift in curricula for high school students. In 2020, curricula for students aged 16 and older will be rooted in phenomenon-based learning. That means instead of students taking math class, then science class, then English class, they will choose an event or phenomenon to study, incorporating multiple subjects in the process (something like exploring the climates of different countries, and reporting on them in French).

The model is getting some pushback, with critics saying it may lower standards and widen the gap between students who grasp concepts more quickly and those who need more direction. Could such a model be adopted in the U.S.?

Our guests weigh in on different forms of learning and the future of education. In studio:

  • Evvy Fanning, local high school English teacher
  • Douglas Allard, 7th grade social studies teacher in the Phelps Clifton Springs School District
  • Jennifer Wagner, RCSD educator and parent
  • Joanne Larson, professor of education and associate director of research at the Center for Urban Education Success at the University of Rochester's Warner School of Education

In July, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said artificial intelligence, or AI, is a "fundamental existential risk for human civilization.” Musk wasn’t alone in sharing those concerns, leading many people to ask what will happen when humans develop super intelligent AI. As AI continues to advance, it raises questions about the job sector (Will it eliminate jobs or create them?), the education system (Could robots eventually replace teachers?), human safety (Could AI systems outsmart us and lead to our demise?), and more.

This hour, our panel of experts helps us understand AI and its implications. In studio:

  • Henry Kautz, director of the Institute for Data Science at the University of Rochester
  • Dhireesha Kudithipudi, professor and chair of the graduate program in computer engineering at RIT
  • Matt Huenerfauth, professor of information sciences and technologies at RIT