FARGO — Tracy Kurtz and Karen Glover brought Nerd Nite to Fargo April 2015. Their hope was to bring in an audience to learn more from experts on certain topics in a casual setting.
Nerd Nite is hosted by Fargo Billiards and Gastropub the third Wednesday every month with topics posted in their Facebook group ahead of time.
"A lot of people decide whether or not they come based on the topics, or whether they are interested. There's a portion of the crowd that loves to learn, loves to be there, hang out and socialize — to hear about stuff they've never heard of before," Kurtz said.
Kurtz, Glover and Hope Novacek, a third partner, run Nerd Nite and refer to themselves as the "Co-Bosses" of Fargo Nerd Nite.
Co-Boss Kurtz says this sort of event is open to a diverse range of topics.
"The topics can be anything. A friend of mine came in and talked about the history of UFOs in Fargo, Project Blue Book and his own personal experiences with the Kindred Lights. Then (another speaker) came in and spoke about horror movie tropes," Kurtz said.
"We have another gentleman who came to Nerd Nite and found us and will talk about clean coal and whether or not its possible from a chemistry perspective. So, the topics are all over the place. It's anything people nerd out about and want to share with the crowd."
Fargo Nerd Nite brings together a casual bar setting and meaningful discussions about a range of topics. This unique combination is what separates this from other intellectual events.
"There are lots of intellectual lecture series out there where you can listen to podcasts, you can go to formal events and hear speakers, you can learn in lots of places. Nerd Nite takes that same meaningful learning and brings it to a casual level, where you're just sitting around a table, having a beer and getting a real talk from experts," Kurtz said.
Since Nerd Nite takes place in a primarily adult setting, the talks are raw and uncensored.
"We don't ask our speakers to hold back with profanity. They get to use whatever language they want. Whenever we recruit speakers, I tell them they can be real as they want. You don't have to tiptoe around manners and politeness," Kurtz said.
"It's just like sitting at a table with friends and getting the real story from them, instead of sitting in a crowd with a speaker that's 10 feet above you on stage and is like, 'We're going to sound really professional, polished and well done.'"
Along with the casual atmosphere, Nerd Nite offers an open outlet for anyone, including those who may feel left out of formal scientific discussions, to present on their passions or listen to and learn from others.
"I've never really thought of it as part of a feminist movement, but I am proud that it's primarily run by women," Kurtz said of Nerd Nite. "I think there's a stigma, true or false, that women aren't welcome in pop culture and the nerd community."
In some ways, the nerd community mirrors STEM fields as the gap between men and women narrows.
"I don't think men want to keep women out. I think people can be intimidated just coming to a comic shop and it's just 95% dudes. It's intimidating to walk into a room full of guys you don't know as a woman and be like, 'Hi let's play D&D (Dungeons and Dragons)!'" Kurtz said. "I hope that people look at Nerd Nite and who's running it, and women especially feel welcome."
Kurtz tends to bring speakers from the Fargo area to the event because experts in their fields can "Fargo-ize" these events if they're from the area.
The biggest thing encouraged at Fargo Nerd Nite is inclusiveness.
"Everyone is welcome at Nerd Nite. Even if you don't think of yourself as a nerd, the point of Nerd Nite is to hear from nerds about topics they love," Kurtz said. "Even if you don't consider yourself a nerd, you're welcome there. You don't need to be into comic books, Dungeons and Dragons or have a science major to enjoy Nerd Nite. Everyone can come as long as you're 21."