Lecture series urges us to pursue passions


HANNAH CARR-MURPHY, Opinion Columnist

This week I attended the first talk in a lecture series titled, “Everyday Creativity,” which is part of the capstone “Creativity and Evolution of Culture” as well as being open to the public.

The first speaker in the series was Dave Gould, who works for the Obermann Graduate Institute at University of Iowa. The course Gould teaches most often at University of Iowa is Life Design: Building Your Future.

Gould discovered that many university students were getting to the end of their undergraduate careers and having two basic outcomes.

One group was only in college to earn a degree and get a job. The other group was looking for something else.

Repeatedly, he would have good students, caring, conscientious young people come into his office and ask “Why am I here?” This linked to the concern the administrators at his university were having about the low retention rate of students.

If the best and brightest can’t figure out why they are in college, there is a systemic problem in the way education is being approached.

In response to falling retention rates and students’ wondering about the purpose of a university education, Gould wanted to show his students how a university education can help you learn what you’re good at and help you use that to solve problems for society.

Gould believes in removing the carrot-and-stick model of grading and punitive attendance policies in order to motivate students to succeed because they care, not from fear. He believes that 20-somethings can be trusted as leaders and treated like creative, passionate, responsible adults.

As I listened to Gould talk about his hopes for young people today and for the ways in which we will benefit human society as a whole, I wish I had been in a section of his Life Design class as a freshman.

Much of what Gould talks about is how to create a life of meaning and purpose by following your passion. While I eventually got to that point, it took me four majors and five years to get there.

The question surrounding the purpose of a liberal arts university education is not going away, and I urge you to keep asking it until you reach a satisfying conclusion.

Rather than going through the motions of LAC courses and checking off boxes on your major plan, let things you learn in class pique your interests: Follow intellectual rabbit holes. Find the things you’re best at and pursue them to see how far you can go. What you find may be surprising.

The “Everyday Creativity” series of lectures has the subtitle, “Because creativity isn’t just for special people with special talents.” This is key to the mission of the new Creative Life Research Center at UNI, which aims to spread the idea that creativity is open to all people and essential for the continued growth of people and society.

The lecture series will be continuing for the next four Monday evenings, at 6:30 p.m. in John Deere Auditorium, 109 Curris.