Eric Liu’s lecture, Imagination in Higher Education in the 21st Century, is Wednesday Nov. 30, 5:30 p.m., in the UMFA Dumke Auditorium.Hailed by The New York Times and The Washington Post as a leading voice of his generation, Eric Liu will illuminate new ideas in educational practice and discuss infusing passionate learning models into academia. Liu’s lecture will be a key component in an initiative to re-imagine education and to move the University toward becoming an even more creative campus.
FYI NEWS: In your book, co-authored with Scott Noppe-Brandon, titled Imagination First: Unlocking the Power of Possibility, what do you mean by “imagination first?”
ERIC LIU: We write about the ICI Continuum – imagination, creativity, innovation. Imagination is the ability to conceive of what is not. Creativity is that ability applied. Innovation is an act of creativity that somehow advances the form or invents a new one. Innovation is what we want in education, business, and other realms—but we don’t get it unless we cultivate imagination first.
FYI: In considering how to solve world and personal problems, you say the failure of will is actually the failure of imagination. How does this idea apply to higher education?
LIU: Higher education is ripe for a re-invention. There are so many aspects of the college and university experience that are done that way because they’ve always been done that way. To be willing in the first place to imagine a whole new way of doing higher education is an act of imagination.
FYI: Teaching students the what instead of the what if focuses on the measurable to the exclusion of the possible, preventing students from becoming skillful learners in the world beyond school. How can professors use the what if with their students?
LIU: Less emphasis on fact and rote, more on experiential and project-based learning.
FYI: What are two things universities can do to move their faculty toward a more imaginative approach to teaching?
LIU: Catalyze more cross-disciplinary teaching and research. Require faculty to be beginning learners at something every few years.
FYI: What books are on your bedside table?
LIU: Healing the Heart of Democracy, by Parker Palmer; The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, by Jonathan Spence; The Radicalism of the American Revolution, by Gordon Wood.
FYI: What do you do to stay balanced in your life?
LIU: Play games with my daughter, watch anything on the MLB Network.
FYI: What is one thing you would like to ask people to do to change the world for the better?
LIU: Remember that society becomes how you behave.
FYI: If you could meet any notable person, who would it be?
LIU: Teddy Roosevelt, because I would want to absorb his superhuman force of personality and curiosity.
FYI: What’s the best advice you ever got?
LIU: Don’t do things because other people want you to.