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Bridging the Humanities to the Professions

Bridging the Humanities to the Professions

Howard Gardner to speak on creativity and leadership at upcoming Duke Colloquium

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Durham, NC - When college students focus on acquiring skills to become doctors, lawyers and financiers, they sometimes lose sight of the importance that fields such as music, literature and history can have in helping them reach ethical decisions or live life to the fullest. The Duke Colloquium, a university-wide initiative dedicated to bridging the humanities and the professions, brings that philosophical emphasis back in play by inviting leading scholars to meet with students in small group settings.  

On April 11, the colloquium will host developmental psychologist and Harvard professor Howard Gardner, who has written extensively about intelligence, creativity, leadership and professional ethics.

Last year, the colloquium brought Leon Botstein, a conductor and the president of Bard College, to campus. The public finale was a conversation led by three students in the Rare Book Room who interviewed Botstein on the topic of "Intellectual Curiosity and the Professional Life: Will Your Elite Education Fall Short?"   

David Malone, director of undergraduate studies in Duke's Program in Education, praised the colloquium as a great opportunity for students and faculty to reflect together on the purpose of a liberal arts education and how we should evaluate success.

"The colloquium represents what college should and can be -- learning in its truest sense, collaboratively and reciprocally, without those aspects of school that often impede the learning process," Malone said. "I am excited to continue these deeply engaging conversations with Howard Gardner."

The colloquium began in 2009 as the brainchild of Dr. Andrew T. Huang, a Duke Medical School professor and CEO of the Koo Foundation Sun Yat-Sen Cancer Center in Tapei, in collaboration with Provost Peter Lange and a faculty advisory board.

A new student component of the program -- the Duke Colloquium Fellows -- is recruiting undergraduate leaders to connect the mission of the colloquium with issues that are important to Duke students, said sophomore Patrick Oathout, president of the organization.  To date, 33 students have been selected and are working in teams to select themes for future colloquium series. 

"The fellows are proactive, introspective and inquisitive -- every member is a stakeholder on campus," said Oathout, who majors in public policy and philosophy. "They are students who are at ease conversing in a public forum. They're willing to devote time to thoughtful advance preparation and have demonstrated an interest in becoming productive members of a global society."

The student response and commitment to fostering intellectual interaction is gratifying, said Stephen Nowicki, the dean and vice provost for undergraduate education who serves as faculty adviser for the new student group.

"A lot of students are looking for this kind of out-of-class community to share their interest in some of the bigger questions about what an education should be about," Nowicki said. "I commend Patrick for his leadership is this arena."

For more information about Gardner's visit or the fellows program, visit For more information about the humanities at Duke, see the Humanities Writ Large website.

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