Inquiry and Impact: The University of Chicago

Inquiry and Impact: The University of Chicago

October 15, 2019 24 By Stanley Isaacs


[MUSIC PLAYING] Venturing into the unknown. That’s what it’s about. I wake up as a
scientist thinking about things we don’t know. Ideas excite me. Yeah. And they have consequences. With each new note you add,
it’s as if the whole universe has changed. Let the best ideas come forward. Ideas really do
have consequences. Ideas can change the world. No university is
better able to do that than University of Chicago. The University of Chicago’s
urban, global, courageous, unusual, phenomenal, unrivaled,
rigorous, fabulous, outspoken, economics and pizza, pushing
borders, invigorating, intellectual
crucible, that pushes you to be your best every day. University of Chicago
is who we are. From its inception, the
University of Chicago focused on rigorous
intense inquiry. It’s defined everything about
what the University of Chicago is today and what it
will be in the future. The core curriculum at Chicago
is the symbol of who we are. Our mission is to get
very talented students, and to put them
through a program of systematic
interdisciplinary training. Then four years later, graduate
what you call intellectuals. It’s not about teaching dogma,
it’s not about teaching rules. Development of the mind and
the inquiry of the mind. Across many subject. The ability to sort
through complexity. Evaluate evidence. Defend one’s arguments. Listen to other
people’s arguments and not just dismiss them. We aren’t just talking at
each other, we’re listening. And at the end of the class, I
may have a completely different perspective on the issue. I consider that my
job here is to help them build their
weaknesses into strengths. I’ll bring up a discovery
that we’ve made. Then I’ll proceed to
criticize my own discovery. It’s through self
criticism when they see me able to do it on
my own where they feel comfortable to chime in,
and all of a sudden you create a learning culture
k of critical inquiry. The professors here
were just incredible. You have mentor relationships
that just form really easily because you work so closely. Some excellent, excellent
students over the years. They were very much my teachers. It changed my work. It just exposed me
to a world of ideas. I was the beneficiary
of a scholarship from the University of Chicago. Mind you, I was not a
citizen of the United States. I had no idea whether I’m
going to stay in this country. I would not have gone
to business school without that scholarship. The Odyssey scholarship
is supporting me in a very basic way. It’s allowing me to live so that
I can focus on my academics. Attracting the best
students, regardless of their financial
situation, is a good thing for the University of Chicago. I just feel so grateful
that I was selected to kind of be among the
minds, and the intelligence, and the incredible people in
the best experience of my life. I think supporting young
people to pursue their dreams opens up the world to you. All we ask of anybody
is that they do the same to the next generation. You’re part of an
intellectual community that attracts individuals who
are intellectually fearless. It’s a give and take
culture that’s rigorous, asking deep questions. You get pushed to think
beyond your imagination. No one assumes that you are
correct just because you’re making assertions. I don’t care how many
medals or honors you have. Show me why this is right. Today. These are very distinguished
faculty, very high powered scholars. That will bring together
experts in different disciplines to help solve problems. In higher education
today, the humanities are really in retreat. We really think that
it’s responsibility to continue to foster
growth of the humanities. You can’t really put a value
on one humanities course because it mushrooms
and it bubbles and it goes on for
somebody’s entire life. The collegium you will
allow teams of humanists from all over the world to
tackle problems that society needs to deal with. The institute of
molecular engineering is organized around solving
water, energy, health programs through designing
matter from molecules up. It’s exciting because it is
new for both the university and for engineering,
generally, to a new discipline. Just solving one of all these
problems that we’re working on would be tremendous. Cities are both the source and
locus of enormous creativity and energy. They are likewise the locus
of some of the most difficult problems that society faces. The University of Chicago
is part of the community. We have patients who
are our neighbors and we learn from one another. We’re exploring opportunities
to create more portals for the community and
people in the city to come into the university and
both get some of the knowledge that we have, but also share
their knowledge with us. This presents an
opportunity to address these extremely difficult
problems and an opportunity to be contributing
to, and participating, in the great creative explosion
that cities represent. They’re not very
many institutions that are at the level
of University of Chicago on the academic and
scholarship side at an inner city, that
have need around them, that are committed to
having that impact. Lots of people are
skeptical about the ability to use social programs
to prevent crime. What we tried to do is
structure our research projects, like randomized
trials in medicine, to generate evidence that is
so rigorous and so compelling that the most
skeptical skeptic will have to acknowledge that
there’s really something here. One year of participation in
youth guidance in Becoming a Man program reduced violent
crime arrests of these kids by over 40%, which
I think really challenges the
conventional wisdom that the only way you can
control crime and violence in the United States is
through locking up millions and millions of people. The city is a place that you
can test out these theories and, if you show the
impact, it has global reach. Billions of people, not just
millions, billions of people you can get to. It’s very important
in a world which is becoming more
integrated that you have these global universities. To get the students
out of the classroom into the living
environment, there’s no better way of doing it
than going and living there. We now have a rather more
ambitious global strategy with the same goals and quality
of curriculum in teaching. Students are going to want
experience of understanding other cultures
because this is going to be the world that they are
functioning in over the coming decades. Can we bring people, scholars,
politicians, administrators, from these different
areas also together to discuss what’s going on to
debate the challenges facing the world. Think about what we humans
are facing in the world. It’s really understanding
climate change. The marine biological
laboratory has gotten very good at monitoring that
climate change, but that depends
on technologies. That’s where the Argon National
Laboratories, the Institute of Molecular Engineering,
the kinds of people who are developing the
computational tools for monitoring, can be
brought together with colleges so really we can bring
these combinations together in powerful new ways. Human illness limits
society and, accordingly, fixing that, addressing
that, is usually important. It’s transformative. I had been diagnosed with
metastatic, or advanced breast cancer, in 2003. The first thing
Dr. Funmi Olopade said to me is, I want to find
out more about your tumor so that I can personalize
the treatment for both you and the tumor. I remember Shelly
telling me, you know my son just
went to college. I want to see him graduate. The survival rate for metastatic
diseases was one to two years. I really must say that I
have survived the odds. I mean, I’m still sitting here,
standing here, 10 years plus. You know what? It’s worth every
day, getting up , and supporting
patients like her. We have an enormous obligation
to the people who gave us the opportunity today to do what
we do with these young people and, in turn, they have an
obligation to support those who come after us. The question for us
today is how do we realize these values in a
powerful way going forward. How can we take advantage
of aberrant calcium signals in treating
neurodegenerative disease? How do we replace those
materials or recycle them? How can I teach my
students to write their music, their own way? The university is really
made by the people in it. Really very competitive. Very unruly. I don’t want to
call it perfection. Seeing all the crazy, amazing
things that they’re doing. Curing diabetes, cancer. Innovation, more
entrepreneurship, new ventures, new technologies. Really forces me to
push for something beyond what I’m doing. It’s a big, big university. There’s so much to
be done and this is the place where the future
can be transformed and changed. Together we are spreading
grace and humanity. Together we are thinking
about ways in which you could have an impact on society. Together we have the potential
to change the way people think about urban problems. Together we make amazing
discoveries possible. It’s part of our DNA. It’s who we are. Ours is the university
of great discoveries. Ours is the university
of fearless inquiry. Ours is the university
that develops ideas that change the world. [MUSIC PLAYING]