April 12, 2017
“She’s creative.” Was that just a nice way for my teacher to describe my chattiness, boredom and high activity level in elementary school? Or did it really all boil down to creativity? When I was in fifth grade, the teachers approached my parents with a proposal that I attend a school for creative kids two days a week. So, off I went, with other “creative” kids. I didn’t really get it. I was pretty much a horrible artist and to my 10-year-old self, that’s what I thought creative meant. So why me? What did creativity really mean? And why was I singled out?
Maya Angelou once said, “I think that each one of us is born with creativity.” I’m going to go ahead and agree with her. At that special school, there was simply no cookie-cutter creative kid. With every lesson we studied, with every project we did, our individual creativity was explored in countless ways. Some kids were incredible artists. Others could weave a tale with their words. A bunch of budding McGuyvers could make a working machine out of things like rubber bands and popsicle sticks. A few were so smart I’m sure by now they’re working on curing cancer.
But this class wasn’t about top grades or even being smart – it was about looking at things differently and trying something new. It meant having the courage to color outside the lines and take a path less traveled. It taught us to challenge preconceived notions and pursue crazy ideas. In the words of Pablo Picasso, “The chief enemy of creativity is 'good' sense.” Every day that group of diverse, mismatched fifth graders dared to defeat that enemy by throwing “good” sense out the window.
But getting back to Angelou. She is so absolutely right. There’s not a person on this earth who isn’t creative – they might just not know it yet. I hate when people put liberal arts into a creative box and math and science into a logical one. Truth be told, we’re all just a big mix of both – we just present them in different ways. If you don’t think that logic is applied to composing a symphony or that creativity isn’t part of scientific discovery, well then, I’m not sure we can be friends. (Just kidding. We can still be friends – I’ll just think of a creative way to get you to change your mind.)
Karl Gude, director of MSU’s Media Sandbox, is my kind of thinker. He’s all about teaching students how to tap into their creativity. He says, “Somewhere along the line the creativity gets knocked out of many of us.” His goal is to bring it back so students can approach whatever field they’re studying with imagination that leads to invention. He believes that “It’s the fusion of arts and sciences that’s at the core of innovation.” He’s a super cool guy and students love his classes. Check out the short video in the MSUToday FEATURE: Flipping the switch on creativity, to learn more about Gude and how he approaches teaching. If you really want to get inside his world, check out a 360 environment of Gude’s classroom with hot spots of some additional fun content that was part of the recent President’s Report. (You don’t have to watch the video again…just a few seconds and then you can skip to the 360.)
Gude’s approach has the full support of the dean of his college, Prabu David. David, who grew up experiencing the scarcity of water in India, was recently asked to co-lead a campus initiative to celebrate MSU’s leadership in water research. The project blends science with art to explore the topic in a new way. As David says, “To make a difference, we need both the sciences and the arts.” Check out his FACULTY VOICE: Celebrating Communication Arts and Sciences through water, to read more about his personal experiences with water shortages and the project he’s part of.
David is a great collaborator, which is why he was asked to co-lead that project. His college has also partnered with the College of Arts and Letters on a variety of programs and projects. The dean of that college, Chris Long, is another innovator always looking to try new things.
This year, the College of Arts and Letters launched a new Citizen Scholars Program. The program is designed to prepare students to succeed academically as they gain experience through high-impact learning opportunities such as study abroad, undergraduate research and internships. Check out a short video on the inventive program in the STUDENT VIEW: CAL Citizen Scholars, to hear from the scholars themselves.
I guarantee you those scholars are pretty dang creative. In fact, all Spartans are infused with a creativity that drives them to go further, try something new, think differently and never give up. MSU gives students endless opportunities to develop ingenuity and provides them the skills to transform it into real-life solutions. Be creative. Challenge ideas. Seek answers. Never hold back. Change the world. Spartans Will.
Photo by Derrick L. Turner