As a student and faculty member I have had offers to study and work at several highly ranked institutes of technology. However, I declined those opportunities for one simple reason: I have always wanted to study and work at universities where the arts and humanities are as important as science and engineering.
Although my area of expertise is engineering, I’ve never wanted to be in a university with only engineers.
Last Thursday, my wife, Linda, and I spent the evening in UF’s College of the Arts. We joined others in the Gary R. Libby Gallery in a discussion with public artist Tony Stallard about his installation Alpha and collaboration with Professor Nicole A. Horenstein, in the department of chemistry. Mr. Stallard shared photographs and sketches of Fullerene, his magnificent public art sculpture of stainless steel and light to be installed in the lobby of Joseph Hernandez Hall, UF’s new chemistry building.
We then attended a performance of Observations of Predation in Humans: A Lecture by Dr. Zira, Animal Psychologist by interdisciplinary artist and writer Coco Fusco, professor and Andrew Banks Family Endowed Chair in the UF School of Art + Art History.
While sitting in the music building auditorium, I was filled with pride and gratitude that UF is a university that has faculty such as Prof. Fusco, who not only deeply enrich our students and community, but also bring acclaim to UF by winning national recognition, such as the prestigious Greenfield Prize earlier this year.
There is a widespread public perception that universities should train students only so they can graduate with a job. I disagree. The role of a great university is to educate, not train. If UF is successful, it will provide an education that will forever enrich the lives of its graduates, not simply train them for their first job. A great education must be filled with an abundance of the arts and humanities.
President Obama made the same point eloquently in his proclamation of October as National Arts and Humanities month.
“Throughout history, the arts and humanities have been at the forefront of progress. In diverse mediums and methods … the arts enrich our souls, inspire us to chase our dreams, and challenge us to see things through a different lens. … The arts embody who we are as a people and have long helped drive the success of our country. They provoke thought and encourage our citizenry to reach new heights in creativity and innovation; they lift up our identities, connecting what is most profound within us to our collective human experiences.”
UF is intentionally and intensely comprehensive, which I cherish and intend to nurture. Each of our 16 colleges are strategically important and we intend for each college to be recognized as among the best in the world. Although October is National Arts and Humanities Month, I am particularly grateful every month for the exceptional arts and humanities at UF.