ALL OF US have had moments of unexpected discovery. Whether it is a scientific breakthrough or a revelation about our direction in life, few things are as thrilling as that flash of insight that opens up a new world of possibilities.
But these events don’t arise from a vacuum. Turning points in our lives happen when a person or an event help us to see something exciting within ourselves. Great discoveries occur when we connect old ideas together in ways no one else imagined.
The cognitive scientist and philosopher Paul Thagard—one of our college’s Alumni of Influence—has argued that truly creative people are those who are more willing to expose themselves to new ideas and who spend more time with people who think differently. He views ideas as patterns of activity in our brains and suggests that to make a creative leap, we must seek out new ideas—new patterns—to mix with old and familiar ones.
Most of us probably don’t think of it in those terms, but we all recognize the feeling of a eureka moment. It comes from hard work, perseverance and, sometimes, a lot of luck. But it starts when we take a step into the unfamiliar and open ourselves up to the unknown.
One of the most important roles of the College of Arts & Science is fostering a community that makes this possible—a place where minds and ideas are brought together in a culture of discovery.
In our classrooms, hallways, art galleries and laboratories, we seek to create an environment where people of diverse disciplines, diverse backgrounds and diverse cultures are welcome to be challenged and inspired, and where they can offer the same inspiration to others.
Throughout your life, I hope that the relationships and experiences you gained at the College of Arts & Science lead you to new discoveries about yourself and your world. Knowledge takes us to unexpected places.
The best journeys are full of surprises.