PKAL Volume IV: What Works, What Matters, What Lasts

Exploring Creativity- A Goal for Student Learning and Institutional Transformation

November 5, 2007

In her opening plenary remarks to the 2007 PKAL Summer Institute, Tori Haring-Smith, President of Washington and Jefferson College, challenged participants to focus on developing creative thinkers as a key pedagogical goal for the work of transforming the undergraduate STEM learning environment.

In her words:

    Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class and The Flight of the Creative Class, claims that members of the creative class will be “the natural– indeed the only possible– leaders of twenty-first century society." His description of the creative class sounds remarkably like those students we all love to teach: intelligent, open-minded, self- confident risk-takers who enjoy challenges, value diversity, and engage in creative problem-solving. The creative class fuses the Puritan work ethic (hard work and personal challenge) with bohemianism (risk-taking and unconventional things). Those who work creatively and unconventionally will be the innovators who will drive the economic engine of this country. Interestingly, the kind of environment Florida tells us attracts the creative class sounds remarkably like an ideal college campus–a place combining challenge with support that values ideas and seeks to analyze them.

Expanding on means to build a culture in which creativity flourishes as a goal for student learning, we present interviews with Haring-Smith and with Debbie Chachra and Mark Somerville, two faculty from the Franklin W. Olin School of Engineering who also presented at the 2007 PKAL Summer Institute.