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ASU setting path 'Toward a More Perfect University'

Ivy League author praises innovations, widened access at ASU.
'Ivy League is not where it's at,' author says, praising ASU's initiatives.
March 11, 2016

Ivy League author praises innovations launched by ASU President Crow

An Ivy League academic made a startling prediction at a talk at Arizona State University on Friday: Knowledge is progressing so quickly that the concept of a standalone university could soon be obsolete.

Jonathan Cole (pictured above), former provost at Columbia University, made that forecast during a discussion of his new book, “Toward a More Perfect University,” with ASU President Michael Crow in the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus.

“Instead of creating more sports leagues, what we should do is produce academic leagues,” said Cole, who is the John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University at ColumbiaCole also is the former dean of faculties and vice president for arts and sciences at Columbia.. “Why not form a league that’s not based upon a school or a department, but based upon a problem?”

In Cole’s example, complex issues such as the study of inequality of wealth would be studied by a collaboration of the top minds around the world, enabled by technology.

“We’re so far from our maximum in terms of universities’ potential that we should rethink every aspect of them,” he said.

ASU President Michael Crow
ASU President Michael Crow (right) and Columbia professor and author Jonathan Cole discuss the future of higher education Friday in Tempe. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

 

CrowBefore coming to ASU in 2002, Crow was executive vice provost of Columbia, where he also was professor of science and technology policy in the School of International and Public Affairs. said that universities need to challenge the “hierarchy of knowledge,” which has become distorted.

“We’ve built this social hierarchy that physics is the elite science and everything else is trivial by comparison. Why do we have ‘physics is better than chemistry,’ ‘chemistry is better than biology’? ‘Economics is more important than political science, which is more important than sociology’?

“The understanding of each is equal.”

Cole said that Crow has been a driver of innovation at ASU to a degree almost unheard of in higher education.

“Most leaders of academic institutions are risk averse, not risk takers,” Cole said. “Michael Crow is a prudent risk taker.”

Toward a More Perfect University bookIn his book, Cole refers to ASU as “a cauldron of change,” citing Crow’s creation of transdisciplinary research initiatives such as the Biodesign Institute, as well as programs such as the Global Freshman Academy and the Starbucks Initiative.

“Every time I come to ASU, I see amazing things unfold in front of my eyes. It’s a level of excellence that you rarely see in an American university combined with access and really giving people opportunities,” Cole said.

Cole said that admission to Ivy League colleges has become so impossibly selective that the students are “boring.”

“They all have perfect scores. They’ve never deviated from the beaten path. They’ve never flunked chemistry,” he said.

“They have taken the quirkiness out of the student body.”

He praised ASU for taking students from a wide variety of backgrounds.

“ASU doesn’t pay homage to the kind of testing mythology that has been internalized in American society as legitimate.”

He said that although his entire education and career have been spent at Columbia, “The Ivy League is not where it’s at.

“Most education and most research is taking place at state universities, and we cannot let them fail.”

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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Conversation between Depp, Krauss focuses on the humanity of madness.
Depp tells ASU crowd he's interested in process of creating, not final product.
Origins Project dialogues explore the fundamental questions, and good stories.
March 13, 2016

Johnny Depp joins ASU professor Krauss in Origins Project dialogue at ASU Gammage

Socrates once said, “The greatest blessings granted to mankind come by way of madness, which is a divine gift.”

Sometimes, cautioned actor Johnny Depp on Saturday night at an Origins Project dialogue, “Finding the Creativity in Madness.” Arizona State University’s Origins Project dialogues are a series of freewheeling conversations between theoretical astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss and a variety of thinkers on humankind’s fundamental questions — and sometimes just funny stories.

“If you have it, you have it,” Depp said of madness. “If you don’t have it, great. But don’t romanticize it.”

A clip depicting his portrayal of John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester, a Restoration playwright and satirist, dying of alcoholism and syphilis, brought home the point.

Actor Johnny Depp and professor Lawrence Krauss

Actor Johnny Depp and ASU
theoretical astrophysicist
Lawrence Krauss discuss
being different onstage at
ASU Gammage on Saturday.

Photos by Charlie Leight/
ASU Now

The onstage discussion between Depp and Krauss focused on the humanity of madness, revealing Depp's experience and creative method as an actor who has portrayed eccentric fictional and nonfictional characters while exploring and unraveling the intricate links between creativity and madness. It also sometimes just veered into humorous stories, as the Origins dialogues can.

Krauss, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space ExplorationThe School of Earth and Space Exploration is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences., director of its Origins Project, and the only physicist to have received awards from all three major American physics societies, introduced Golden Globe winner and renowned actor, producer, author and musician Depp, portrayer of fictional characters such as swashbuckling pirate Jack Sparrow, candy baron Willy Wonka and demented milliner The Mad Hatter.

“With Origins, we always like to connect science and culture as much as possible,” Krauss said. “He finds the creativity in madness.”

(The Saturday performance, incidentally, gave Krauss the lowest Erdos-Bacon-Sabbath score ever. Click here to read what that is — and how Depp could surpass him.)

Before a packed crowd at ASU Gammage, Depp told a story about a conversation he had with Marlon Brando. Brando asked how many films Depp was doing per year. Two or three, Depp told him.

“That’s too many,” Brando said. “We only have so many faces in our pocket.”

“Unfortunately, because of my madness I feel like there’s a lot of faces left in my pocket,” Depp said. “If you think of yourself as a chest of drawers, they’re all in there. And that’s not healthy.”

A crowd at ASU Gammage
A crowd fills ASU Gammage on Saturday night to hear Johnny Depp.

 

Krauss asked Depp when he first realized he was strange.

“Pretty early on,” Depp said. “I never wanted to be ‘inside.’ Those people bored me.”

Depp recounted being fascinated by freethinkers like Van Gogh and Jack Kerouac. “I became an actor by mistake,” he said. “It happened out of need — the need to pay rent. ... I felt I had something to offer. I didn’t know if it was right or wrong.”

“You’ve never seen any of your films,” Krauss said.

“I saw half of one once,” Depp said, recounting a director’s screening where he fell asleep “35 times.”

“The process is what I’m interested in,” he said. “The process of creating.”

Childhood stress was a great driver in the formation of Depp’s creative persona.

“I believe it’s exactly what made me what I am,” he said.