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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
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An Open Letter to the Chancellor

Thinking Beacon




Last month, I had the opportunity to attend IDEAS Boston, held in the Campus Center Ballroom . I was there for your welcome, for Mayor Menino’s remarks, and for twelve of the sixteen speakers.

The mayor’s comments about inequality in modern society struck a chord, given how companies like Verizon have earned healthy profits, lavished bonuses on their executives, and promptly turned around to tell their unionized employees that they need to give up on pay raises and certain long-term benefits.

Each presenter was interesting, each in their own way and in their different disciplines. I, for one, am looking forward to wireless electricity, more classical music in medical waiting rooms, easier access to medical records to resolve health crises, and perhaps better urban planning in greater Boston.

There are several factors shared by all of these diverse presenters, however. All of them are well-educated in their fields, able to look beyond their own initial specialties, willing to research, able to blend multiple disciplines, and tenacious in their approach. I know UMB wants to instill that spirit in the student body.

Here’s the thing: it’s possible. What amazed me most was how three of the presenters actually gave condensed lectures about material I have learned here, in classes I’ve taken at UMB.

Lawrence Lessig, the first of the speakers to invite a comparison, is a very compelling presenter. He spoke about the influence of money in politics and how it affects public policy, generally in favor of those who put their money into political races. While he presented his material with more computer slides and more overtly partisan overtones, his speech sparked a strong comparison to PoliSci 311: Political Parties, taught by Professor Ferguson. Understanding the effects of money in politics, and its history, is a critical lesson in civics. Professor Ferguson literally wrote the book on this.

James Anderson talked about an integrated approach to teaching and learning science, incorporating biology, chemistry and physics into a more complete approach so a better understanding of our world can be learned. It was, again, an excellent presentation. It also was very much part of EEOS 260: Global Environmental Change, taught by Professor Olsen. Knowing how the world is changing on a global environmental scale, and why, is an important part of simply living here — not to mention keeping the world livable.

Daniel Lieberman talked about the evolutionary underpinnings of the benefits of exercise and – despite my own lack of exercise – I could see what he meant. Even though his presentation was much more focused on human evolution, and gave more depth, it still reminded me of Biology 102: Evolutionary Biology, taught by Professor Jennings. The course was considerably more generalist than the conference presentation, but it had the same level of intelligence.

I am looking forward to IDEAS Boston 2012. However, I believe we should also recognize that UMB can provide an IDEAS-worthy education. All of my professors have been great.

I feel that the university should do something to recognize the faculty. The least I can do is publicly acknowledge and thank them, as full courses covering and expanding on important ideas is worth a great deal to me. I know it means at least as much to you.

For my part, I have a message. To my professors and their talented colleagues, too many to list here; to the staff, quietly maintaining the campus behind the scenes; and to you for keeping everything running – I thank you.

Don’t forget to attend the IDEAS Boston next year, October 12th, 2012.