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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: Bridging two cultures

    In 1959, British scientist C.P. Snow first proposed the concept of “”the Two Cultures”” – the idea that scholars of the humanities and the sciences often shout at each other across a chasm of confusion, divided by “”hostility and dislike, but most of all lack of understanding.””

    In Snow’s worldview, understanding the Second Law of Thermodynamics is as important as being familiar with the works of Shakespeare – yet far too few intellectuals and academics are truly well versed in more than one academic world. Over the course of the past half-century, Snow’s divide has widened and shrunk, changed and evolved – but in a world that is quickly growing global, it’s a gap that’s ever more important to bridge.

    Over the past month, three finalists for the UA’s provost position visited campus for brief lectures and question-and-answer sessions with the university community. The contenders are Meredith Hay, current vice president for research at the University of Iowa, Pramod Khargonekar, dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Florida, and Robert Newman, Dean of Humanities and associate vice president for interdisciplinary studies at the University of Utah.

    All three are excellent candidates. Hay’s prowess in promoting research and landing grants would be a formidable asset for UA’s research powerhouse. Kargonekar’s data-driven focus on technology is an admirable, forward-thinking goal for UA. But the candidate best for students is Newman – who, we hope, will make an earnest attempt to bridge the divide between Snow’s “”Two Cultures.””

    Globalization and technology have fundamentally altered the world, and the way today’s students need to be educated. The age of the agile mind demands students that can jump between specialties. For evidence, just look at the most exciting and dynamic disciplines in today’s academy: fields like bioethics, neuroeconomics and evolutionary psychology, none of which fit into tidy academic categories. The future of education is nimble and interdisciplinary, not specialized and static.

    Newman seems to know this well. As vice president for interdisciplinary studies at Utah, he was instrumental in the development of new interdisciplinary academic programs and pioneered an international studies program to prepare students for a globalized world. That’s exactly what today’s undergraduate students need.

    Each provost candidate has distinct strengths for different components of the UA’s mission. Though Hay and Khargonekar would bolster an already-excellent focus on science and technology, Newman’s focus on building bridges between disciplines is an area in which UA can, and ought to, improve.

    The provost is in charge of some of the most crucial functions of the university. As the chief academic officer, overseeing all academic units and programs, the provost serves as the second-in-command to UA President Robert Shelton. Although the president has important external duties as a public face for the UA, a fundraiser and an advocate to government, the provost fills an inward-looking role, responsible primarily for the university’s academic mission. That’s why choosing the right provost is a crucial decision. UA needs to be prepared for a future that bridges the “”Two Cultures”” and we think Robert Newman is the best choice to build that bridge.

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