UCLA faculty answered the question, “What is a university?” Tuesday at the first lecture of a 10-week series.
Emily Carter, UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost, said she thinks a university has the responsibility to transform people, create new knowledge and pass it on through generations.
Carter, who is also a sustainable energy expert, will be one of 28 different UCLA faculty, scholars and artists addressing a question from their disciplines in the “10 Questions” lecture series which doubles as a course for students and a panel open to the public.
Carter answered the question alongside Peter Sellars, a professor in the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, and discussion leader Victoria Marks, the associate dean of academic affairs and professor of choreography at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture.
Marks, who will be leading all of the lectures, said in an email statement that the inspiration for “10 Questions” was to have interdisciplinary discussions while keeping in mind student engagement, building faculty connections and connecting UCLA’s academics to the public.
Coming from two different backgrounds of expertise, Carter and Sellars discussed how the studies of arts, humanities and sciences at universities can contribute to a positive future.
“I think (the arts) have a tremendous role to play because they evoke people’s hearts,” Carter said. “I think you can tell stories through people’s art in a way that people will remember.”
Sellars said it is the artists’ responsibility to challenge ideas and speak their minds because they can do so in ways that others cannot. He also said he thinks artists studying at a university are exposed to more disciplines and perspectives compared to an art school.
He said he thinks a university must provide information to the public with clarity, as well as defend democracy. He added he thinks the university should focus on preparing and encouraging young adults to face future problems.
“We’re here at the university to empower young people. Period,” Sellars said.
During the question-and answer portion with the audience, Sellars said he thinks the perception that the idea of a university has become a job training ground as opposed to an institution of learning is loathsome.
Hayley Wu, a third-year psychology student who attended the lecture, said she liked Sellar’s comment about the university’s role extending beyond just job preparation.
Jessica Reid, a third-year English student, said she appreciated the range of topics the audience questions addressed – from political dissent to mental health.
This year’s series is one of the UCLA Centennial Campaign’s events. It was sponsored by the Centennial Committee, the School of the Arts and Architecture and a grant from UCLA’s Interdisciplinary and Cross Campus Affairs, Marks said in the statement.
The following lectures will be held in Kaufman Hall and explore topics such as justice, knowledge and love.