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ASU dean: Different perspectives essential to cultural, educational experiences

In an age of instant gratification, one which market researchers have dubbed the era of “I Want What I Want When I Want It,” dean of Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Steven Tepper took time to espouse the necessity of “bigger-than-me experiences” in both culture and education in a Sept. 15 op-ed for The Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “Thinking ‘Bigger Than Me’ in the Liberal Arts.”

Tepper recalls that around 2006, he noticed “a renaissance in creativity and cultural engagement, made possible, in part, by new technology.”

However, while this new technology allowed for vast amounts of cultural activity and art to be produced, it also affected the nature of what was being produced, resulting in media overload and what Tepper refers to as “iCreativity,” which emphasizes individual experience over shared, communal experiences.

Tepper cites a survey of high school students which found that from 1950 to 1990, students’ sense of self-importance rose from 12 to 80 percent, while other scholars found that their sense of empathy decreased over the same period.

“For many young people,” he says, “if they cannot insert themselves into an experience – capture it in what some observers call ‘life-catchings’ – and share it online with friends, then it is not worth the effort.”

Tepper acknowledges that, though many liberal arts educators believe in the importance of fostering a sense of “bigger-than-me,” it can be easy to drift away from that. And so, he poses the question: “How do we nurture (‘bigger-than-me’) experiences in the generation committed to Me?”

According to Tepper, there are several strategies for doing so, all of which “inspire students to find their voices and make learning personal.”