Emory Report
April 13, 2009
Volume 61, Number 27


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April 13
, 2009
Faculty tell stories of creativity

By Kim Urquhart

Necessity is said to be the mother of invention. But creativity and generativity also are born out of inspiration, curiosity and celebration, a common thread of the faculty stories shared at a recent Center for Faculty Development and Excellence workshop on the “Challenges of Staying Creative.”

Moderated by University Vice President and Secretary Rosemary Magee — one of Emory’s foremost representatives for creativity and arts who leads a series of campus “Creativity Conversations” with musicians, authors and scientists — the engaged dialogue between colleagues formed a new kind of creativity conversation.

The faculty storytellers — from various career stages, all of whom have contended with the “straightjackets
of academia” as well as the support academic life provides— were “wonderful models for creativity,” says CFDE Director Laurie Patton.

The narratives ranged from glimpses into the creative process, tales of generative highs and lows, to the influence of life stages, and the unpredictable nature of creativity.

Consider these lessons in creativity from faculty:

• Luck plays an important role, but hard work is a crucial ingredient.
—Roberto Franzosi, professor of sociology and linguistics (see First Person)

• Sometimes your best work happens under pressure.
—Andra Gillespie, assistant professor of political science

• It’s not about inspiration — it’s about showing up for work every day, being willing to undertake the hard labor, and then to know profound joy and the delight of play.
—Katherine Mitchell, senior lecturer in visual arts

• Be present, live in the moment, and follow your bliss.
—Eugene Bianchi, emeritus professor of religion

• At different points in your life, talents can be aimed at different goals and have different results.
—Sander Gilman, Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, director, Psychoanalytic Studies Program, and professor of psychiatry

• Don’t let knowledge interfere with creativity.
—Martha Fineman, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of Law

• Creativity has no boundaries in terms of academic life and personal life; it can bridge gaps and make connections in places you don’t expect.
—Greg Berns, Distinguished Chair of Neuroeconomics and director, Center for Neuropolicy

• Sometimes the idea propels the medium.
—Linda Armstrong, director, Visual Arts Program

• It’s difficult to please every audience; rigorous interdisciplinary work should not be watered down to the lowest common denominator but pass muster with every audience.
—Ani Satz, associate professor of law and public health

• Create a niche for yourself; use your skills for change.
—Lori Marino, senior lecturer in neuroscience and behavioral biology

• When there is a fork in the road, take it.
—Michael Lubin, professor of medicine