Lee Shulman

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Stanford emeritus professor Lee Shulman said spontaneity is a necessary skill during the Green Honors Chair event on Oct. 7.

Catherine Wehlburg, assistant provost for institutional effectiveness, was a part of the decision on choosing the speaker.

“I made his nomination to the college, and it was voted on by the faculty, and we brought him in and we have been thrilled to have him here today,” Wehlburg said.

Wehlburg said she has respected and admired Shulman for years.

“I have been reading the work of Lee Shulman for my entire professional life,” Wehlburg said. “He has been truly a role model for me, and when we had the opportunity to bring in a distinguished scholar, his name was one of the first that came to mind.”

During his talk, Shulman discussed why it is critical to value the ability to react to unplanned events.

“Universities tend to discourage people from improvising and being spontaneous,” Shulman said. “[People from universities say,] ‘be planful, lay out in outline’, which are very important, but you don’t want to do it to the extent that it suppresses the very important capacities that can be developed, to respond quickly to the unexpected, the surprising and the unusual.”

Wehlburg said this was the theme of the discussion and a skill that everyone should learn.

“I think that is one of the best lessons for students, or faculty, or anyone, is that we need to be open to the idea that we can have events happen that are unanticipated, and we should grasp those, and use those, and not try to ignore them to do what we had actually planned on doing,” Wehlburg said.

Junior education major Ianthe Raya said she liked what Shulman said about spontaneity and she will apply that to her career.

“I really liked how he emphasized the fact that our role as educators, or future educators, to prepare students for the real world, in an unscripted world,” Raya said.

Shulman said that he wished the audience received his message of the importance of spontaneity.

“I would hope that one of the things that folks would think about that they hadn’t thought about before is that it is just as important to teach people to be spontaneous, to react intuitively, to surprise to the unexpected, as is to teach them to [plan] be, deliberative, and intentional,” Shulman said.

Audience members applauded for Schulman when he finished speaking.