There are many wonderful aspects of this campus. The academics are strong, the professors are acclaimed and there is a history of discovery and excellence. These all contribute to strong student development, both for those students studying STEM and those studying the humanities and arts. Students try to use these to their advantage by tapping professors’ brains and tirelessly taking notes during lectures. I think everyone can agree that the classroom learning on this campus is strong.
However, one area where I feel many students here are lacking in is with their sense of culture. You may ask, “how can this be when there are so many fabulous cultural institutions about campus?” It’s an excellent question. My answer: students do not embrace these institutions to their full potential thus much creative inspiration is lost.
As a student body, we often fail to take advantage of the establishments which we have access to free of charge. There is Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra. There is the Museum of Contemporary Art, which many students thoughtlessly walk past on their way to and from class on Euclid Avenue. There is the Cleveland Botanical Garden, which is open year-round and houses plants from all around the world. And there is my personal favorite, the Cleveland Museum of Art, whose art collection is extensive and whose exhibits are constantly changing. Clearly, our campus is filled to the brim with culture.
Unfortunately, many students do not venture out of the confines of their dorm room. This is a shame, because so much is lost to these students. The main loss to these students is not the experiences themselves (even though they are excellent), but the inspiration the institutions can provide.
Inspiration can come from anywhere, but museums and similar institutions are an especially good source for it. Spending an afternoon wandering an art museum and studying the art within each exhibit, could be as helpful to some students as sitting through a lecture of their favorite class. You do not need to be an art student to be inspired by a Monet or a Dali.
Somebody might counter my argument by asking: why does it matter? Why do students even need that type of inspiration? My answer: these are also educational experiences.
These pieces of art and performances are lenses into different times and cultures, as well as the overall human experience. These experiences contribute to the formation of a well-rounded individual; one who has experience in many different fields and uses all of these collective experiences in different areas to drive their analysis and decision making. There is strength in being a highly focused individual, but there need to be other avenues of inspiration in one’s life than just the usual academic jargon.
When one person spends a lot of time focusing on one particular subject or highly specialized field, they may struggle for perspective. By expanding their field of view, the aforementioned person has a wider view of more topics, and may be able to use other ideas or methods to confront new problems in their specialization. A wider range of interests and experiences offers more diverse ideas in the individual, and more different ideas like this tend to allow the individual more avenues of problem solving.
The cultural institutions near our campus are one avenue for students to expand their worldview. Spending an afternoon in a museum, or wandering through the gardens may offer up a different viewpoint the next time you are stumped with a problem, and it may give you the break from mental processing you need to find solutions to other problems.
Peter Wilson is a second-year biomedical engineering student on the biocomputing and informatics track. He works in the Gustafson Lab and can be found on Twitter at @wpieltseorn.