Real Facts, Real Life
“The main part of intellectual education is not the acquisition of facts,” wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes, “but learning how to make facts live.”
And that’s the starting point for this edition of Oregon Quarterly, where we take a look at some of the opportunities that the UO has provided for faculty members and students to enrich their lives and those of others by asking questions, going out into the field, and putting what they’ve learned into practice.
Peer into the labs of Richard Taylor and his colleagues, both faculty members and doctoral students, as they grow carbon “forests”—a technology inspired by nature—to develop a possible answer to retinal diseases. Visit John Boosler’s “heavy metal” machine shop, where students and staff have access to the kind of industrial tools that can turn crazy ideas into working prototypes. Share in the adventures of some brave advertising students who built on what they learned in their classes to “Reset the Code” in a campaign to encourage students to speak out against all forms of intolerance. Marvel at Ming Canaday, an irrepressible, fearless, unstoppable Duck who embraced the challenges of her life when she could have easily let them defeat her. Like one of his herpetology students, travel out into the desert with Tom Titus to feel the shimmering heat and the rough sand under your belly as you patiently try to ensnare a lizard—in the name of science, of course.
Read our excerpt from Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, this year’s Common Reading selection, and you’ll share an experience with more than 4,000 first-year UO students and community members. In his bestseller, Coates dives deep into the core of racism and American history and reports what he finds in the form of a profound and intimate letter to his adolescent son.
Certainly, textbook lessons and classroom experiences are essential. But maybe more important is how, like Coates, we take the raw material of facts, history, and events and make it personal and meaningful to our own lives. When I meet alumni and they reminisce about their days at Oregon, I hear stories of adventure, travel, athletics, activities, inspiring teachers, revelatory moments, and best-friends-forever. This is the “value added” part of our time at Oregon—the turning points we’ll always remember, the badges we carry all our lives that become a part of our identity.
When you look back at your time at the UO, what did you learn about making “facts” live? What university experience most influenced your life? How did you “throw your O”? Write us at quarterly[at]uoregon[dot]edu with the subject “experience.” We’ll print a list in our next issue.
Until then, I hope you put your hands all over this copy of OQ, and enjoy the experiences shared herein.