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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Author stresses creativity in all fields

According to author Keith Sawyer, creativity is not limited to the arts and humanities.

In his lecture titled “Educating for Innovation,” scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tonight, he will speak to students about the importance of combining creativity and collaboration in all fields and professions, including the sciences, business and engineering.

Sawyer, now a professor of psychology and education at Washington University in St. Louis, first became interested in collaborative creativity as a jazz musician. Having taken classical piano lessons as a child, Sawyer joined a jazz band in high school and learned firsthand how to collaborate creatively as a jazz pianist by improvising and playing off the other group members, he said.

He also spent some time working as a jazz pianist for improvisational theater groups in Chicago, where he learned to improvise based on actors’ words and gestures.

Because of Sawyer’s jazz influences, a UA jazz quartet will perform at the beginning of the lecture, giving audience members the opportunity to see and hear this creative for themselves.

Creative Campus coordinator Alexis Clark came up with the idea while she was reading Sawyer’s new book “Group Genius.” In it, Sawyer says that “improvisation is critical to collaborate group thinking,” and he cites jazz ensembles as examples.

“We thought it would be cool and extremely relevant to have a jazz ensemble perform. We proposed the idea to him and were very excited that he was so amenable to us messing with his program,” she said.

After the short jazz performance, Sawyer will discuss his book and professional experience in what the Creative Campus interns hope will be an interactive lecture, Clark said.

Although Sawyer did his doctoral work in psychology, specifically examining the psychological components of creativity, he received his undergraduate degree in computer science, which he did at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also spent several years in the workforce before beginning his doctoral work.

“He’s a really interesting guy,” said Ryan Davis, a Creative Campus intern and senior in New College. “He has done everything from working on video games like Ms. Pac-Man to being a jazz pianist to getting his doctorate in psychology. He has so much in his background to pull from and talk about.”

Creative Campus intern and public relations major Amanda Brewer said she especially appreciates Sawyer’s business background.

“He really stresses the importance of creativity even in the business world, an area where a lot of people generally don’t,” she said.

Andi Johnson, a senior majoring in English and a third-year Creative Campus intern, said, “Any major could go to this event and find something that applies to them.”

The interns, after reading Sawyer’s book and learning more about him these last few weeks, said they have gained new appreciation for the collaborative group effort that they carry out on a day-to-day basis.

“He really challenges the way you think. He shows that creativity is often better in groups than it is in individuals,” Johnson said.

“It’s like Einstein’s theory of relativity,” Davis said. “It couldn’t have happened without him knowing about quantum theory, and he knew about that because of someone else. That’s what Creative Campus and creativity are about — group flow.”

Tonight’s lecture will be in the Biology Building auditorium, Room 127. The event is sponsored by Creative Campus, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Culverhouse College of Commerce, the College of Engineering and Auburn University.

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