September 14, 2015

SEC Symposium Q&A: Lucinda Lavelli

The University of Florida is the lead institution for the 2015 SEC Symposium
The University of Florida is the lead institution for the 2015 SEC Symposium

By: Sean Cartell
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

The 2015 SEC Symposium, entitledCreativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Driving a 21st Century Economy, will take place Sept. 20-22 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta and is led by the University of Florida.

Lucinda Lavelli has been the Dean of the University of Florida College of the Arts since 2006 and is responsible for coordinating many of the aspects related to creativity at the 2015 SEC Symposium. Lavelli sat down with SECU for the following Q&A to discuss the upcoming SEC Symposium.

SECU: From where did you develop your love for the arts and why did you decide to pursue a career in higher education focused on the arts?

Lucinda Lavelli: “Typical for people in the arts, there hasn’t been a time when I can remember that I haven’t been interested in some aspect of the arts. I always had a vivid imagination and, through artistic expression, I have been able to express that. I have been involved with music, with dance, and a little bit with theater. I haven’t done as much with visual art, but I have come to appreciate the training of the mind and the hand-eye coordination required to pursue a career in visual art. I’ve been involved my entire life with the arts in many different ways from K-12 social organizations ultimately to higher education. The thing that attracted me to higher education was the opportunity for the quality of thought and research that were possible and the opportunities for collaboration.”

SECU: Why do you feel that Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship is such an appropriate topic for the SEC Symposium?

Lucinda Lavelli:
“All of the SEC universities, as well as the universities across the nation and across the globe, are dealing with these concepts. To include business, engineering and the arts was so clear. The arts are divided up in different ways among SEC institutions. For instance, design and architecture are sometimes by themselves and sometimes together based on the institution. These are issues that face a university. How do we make sure students get an understanding of creativity? That is kind of the seed corn that is going to prepare students for their careers – whether they are an artist, a scientist or a healthcare worker. I haven’t seen many other academic conferences blend these ideas together. It allows attendees to hear different points of view that may be stimulating to them. Bottom line, we felt that bringing together nationally and internationally important ideas, and expressing them through the SEC would be distinctive and a really appreciated opportunity.”

SECU: From your perspective, why are the arts an important component of higher education and of receiving a well-rounded education?

Lucinda Lavelli: “It started back in the middle ages. Music was part of the learning that was seen at the earliest universities back in the sixth century. I believe intuitively, but research on learning and functioning of the brain all serve the point, that there are a range of ways of approaching reality and thinking, and diversity of thought gives us the richest opportunity to solve the complex problems that we’re facing today. We’re very familiar with logical and linear thinking but when you look at artistic thinking, you find a different kind of model. The idea of education is to bring the student into contact with all the richness that is the history of mankind – thinking and creating new knowledge.”

SECU: You are responsible for implementing two important components of the SEC Symposium – the art exhibit and the jazz ensemble. What can attendees look forward to regarding these two components of the SEC Symposium?

Lucinda Lavelli: “We wanted to have students experience this SEC Symposium. If you want students to experience this, you have to have something for them. Historically, posters have been displayed. But I thought since this is about creativity, instead of creating poster boards about creativity, we should actually show some creative work. There will be the fine arts, so you might see ceramics or paintings, and then applied arts which comes more from architecture, so you might have furniture or jewelry. It will be showcasing the creative work of students in the SEC. Many of the musicians who are in jazz groups or ensembles at the SEC institutions are in the marching band as well. We’re honoring the marching band, which is an important component of SEC athletic tradition with jazz which, because of its improvisational quality, relates to the creative brand of the SEC Symposium.”

SECU: You worked to bring Liz Lerman to the SEC Symposium as a keynote speaker. What is significant about Ms. Lerman’s work and why is she a great fit as a keynote speaker at this year’s SEC Symposium?

Lucinda Lavelli: “She is a McArthur Fellow, so her work and creativity have been recognized by this significant foundation that honors great thinkers. Since we had creativity as a theme and Liz herself is quite the entrepreneur, I thought this embodied the SEC Symposium. I have heard her speak before and she has a fascinating mind. In her career, she has demonstrated entrepreneurship and has created partnerships all over the world. She understands the role of arts in helping achieve deep understanding of issues. She worked with the Harvard Law School on a project related to the Nuremberg Trial. She is an author and her latest book Hiking the Horizontal gives many ideas about ways to work with partners. Her keynote is on the opening day and I thought she would be laying the groundwork for the creativity that fuels entrepreneurship and innovation.”