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Dr. Colwell's Remarks


"Bridging the Cultures: Celebrating Science and the Liberal Arts"

Dr. Rita R. Colwell
National Science Foundation
Dedication of the Hodson Science and Technology Center
Hood College
Frederick, Maryland

October 19, 2002

Thank you, Craig, for that generous introduction. Thank you, President Volpe. It is an honor to follow Alan Waterman who, forty-five years ago, spoke at the dedication of the Lillian Brown Hodson Science Hall!

And welcome to you all:

To the speakers we have heard today - inspirational, all.

To Maryland delegates Sue Hecht and Joseph Bartlett, and to Karen Johnson, Maryland Higher Education Commission Secretary.

To Dr. Beth Garraway, President of the Maryland Independent Colleges and Universities Association, and to Chairman Deborah Jones of the Hood College Board of Trustees.

Of course, special thanks go to Dr. Ruth Whitaker Holmes and Dr. Burtt Holmes, Trustees of the Whitaker Foundation, and to Mrs. Eileen Dickey, Grant Administrator of the Hodson Trust, for their generous contributions to Hood College.

I'm delighted to be here in Frederick to help you launch the new Hodson Science and Technology Center. This is a day to celebrate, so let me extend to all of you a hearty congratulations from the National Science Foundation.

Hood College has been home to a curriculum rich in diversity for more than a century. Today, I want to emphasize the value of your approach. I have titled my remarks "Bridging the Cultures: Celebrating Science and the Liberal Arts." I'll speak first about the science part of this context.

Groundbreaking is familiar to scientists and engineers. That's what we aim for when we look at the frontiers of knowledge, and travel in unexplored territory seeking new understanding of our world.

Science is changing incredibly fast. As a result, the need for infrastructure, and the tools of science, is changing as well. Advances in science and engineering occur today with a pace and complexity we couldn't have imagined just a few years ago. At the NSF, we are now building a cyberinfrastructure, expanding the Internet, and connecting the country's universities to very high-end computing capabilities, from San Diego to Illinois to Pittsburgh to Boston.

Finding uncommon solutions to common problems demands increasingly sophisticated tools for world-class research and education. It requires collaborations of the very best minds from many different disciplines.

The Hodson Center will generate productive collaborations and open new avenues of exploration for students at Hood College. Students who must be flexible, entrepreneurial, and creative. Students who will be ready to meet the challenge of changing careers, not just jobs, seven or eight times, from graduation to retirement.

What is most exciting is that we are here to witness the bridging of cultures - of scientists and students from a wide range of disciplines, including the humanities, working side-by-side, engaged in discovery, innovation, and learning.

Education and research are inextricably bound together. We advance knowledge most effectively when we link research and the education and training of the next generation of young scientists. At NSF, we are proud of our REU program - Research Experiences for Undergraduates - and IGERT, Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training.

We live at the beginning of a new age of scientific exploration. The breathtaking pace of change has altered our society in many ways and created new challenges for our citizens. It has increased our responsibilities and our opportunities as members of the science community. We have many challenges, as well, post 9/11. in national security, economic vitality, and social stability in a time of international terrorism.

I am confident that the Hodson Center will contribute significantly to this region's economic and social prosperity. As a scientist, I am delighted by what I see happening here.

When researchers and educators increase connections among disciplines they create new opportunities for discovery. These links are a kind of alchemy for the future: They give scientists powerful, transforming means for creation. Interdisciplinary science is rich, productive, where the future is. in the nano, info, bio, cogno sciences.

But the power of collaboration is not restricted to science. It is in the full community of learning, and it is especially strong at Hood College.

Hood is known for breaking new ground, across many disciplines, and in innovative ways. Its founding mission was to advance the education of women and "the cultivation and diffusion of Literature, Science, and Art."

Hood College has a proud tradition of training women leaders by encouraging women to pursue science careers. The talented science faculty here - with a high proportion of women researchers and professors - provides powerful role models.

This tradition of excellence will never change. Your decision to become a coed institution opens up all of Hood College's opportunities to a wider community of students.

Throughout its history, Hood College has bridged the liberal arts curriculum with linkage in the study of science, mathematics, and notably computer science. This rich crossdisciplinary education serves all students, those in science and the liberal arts.

I cannot predict the future, but I can readily see the trends. We will need citizens literate in both science and the humanities in this, the twenty-first century. and beyond.

In an era of global competition, a tech-savvy workforce is a sine qua non for industry and research in the Frederick area in Maryland, and in the Nation.

We need 21st century scientists who can speak and write about their work, sharing their knowledge and excitement in their discoveries in nanotechnology, genome sciences, terascale computing, and cognitive sciences -- not just to colleagues, but most importantly to the public. Public understanding of science is more important than ever, in a technology- and knowledge- driven twenty-first century.

At the same time, Americans must know and understand the history of civilization and the nuances of our democracy, the gift of democracy we have in this great nation of ours. We Americans must be willing and responsible participants in society.

Articulate and ethical leaders with good judgment must help navigate our nation in this increasingly complex world.

An education bridging science and the liberal arts is the best preparation for the world of today and to meet the complexities of the future.

The Nation must have a new generation of physicists, computer scientists, mathematicians, biologists, chemists, and engineers who are articulate and literate. The expanded research and laboratory facilities of the Hodson Science and Technology Center will contribute to that kind of education.

Nobody is better at maintaining a broad commitment to both science and the liberal arts than Hood College.

Nowhere is there a faculty, staff, and student team more committed to the bridging of science and the liberal arts than at Hood College.

It fosters in students the essential qualities of perspective, sound judgment, and healthy skepticism. It prepares students to understand themselves and the world they will live in and, thereby, to become good citizens. It teaches flexibility, all the better to meet the unexpected.

Let us not forget that the Hood College tradition is immensely practical. Employers and graduate educators look for people with knowledge of science and history, literature, philosophy, because they are stronger, resilient candidates who will build successful careers.

The fact is we all must make a life as well as a living. Hood College nurtures companionable minds, and the Hodson Science and Technology Center extends this tradition. This is truly a catalytic moment for Hood College. I congratulate you for your foresight and commitment.

Thank you.



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