Curious Kate and the Value of a Hungry Mind

September 6, 2012

Professors don't just teach their students; the really good ones also learn from them.

As an example, Stonehill Biology Professor Magdalena James-Pederson recently told 800+ first-years about one of her former students, Kate Sullivan, whose "hungry mind" impressed and inspired her.

Speaking to the Class of 2016 at Acaedmic Convocation, Pederson recalled that Sullivan "was inquisitive about many things: science, religion, foreign languages and most curious about the meaning of her life. "

Furthermore, Sullivan's curiosity led her to explore tropical diseases and "her eyes would sparkle in wonder when she talked about them." Pederson added, what's "most honorable is the fact that Kate's passion for learning about parasites led her to use that knowledge for a greater purpose."

Today, a year after graduating, Sullivan is in Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, helping patients infected by a parasite that causes swelling of the lymph nodes, a swelling so disabling that patients end up being ostracized by society.

"When I read Kate's narrative about her journey in Haiti," explained Pederson, "it reminds me of how privileged I am when I witness the fruits of curiosity. Everyone in this room has the potential to make a difference like Kate is doing."

To do so, however, Pederson told the Class of 2016: "You need to show up to class eager to learn about the natural world around you, about the cultures of the world, and even about your own human existence. Bring your hungry mind even to those courses that are not part of your major."

For Professor Pederson, curiosity is the key. 

As she told the students, "Every class you take can be a place you have never been to. Bring your hungry mind to that place. All of us here need your curious energy. Today, I challenge you to carry your curiosity everywhere on this campus. Don't leave your dorm without it."

"When you bring that curious energy to class, you inspire others around you.  You even inspire your professors," she said.


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