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CCU Atheneum: Bonnie St. John, an author and motivational speaker who was the first African American female to earn medals in the Winter Paralympics, will be the keynote speaker for Celebration of Inquiry this year.
Bonnie St. John, an author and motivational speaker who was the first African American female to earn medals in the Winter Paralympics, will be the keynote speaker for Celebration of Inquiry this year.

Celebration of Inquiry: thinking outside the curricular box

by Brian Druckenmiller
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Although absent last year, the Celebration of Inquiry at Coastal Carolina University returns for 2012.
From Thursday, March 29, to Saturday, March 31, a plethora of presentations will create a network of ideas and information that will transform CCU academics, breaking the routines established by majors and curriculum.

“In developing the event, we had to ask ourselves, ‘How can we bring disciplines together?’” said Charmaine Tomczyk, director of the conference and CCU's director for undergraduate research. “When a student graduates, there are so many courses they did not, or could not, take. The Celebration of Inquiry offers a taste of topics that may be outside of a degree program, but ones we think are pertinent and interesting.”

This year’s event, themed “From Curiosity to Exploration: Linking Knowing and Doing,” correlates with the university’s quality enhancement plan (QEP) to promote experiential learning—applying theory to practice and learning through experience.

“We want to provide a starting point for students to reflect on what their education experiences mean,” said Tomczyk. “This year, we want to provide a broader lens in order for participants to see where things fit into the bigger picture.”

This year’s keynote speaker will be Bonnie St. John, an author and motivational speaker who was the first African American female to earn medals in the Winter Paralympics. St. John will focus on topics from her new book, “How Great Women Lead,” as well as from her earlier books, including “Live Your Joy.” She is scheduled to speak on Friday, March 30, at 7 p.m. in Kimbel Arena. Copies of her book will be available for purchase after her presentation.

Other highlights include a poetry reading and panel discussion from prize-winning poets Natasha Trethewey and Jake Adam York; the presentation of the Distinguished Teacher-Scholar Lecturer award to Maria Bachman; the Science Mini-Symposium on Professionalism; and the fourth annual Undergraduate Research Competition. Additional events and speakers will be added to the program in the coming weeks. In addition to the Provost’s Office, this year’s Celebration sponsors include the Kimbel Distinguished Lecturer Series and the CCU Women in Philanthropy and Leadership through a grant provided by the Walmart Foundation.

This is the 10th Celebration of Inquiry CCU has held. The tradition started in a big way in February 1999 as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, came to Wheelwright Auditorium to deliver a memorable keynote speech. Over the years, themes such as “Conflict and Creativity in the Search of Knowledge” (1999), “Seeing the World Anew” (2004) and “Living the Questions: Creating, Connecting, Changing” (2006) all fall under the broader theme: understanding the world outside of the bubbles created by required course work and employment.

“Celebration of Inquiry is very interdisciplinary,” said Sara Sanders, professor of English and co-director for the 1999 inaugural conference. “It allows people to spend time outside of their studies to look for answers to the questions they have about the world.”

A couple of significant changes to the event are taking place this year. First, it will now take place biennially to ensure enough time for thorough planning and execution. Second, classes will not be redirected as they had been in years past. The bulk of events will take place on Friday afternoon and all-day Saturday when classes are not being held on the main campus.

“Participation was waning,” said Tomczyk. “It was defeating the purpose of the event, which is to bring various campus and community constituencies together. This new schedule is a ‘pilot’ run…we’ll wait and see what happens.”

As the student body grows, so does the range of interests of  CCU students. The Celebration of Inquiry is growing right along with them in hopes to offer something for everybody.

“We wanted everyone to find a niche,” said Tomczyk. “The Celebration of Inquiry is a valuable vehicle to further education, and I hope it has a long life at Coastal.”

The conference is looking for more presenters and will be accepting proposals until Feb. 20. To submit a proposal and to find general information about the event, visit www.coastal.edu/inquiry.

 

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