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Life of the MindIBM surveyed leaders from thirty-three different industries in sixty countries to determine their most highly valued professional trait. The answer? Creativity.

Even as schools across the country cut funding to the arts, educators and employers in all disciplines increasingly champion creativity as a crucial quality in students and future professionals.

UT will celebrate creativity during the 2014-15 academic year by making creativity the theme of that year’s Life of the Mind book.

The Life of the Mind Program, which is a Ready for the World initiative, is a component of First-Year Studies 100, a required online course that helps first-year students transition successfully to college. As part of the course, students read the Life of the Mind book, submit a creative response, participate in a small-group discussion session and attend a lecture by the book’s author.

“We recognize the importance of fostering creativity among all students, in all disciplines, as a necessary part of generating future leaders,” Provost Susan Martin said. “We have renowned artists and faculty from all over the world to guide new generations of writers, dancers, musicians, sculptors, filmmakers, designers, scientists, businesspeople, and other professionals.”

Creativity is a common theme in the Vol Vision strategic plan and the Top 25 initiative.

The Vol Vision plan explains: “As the preeminent research-based, land-grant university in the state, UT embodies the spirit of excellence in teaching, research, scholarship, creative activity, outreach, and engagement attained by the nation’s finest public research institutions.”

Further, Vol Vision defines one of UT’s key values as “Original ideas that advance society through discovery, inquiry, innovation, research, scholarship, and creative activities.”

“Far from being the province only of artists with that elusive spark of genius, creativity—which experts stress is about process, not product—is an essential component of innovation, problem solving, and inspiration, abilities as necessary for engineers and administrators as for poets and pianists,” Martin said. “Creative thinking builds flexible, resourceful minds, the kind needed to navigate an increasingly complex world.”

Over the next eight months, a Life of the Mind Committee of faculty, staff, and students will review many books to select a common reading experience for the Class of 2018, centered on the theme of the creativity. To help them get started, the committee is seeking nominations for the 2014 Life of the Mind book.

Life of the Mind books should:

  • expose students to the Ready for the World international and intercultural initiative,
  • represent a transition or journey that can be related in some way to the first-year experience at UT,
  • target specific campus initiatives or current global events,
  • have an author/editor/representative that is living and able to come to campus,
  • ideally be less than 350 pages and cost less than $20.

To suggest a book under the theme of creativity, visit the Life of the Mind website.

The final selection will be announced before the end of the fall 2013 semester.

If you have questions about the book selection process or the Life of the Mind program, please contact Jason Mastrogiovani, director of First Year Studies, at