Course encourages new ideas, creativity and innovation

By Sam Morrison

A new course offered at UK challenges students to think outside the box.

Phil Kraemer, UK professor of psychology and former associate provost for Undergraduate Education, is leading a class entitled “Ideas Matter,” where students are asked to question their fundamental understanding of what ‘an idea’ really means.

Inspired by the annual IdeaFestival, Kraemer sets out to redefine the method in studying psychology.

“It is a much more general course that extends beyond the boundaries of traditional psychology and connects naturally to other disciplines than typical psychology course,” Kraemer said. “Yet, it relates to a number of topical areas within psychology and cognitive science, especially the study of cognition. But also examines cultural issues: organized efforts to expose citizens to the important ideas of the day.”

The course will further explore where ideas come from and how they evolve to influence and revolutionize the actions of individuals, corporations and countries.

“We are especially interested in the kinds of ideas that matter today and how they matter,” Kraemer said. “For example, globalization is in essence a new idea — one that affects how individuals, groups and entire societies behave.”

Kraemer attributes the creation of his class to the annual IdeaFestival. Founded in 2000 by Kris Kimel, the festival provides people, organizations and companies from around the world a chance to collaborate viewpoints and re-draw the boundaries of creative innovation.

“Phil has taken a major step in the innovative way to approach, identify and define ideas,” Kimel said. “One of the goals for students in any field is to graduate having been schooled in creativity, and having this class built around the IdeasFestival, which exposes students to 30-40 innovators and performers from across the globe, adds more value to the recognition of creative thinking and real breakthrough innovation.”

IdeaFestival 2011 was held Wednesday through Saturday at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts in Louisville.

Kraemer took his class on a three-day trip to this year’s festival and explained after the trip why attending is so important for his students.

“The course examines the purpose and impact of ways in which ideas are presented in the public square,” Kraemer said, “so to have students directly participate offers them an invaluable perspective. Much of the magic of IdeaFest is feeling the excitement people (presenters and participants) have for cutting edge ideas of all kinds.”

Abby Kerins, junior english major and spanish minor, is a student in Kraemer’s class.

“The IdeaFestival was an outstanding experience that I would recommend to anyone,” Kerins said. “The presenters at the IdeaFestival exemplified that a formal education can take an individual far in life, but so much more can be learned and can be done outside of the classroom.”

Kerins said after attending the festival there was a clear correlation between the class and IdeaFest 2011.

“I believe that (Kraemer) hopes that my classmates and I might question, challenge and connect the information that we gather in our education and answer questions that we never knew we had,” Kerins said. “Ideas really do matter.”

The course is being offered this fall as Special Topics in Honors: Honors 301-003.