Campus News

2009 Honors Day Ceremony Recognizes Bowdoin’s Best

Story posted May 06, 2009

Bowdoin College held its 13th annual Honors Day ceremony to recognize publicly the college-wide academic and extracurricular achievements of Bowdoin students and faculty. The ceremony was held May 6, 2009, at Kanbar Auditorium, Studzinski Recital Hall.

"This is an important night at the College," said President Barry Mills in his welcoming remarks.

"We're here to recognize students who've shown excellence in the classroom. Congratulations to all of the students who've achieved so much."

Following President Mills' welcome, Assistant Professor of Art Michael Kolster delivered the Honors Day address.

Kolster, recipient of the 2008 Sydney B. Karofsky Prize for Junior Faculty, gave a talk titled "Gorillas in Our Midst: The Big Picture Problem and the Value of Knowing That We Don't Always Know."

Kolster says the Big Picture Problem refers to the challenge of seeing and responding to a changing world.

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Michael Kolster

"The problem, as I see it, is that whenever we think we have figured things out, the world has already shifted, often rendering our theories incomplete and forcing us to look again at what surrounds us, at what we no longer know," says Kolster.

He says there is value in knowing that we don't always know, and devoted his talk to the exploration of that using a multimedia presentation of text, images, video and music that was at once informative and entertaining.

The audience easily met Kolster's challenge of interpreting sentences of garbled letters on a projection screen, only for many to be stumped by other exercises that showed how expectations modulate our perceptions and can blind us to changing circumstances.

"When we embrace this uncertainty, when we are mindful of how much we don't know, we are positioned to see more clearly the world immediately around us and less likely to allow habitual and possibly outmoded responses to cloud our judgments," he says.

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Courtesy: eChalk Optical Illusions

Kolster infused his demonstrations with heartfelt life lessons as he encouraged the audience to renew the curiosity they bring to their lives and relationships.

"Being aware of the limits of our knowledge is the basis for remaining curious, and being curious is the first step to empathy," says Kolster.

"Empathy is a form of understanding that supersedes knowledge. It allows us to forgive ourselves and others when mistakes occur and allows us to forge meaningful connections to others. In my mind empathy, the kind that flows directly from an open and engaged curiosity about the world, is the foundation of what we call the common good."

Click here for the full text of Kolster's talk.

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Laura Henry

Following Koster's address Dean for Academic Affairs Cristle Collins Judd presented the 2009 Karofsky Prize to Assistant Professor of Government Laura Henry.

The prize, given by members of the Karofsky family, is awarded annually by the dean for academic affairs, in consultation with the Appointments, Promotion, and Tenure Committee on the basis of student evaluations of teaching, to an outstanding Bowdoin teacher who "best demonstrates the ability to impart knowledge, inspire enthusiasm, and stimulate intellectual curiosity." Read the story.

The prize is given to a member of the faculty who has taught at the College for at least two years.

Departmental prizes were then presented by academic department and program chairs.

Download a PDF of the Honors Day program with the names of all the winners.

A musical interlude was provided by cellist James Pasch '11 who performed "Sarabande" from Suite for Cello Solo No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007, by Johann Sebastian Bach.

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