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Inspire Conversation

November 7, 2019 Jim Warner
Stephan Gohmann of the Center for Free Enterprise at UofL standing out in the atrium of Fraizer Hall on a sunny afternoon.

In the world of higher education, the pursuit of knowledge is only half the picture. The true measure of an institution for learning’s success comes from not only attaining knowledge but the discourse and conversation which permeates it. That conversation also serves as a driver of the Center for Free Enterprise’s mission of exploration at the College of Business.

The Center for Free Enterprise looks to engage the university at large with compelling programming — potentially reaching students, staff, and faculty within and beyond the College of Business. “Exposure to differing opinions, beliefs, and discussions adds to the depth of a student’s experience,” says Donna Clark, Marketing and Events Manager for the Center. “When they get out in the working world, these students are open to a variety of thought processes and have developed their critical thinking skills.”

For Clark and Center director Stephan F. Gohmann, collaboration has been at the heart of extending the audience at the Center’s speaker series. “I think people are surprised when the Center collaborates, with say, the Philosophy department on an immigration event, or a discussion on paying college athletes.” In the past year, the CFE has partnered with a vast range of departments, including Athletics, the Law School, and Pan African Studies.

“At first blush, it may seem like some of the events we host aren’t within the scope of the Center,” says Clark. “But as part of the Economics Department in the College of Business, we study enterprise, economic freedom, entrepreneurship, and you can trace the impact of those to most anything happening in the world.”

This past fall, the Center worked with the School of Music, bringing musician and author Rob Kapilow’s presentation All You Have to Do is Listen to the Comstock Concert Hall for an engaging blend of interactive performance and lecture. “Rob spoke about the importance of listening for possibility, in leadership, in relationships, in business development. Listening is a topic that touches everyone in the room.” It’s that aspect of listening, which provides an opportunity for understanding and productive conversation.

Further, Economics is itself a social science—a study of decision-making and its unintended consequences. It is a broad discipline with applications in a wide variety of topics, including health, education, immigration and more. Those fundamental considerations are, in part, why Gohmann always encourages students to consider the program as a major, or at the very least, a minor in the field.

The spring event calendar is shaping up to continue widening the scope of its audience. The 2020 BB&T Speaker Series features Dr. James Otteson, author of Honorable Business A Framework for Business in a Just and Humane Society. Additional topics the Center will cover include Black History Month with Pulitzer-nominated author Clifton Taulbert and a panel discussion on the subject of school choice.

Donna hopes the speaker series will continue to provide a space for conversation and civil discourse in an increasingly polarized world. “In the end, it isn’t about which side of an issue you fall on. It’s more about having enough information to make an informed decision or opinion,” says Clark. “We are committed to providing balanced information.”

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