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In their lively and entertaining weekly discussion of issues related to higher education, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger explore the topics of higher education, lifelong learning, and exercising the brain. Ed and Jennifer practice what they preach, too, by introducing math puzzlers and brain teasers to keep listeners on their toes.

Higher Ed: Want An Exciting Life? Ask This Question At Graduation (Or Anytime, Really)

Most of us have the best of intentions when we graduate from high school or college to make our way in the world and lead meaningful and productive lives. But the minutiae of everyday life can eat into our plans to exist outside our comfort zone. In this episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton explore one way to keep those dreams alive.

Ed has a tradition at Southwestern University called the President's Dinner. At some point during their time at Southwestern, each student will get invited to dinner at the President's house with about 12 other people. Part of the dinner conversation will revolve around answering a provocative question.

At a recent dinner, Ed posed the following question: "What would surprise you about yourself 25 years after graduation?"

After hearing the discussion the followed, Ed wanted to bring that question to "Higher Ed" podcast listeners, too.

"What's something that you could imagine and dream about doing but you really don't think you would do in practice?'

Ed maintains that asking that question at any stage of life will prompt us to then figure out what concrete steps can we take to get there. And that pursuit, he believes, is the "joy of life."

"When people go to our funeral, let's say 'we left it all on the field; we lived this full life,'" says Ed. "So even the surprising things we've tried."

Ed says conversely, it might be just as valuable to consider the places where we do not want to be 25 years after graduation.

"How can we go to the dark side," cautions Ed, " and then what can we do with intentionality to make sure we avoid that?"

Ed says we may be our own worst enemy when it comes to this type of exploration. He encourages people to put their education into practice to overcome that obstacle.

"We are all biased about our individual selves. ' I am supposed to do this. I am good at that and I am not good at art' or whatever it is," says Ed. "To overcome that internal bias about you, and to say 'well, maybe I can be an artist' is an open-minded attitude which all education that's focusing on personal, intellectual growth should be offering."

Listen to the entire episode to hear more about how to surprise ourselves 25 years after graduation (or at any point in life). It is also time to see what kind of puzzler we are dealt in this episode.

This episode was recorded on Oct. 22, 2019.

For all the Higher Ed episodes, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes here.

Jennifer Stayton is the local host for NPR's "Morning Edition" on KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @jenstayton.
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