What I learned from Disney at ERAPPA 2009

The ERAPPA 2009 Conference keynote address was delivered this morning to a packed house by Jeff Noel of the Disney Institute, Disney’s outreach program that seeks to excite, inspire and motivate others. In a difficult economy, with many attendees struggling to do more with less, Jeff reminded us that we can’t forget what we’re really trying to do–create and maintain rich and unique campuses that intrigue and engage students, faculty and staff alike.

I found many similarities in the quest for realizing the kind of high-quality place that is an engaging college campus with what motivates us to learn. “Genius is not an ah-ha moment,” Jeff said, paraphrasing Albert Einstein. “It’s seeing what’s interesting and pursuing it.” Psychologists know we learn best when we are highly motivated by a deep interest in an issue, problem or concern–not by the need to get a high test score. These interests push us to drill deep to a place where we are can find real understanding, the kind of understanding that eludes those driven only by the need to meet an assessment standard.

Perhaps it’s no accident, then, that the rich experience we all want at our nation’s college and university campuses is entirely consistent with an exceptional learning environment. Let’s all recognize this is indeed why we are here.