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A Dam in the River: Releasing the Flow of University Ideas, by Jeff Camhi
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9/16/2013 at 1:30:31 PM GMT
Posts: 381
A Dam in the River: Releasing the Flow of University Ideas, by Jeff Camhi

From  Jeff Camhi:

It started for me at about the time of the new millennium. My work as a biology professor having pretty much peaked, I returned to my earlier interest in education for the general public. Long story short, I was invited to found, and then direct, a unique "open-campus museum” at my university.
         With no prior training in museum work, I began reading all the relevant books and professional journals I could find, attended international conferences and workshops, befriended and learned much from museum leaders in New York, Washington, Chicago and London. I kept hearing about themed tours, narratives, story lines, imagination, emotion, art. I began to realize that good museums are good story tellers. Some actually have professional storytellers on staff.
          Last month our open-campus museum celebrated its tenth anniversary. We tell the public the stories behind the forefront research, the various collections, the symbolic objects, and the people on our campus. Our guides/storytellers are mostly graduate students who have taken our masters course in guiding/storytelling.
            Along with this, for the last decade we have carried out and published research on the process of public education. Our biggest project to date has been a seven year study of the more distinguished American research universities and liberal arts colleges to determine how effectively they tell their stories, not to just an elite upper crust of society, but to the general public. The results, some of them shocking, have just come out in book form; it’s a book intended for the general public as well as the storytelling/tour guiding and academic populations.
            "A Dam in the River: Releasing the Flow of University Ideas” by Jeff Camhi (that’s me), published Algora Publications, New York, explores what university subjects and stories are important for the general public and why, and how to get the stories flowing on and from college campuses, at very little cost (in some cases at no cost), for everyone's benefit. "A Dam in the River” offers 35 specific suggestions for increasing the flow and the effectiveness of academia’s important stories. For instance, one chapter is about new methods we have developed for getting individual listeners to connect personally and emotionally to the stories we tell. Another analyzes my "anthropological” research trips to the University of Michigan and Amherst College in search of their stories. Others concern university stories in books, on radio and TV, and on the Internet.

Here’s what academic leaders say about "A Dam in the River”

Dudley Herschbach, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry, Harvard; Emeritus Board Chair, Society for Science and the Public.

            In this sparkling, stimulating book, Camhi issues a clarion call for universities to share the bounty of their ideas much more broadly with the public. He offers practical ways to achieve this, at little cost, and makes a compelling case for "increasing the flow of ideas…that can change a mind, change a life, change the world.” I greatly admire "A Dam in the River.” Its message is very important and its presentation is superb.

Donald Kennedy, President Emeritus, Stanford University; Past Editor-in-Chief of the journal "Science.”

            I found "A Dam in the River” fascinating, particularly the use of the museum metaphor to suggest ways in which universities might open their work and their ideas to the public. Camhi has his hands on a great approach.

Frank Rhodes, President Emeritus, Cornell University.

            I agree with Camhi’s thesis that universities should be more accessible to the public. This book is well written in an engaging tone and comes across in a warm and friendly, conversational manner.

Alice S. Huang, Cal Tech biologist; former Dean, Faculty of Science, NYU; Past President, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

            Are ideas important? Camhi’s book gives a resounding yes. He delves into all the activities that we at higher educational institutions can do better in communicating to the public, requiring little financial output. All academics concerned with teaching and effective engagement with the public will resonate with these ideas.

Russell A. Berman, Professor of Humanities, Stanford University; Past President, Modern Language Association.

            A thoughtful and detailed study of the contemporary American university, its wealth of ideas, and the challenges it faces in making those ideas available to the public. "A Dam in the River” challenges traditional academic culture—quite an accomplishment, covering a wide range of topics with good detail, and written in a way a wider public can understand.”
Mary Walshok, Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Programs and Dean of Extension, University of California San Diego.

         Jeff Camhi provides a unique and insightful perspective on the still fragmented and often marginal role civic engagement and public service play in America's leading Research Universities and distinguished Liberal Arts Colleges. His examples and insights are useful and challenging at a time when colleges and universities across the nation are addressing how to assure sustained support and respect for the academic enterprise.

John Falk, Professor of Free Choice Learning, Oregon State University.

         A Dam in the River, a book about conveying ideas, is itself a good idea conveyed well.  Professor Camhi not only clearly and persuasively makes the case for why it is essential to let loose the vast reservoirs of ideas trapped within today's universities but offers up a range of straight-forward, readily implementable suggestions for how to deliver those ideas to the nation

About the Author

            Jeff Camhi was born in New York City and raised in its suburbs. He received his BA and his PhD in biology, from Tufts and Harvard, respectively. He then taught at Cornell for 15 years. Following a sabbatical year at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he accepted a job offer there and moved with his family to Israel. A full professor first at Cornell and then at the Hebrew University (now Emeritus Professor), for most of his career his research specialty has been the neural basis of animal behavior.

            At about the time of the new millennium, Camhi’s long-term interest in public education was re-kindled. Becoming Founding Director of the Nature Park & Galleries, the Hebrew University’s "open-campus museum," he changed his field of research and publication to museology. This was the starting point of his research for "A Dam in the River.” For the book, he carried out extended visits to 23 American research universities and liberal arts colleges and 13 additional academic organizations. He interviewed 155 American academic leaders—university and college presidents, provosts, deans, heads of museums and outreach programs, and others. He carried out nation-wide surveys and analyzed other surveys as well as the writings of major academic, museum, and storytelling leaders. He continues his varied work connected to "A Dam in the River.”
"A Dam in the River” is available at Amazon (where you can "Look Inside” the book):

or at Algora Publications, New York.

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