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Last Lecture Examines The Winding Path Of Life

For The Heights

Published: Thursday, May 3, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

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Matt Lieber / Heights Staff

On Wednesday night in Higgins 300, the Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) of Boston College presented a lecture from Audrey Friedman as BC’s eighth installment of “The Last Lecture Series.” Friedman is an associate professor and associate dean of undergraduates in the Lynch School of Education.

“The Last Lecture Series” consists of biannual lectures that feature BC professors. These lectures are modeled after a book which was based on the real last lecture of Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in 2007. The BC lectures are aimed at answering the question, “If you had the chance to give the last lecture of your life, what wisdom would you impart to your students?”

Other lectures in the series have included Rev. Michael Himes, professor of theology, Paul Brienes, associate professor of history, and David McMenamin, director of the PULSE Program for Service Learning.

In her lecture, Friedman discussed the ways to navigate dissonance in daily life and the acceptance that life sometimes takes unexpected turns. Using metaphors from The Wizard of Oz, she talked about the paths of life and the ways people can handle them. Friedman said that she does not have the answer, but rather that it will come from collaboration. “There is no wizard,” she said. “I’m not the wizard. We are the wizards.”
Friedman talked about her own path in life, from wanting to be a research scientist in high school to becoming a teacher after her undergraduate education at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  
“[Becoming a teacher] was probably one of the happiest accidents of my life,” she said. “I struck gold. It was my yellow brick road, and gold can be discovered in the least likely places.”
Throughout the lecture, the audience was engaged in activities such as answering questions on index cards, noting what they observed in the room upon first entering it, and interpreting images in multiple ways.

“I don’t lecture,” Friedman said. “I workshop.”
Students were asked to interpret what was happening in several images to show how different interpretations can be. “We all have our biases,” Friedman said. “We have our own frame of references. We need to acknowledge it, put it on the table, and recognize how it changes our thinking.As you negotiate the dissonance, it is critical to be open-minded. That is harder than we imagine.”
Friedman’s advice to students included facing fear and disturbances in life not on your own, but with the help of a mentor.

“Asking for help is not equal to admitting failure,” she said. “I think it’s important, as we move along, that we understand who we are, what we need, and what we believe, so that if we need help, we know enough to ask for it.”
Friedman also encouraged students not to avoid the disturbances in life. “Dissonance is a gift, and it’s important for us to embrace ambiguity and work through it,” she said. “That’s immensely difficult.”

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