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The University of Alabama

UA’s Creative Campus Featured in Thomas Friedman’s New Book

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Creative Campus at The University of Alabama is featured in a new book by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and co-author Michael Mandelbaum.

The book, titled “That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back” and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, is available in bookstores beginning this week.

The authors laud UA’s Creative Campus for its efforts “to nurture creativity among students by getting them to think about how to promote the arts in their community, on and off campus.” Creative Campus student interns develop ideas that promote innovative approaches to arts and culture among students and the Tuscaloosa community.

“We are thrilled that UA, Creative Campus and our interns have been spotlighted in this book by two nationally- known authors who tout the innovative learning opportunities we are providing,” said Dr. Hank Lazer, executive director of Creative Campus and associate provost for academic affairs at UA.

Lazer met Friedman, the recipient of three Pulitzer Prizes and the author of five best-selling books, when Friedman spoke on the UA campus in February. Creative Campus struck a chord with Friedman who contacted Lazer for more details.

In a section titled “Creative Crimson Tide,” the UA program is singled out as a novel approach to teaching creativity and critical thinking.

Ryan Davis, a returning Creative Campus intern, notes that “Now, as a first year MBA student, I see the value of my experience working on the Druid City Arts Festival with Creative Campus, evolving my understanding of business needs for team-based collaboration, creativity and efficiency in project execution.”

Lazer notes that students working with Creative Campus learn a great deal through the projects including the projects that do not succeed. Friedman and Mandelbaum see Creative Campus as a place “to let students ‘play’ in a structured way and with a purpose.” The program, they note, is about both “imagination and execution.”

In “That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back,” Creative Campus is cited as a noteworthy example of successful innovative approaches to learning that might restore America’s competitive advantage in an increasingly global, interconnected economy.

“We are teaching the students two things: self-confidence and resiliency, which is what gives you the ability to get through the failures,” Lazer says in the book. He hopes Creative Campus interns come away with both the confidence to generate creative ideas and the knowledge and persistence to complete their projects.

Lazer said Creative Campus began in 2005 after 13 students in an honors seminar on “Art and Public Purpose” presented a collaborative report to the provost on ways to expand and deepen students’ exposure to the arts both on and off campus.

Today, Creative Campus selects about 40 student interns each year to develop ideas and work on a wide variety of projects. Interns’ projects have ranged from Black Warrior Storytelling to “Culture Builds,” a partnership with community organizations designed to develop a cultural arts and economic development plan for the area, to the Druid City Arts Festival, an annual event that showcases local artists and bands, from Quidditch on the Quad to Neil Gaiman’s visit to campus, to Unbound Art, a presentation of artwork by persons with disabilities.

Creative Campus remains an ever-changing organization which Lazer concludes is a “deliberately unstable and organic group by design.”

Friedman, whose books include “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” “The World Is Flat,” and “Hot, Flat, and Crowded,” joined the staff of The New York Times in 1981. He served as Beirut bureau chief, Jerusalem bureau chief, chief diplomatic correspondent and chief White House correspondent before taking over the Times’ foreign affairs column in 1995.

Mandelbaum is Christian A. Herter Professor of American Foreign Policy and director of the American Foreign Policy Program at Johns Hopkins University. He is the author of 13 books, including “The Frugal Superpower: America’s Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era” and “Democracy’s Good Name: The Rise and Risks of the World’s Most Popular Form of Government.”

Under the auspices of UA’s Office of Academic Affairs, Creative Campus is a collaborative system connecting students, faculty and community to nurture innovative thinkers who turn ideas into action. Creative Campus seeks to serve as a hub of collaboration and creative activity at UA. At the heart of Creative Campus is the undergraduate and graduate intern program. For more information on Creative Campus visit

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.

  • CONTACT: Cathy Andreen, director of media relations, 205/348-8322,
  • SOURCE: Source: Dr. Hank Lazer, executive director of Creative Campus, 205/348-7884,