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Smith Professor Reflects on Renaissance Weekend

Jan 13, 2014
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Hank Lucas

Hank Lucas drew energy and optimism from a recent retreat amidst the world's foremost thinkers.

Organizers of the 100th Renaissance Weekend invited Lucas, the Robert H. Smith Professor of Information Systems in the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, to contribute his expertise to their summit designed to build bridges among innovative leaders from diverse fields.

The end-of-December gathering in Charleston, S.C., was packed with panels, lectures and roundtable discussions -- all off-the-record. About 1,200 participants included the likes of retired U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, economics Nobel Laureate Roger Myerson and Internet guru Esther Dyson.

"It was an energizing experience as we participated in sessions that stretched everyone's thinking," Lucas said. "I am more optimistic about the future having seen how many bright and dedicated people are working to build a better country and better planet."

Lucas moderated a panel on innovation and participated in sessions on massive open online courses (MOOCs) and online education.

"I shared my experiences from twice teaching a MOOC (Surviving Disruptive Technologies) on Coursera and about online education, especially what we are doing at the Smith School," he said.

"I also was tasked with leading a lunch group discussion on any topics of interest to individuals at the table," he added. "Finally, I talked about how technology is disrupting higher education in a session of unrelated topics that included a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist discussing the history and development of numerical weather forecasts, an economist speaking about Germany's unique role in the European community, and the author of a self-help book."

Lucas recently delved into online education for Educause Review, and his MOOC work can be traced to his 2012 book, "The Search for Survival: Lessons from Disruptive Technologies," which he recently discussed for the UMD Libraries' 'Speaking of Books' series.

Renaissance Weekend was initiated in 1981 by Philip Lader, a former U.S ambassador and chairman of WPP plc, a global advertising and marketing company. Gatherings take place over four holiday weekends per year. 

"The organizers work very hard to create a nonpartisan atmosphere and a climate of civility," said Lucas. "We explored all sides of the topics without anyone becoming emotional about an opposing view." 

Past participants have included former U.S. Presidents, Congressional representatives, Oscar and Emmy-winners and Nobel Laureates. 

"I wish that the constructive atmosphere of Renaissance Weekend could be extended to other areas of discourse where we lack civility and a nonpartisan spirit," Lucas said.

About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.