Editor’s Letter: Live and Learn

Keep discovering long after you leave the Forty Acres.

TimIn the summer of 2001, I arrived at the University of Texas for orientation certain about what I wanted to study and what I would do with my life. I would major in neurobiology, proceed to medical school, and become a doctor. When I walked into the Plan II office to register for classes, however, something strange happened. Glancing first at the list of prescribed classes, then at the list of possible ones, doubt crept in. Why take Biology when Politics and Economics in American Thought was open? Biology lab, or the Novel and the World? Four short years later, I graduated with a history degree, and I forgot about medical school.

When I think back on my time as a student at UT, I recall it as a period of unadulterated learning. Everywhere I looked I found something new that interested me. I only graduated with a history degree because I ran out of time. Had I stayed beyond four years, who knows what other major I might have added. Looking back, this is part of what makes a university setting so special: The whole place is geared toward generating knowledge and facilitating learning. For a generalist like me, college was catnip.

Which is perhaps why I ultimately found journalism so attractive. The editors and I are all generalists who, every other month, produce this general-interest magazine for the members of the Texas Exes (and anyone else who happens upon a copy of the Alcalde. Hand them out!). With each issue we try to rediscover some of that magic that the university so ably conjures: the magic of discovery, of learning, of intellectual surprise.

Our cover story (“10 Backward Things About the Health Care System”) by the brilliant dean of the Dell Medical School, Clay Johnston, does just that. Johnston’s article, which is derived from a top 10 list he has been working on since arriving in Austin, makes you see health care and the Frankenstein system we have to deliver it in this country in a whole new way. Suddenly its shortcomings are plainly visible; the forces that work on it are made clear. Reading it made me understand much more clearly why the rhetoric around the Dell Medical School has been about transformation—real change. Because opportunities to build a school from scratch are so rare, and the ability to build one with the intent of revolutionizing our system is even more unheard of. It made me think that when the medical school opens, maybe I should apply.

 

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