GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (PRWEB) July 23, 2012
Something BIG has been brewing for more than two decades. Big History has caught the attention of scientists and academics from across the globe, as well as the interest and financial support of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Now, hundreds of international scholars, scientists and students of Big History will convene in Grand Rapids.
Grand Valley State University will host the inaugural conference of The International Big History Association, August 2-5, with sessions in Grand Rapids and Allendale. The Midwest World History Association will join in with its third annual conference. The conference will provide hundreds of opportunities to showcase the many different kinds of research, teaching and creativity that the innovative field is generating. Special presentations will include those by Andy Cook, director of Bill Gates’ Big History Project; representatives from ChronoZoom; and keynote addresses by Walter Alveraz and Lawrence Gundersen. For more information about the conference and a complete schedule, visit the website at http://www.ibhanet.org, or call (616) 331- 8035.
About “Big History”
The term “Big History” was coined in 1991 by David Christian, a professor of history at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, as he made a case for an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and discovering the connections between humans and the environment in World History; a bridge between the humanities and sciences.
“The sort of problems humanity is facing now are on such a massive scale, they can’t be solved with narrow perspectives,” said Benjamin. “We need to train generations of young adults who can think across disciplines, can look at problems from different perspectives and bring the skills and insights of an environmental scientist, a historian, a physicist, a demographer and others.”
“He designed a Big History college course mixing topics that at many colleges would be covered separately in courses on biology and physics, anthropology and philosophy, among other fields,” said Craig Benjamin, an Australian native who has taught Big History for 16 years, the past nine at Grand Valley. One of the country’s foremost authorities on Big History, Benjamin has written, with co-authors Cynthia Brown and David Christian, the first Big History textbook, Big History: Between Nothing and Everything, preliminary edition published by McGraw Hill in 2012, First Edition to be published in 2013. He is also featured in the History Channel documentary “A History of the World in Two Hours,” which was broadcast nationally in 2011.
The movement to popularize the teaching of Big History has gained substantial ground in recent years. Funding and support from Microsoft Research Connections has helped to advance open source community project, known as Chronozoom, at the University of California, Berkeley, and Moscow State University. The project is harnessing the wealth of materials being developed by scholars from around the world with the goal of making it easily accessible to anyone, online, for free.
Separately, Bill Gates took an active interest in Big History after viewing DVDs of Christian’s lectures at Berkeley, and declared his interest in helping to provide such a class at the high school level. With personal funding, Gates has teamed up with Christian to established the Big History Project, which ran a pilot project last year with three high schools in Australia and six in the United States, including two in Michigan – Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, and Northville High School in Northville, coordinated through Bob Bain, associate professor of history and education at the University of Michigan. The program will be expanded to 50 schools in 2012-13.
Gates also provided funding to help start up and support efforts of The International Big History Association at Grand Valley, established in 2010 with headquarters housed within the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies.
Grand Valley State University, established in 1960, is a four-year public university serving students from all 83 Michigan counties and dozens of other states and foreign countries. It attracts more than 24,500 students with its high quality programs and state-of-the-art facilities. Grand Valley provides a fully accredited liberal undergraduate and graduate education and has campuses in Allendale, Grand Rapids and Holland, and centers in Muskegon and Traverse City. The university offers 81 undergraduate and 29 graduate degree programs, and is dedicated to individual student achievement, going beyond the traditional classroom experience, with research opportunities and business partnerships.
Contacts: Mary Isca Pirkola, GVSU News & Information Services, (616) 331-2221
Craig Benjamin, International Big History Association co-founder and current treasurer, GVSU history professor in the Meijer Honors College, (616) 331-3469