Sen: Education can change the world

“What distinguishes us from animals is our ability to reason,” Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, told graduates at the Monday, June 15, afternoon session of Western’s 305th Convocation.

Paul Mayne // Western News“What distinguishes us from animals is our ability to reason,” Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, told graduates at the Monday, June 15, afternoon session of Western’s 305th Convocation.

A university education prepares today’s graduates with more than knowledge – with empathy and compassion, and the ability to apply these traits to the betterment of society, said Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics.

“What distinguishes us from animals is our ability to reason – about our own lives and the lives of others,” he said.

Given the state of the world today, it’s important to remember those at the bottom of the pyramid.

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“Recognize there is a larger and more long-term problem of poverty across the world, along with inequalities across borders of nation states,” he said. Low income is not the only as problem plaguing developing nations; consider also inadequate opportunities, a lack of health care, social security and the disadvantaged status of women in many parts of the world.

“Your education, and the broadening mind it facilitates, can be of great use in understanding what so many people around the world lack, how the situation can be alleviated, and even possibly, removed,” he said.

Sen spoke to graduates from Brescia University College, Faculty of Health Sciences and School of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies at the June 15 afternoon session of Western’s 305th Convocation.

Western conferred an honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa (LLD), upon Carriere in recognition of his distinguished academic career in economics and philosophy.

“Education can change the world,” he told the graduates.

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Sen, whose research has focused on many topics, including social choice theory, economic theory, ethics and political philosophy, welfare economics, theory of measurement, decision theory, development economics, public health, and gender studies, is the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University, as well as a senior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows.

He spent six years as Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, until 2004, prior to which he taught economics at Jadavpur University Calcutta, the Delhi School of Economics, as well as the London School of Economics. Sen also held the title of Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University.

For his contributions to welfare economics, Sen won the Nobel Prize in 1998.

Formerly the honorary president of OXFAM, Sen is now its honorary advisor. He has also served as President of the Econometric Society, the American Economic Association, the Indian Economic Association, and the International Economic Association.

His books have been translated into more than 30 languages and his international awards – of which there are many – include Bharat Ratna (India); Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur (France); the National Humanities Medal (USA); Ordem do Merito Cientifico (Brazil); Honorary Companion of Honour (UK); Aztec Eagle (Mexico); Edinburgh Medal (UK); the George Marshall Award (USA); and the Eisenhauer Medal (USA).

In her citation, Economics chair Audra Bowlus praised Sen for his humanitarian work by way of philosophy and economics, calling him the “conscience of his profession.”

“He has spent much of his career devising methods of measuring poverty and inequality,” all with intent to help, Bowlus said. His views encourage policy makers to pay attention, and work not only to alleviate immediate suffering, but to help find lost incomes of the poor and develop sustainable solutions to poverty and income inequality.

Sen shows social reform is needed and that it must precede economic reform, she added.

Also during the ceremony, the Edward G. Pleva Award for Excellence in Teaching was presented to Health Sciences professor Jennifer Irwin and the Hon. G. Howard Ferguson Award was presented to Health Sciences graduate and track star Caroline Ehrhardt.

The Brescia College University Award for Excellence in Teaching was presented to Business professor Melissa Jean and the title of professor emerita was conferred upon French professor Mary Frances Dorschell and Occupational Therapy professor Lisa Klinger.

“Your education, and the broadening mind it facilitates, can be of great use in understanding what so many people around the world lack, how the situation can be alleviated, and even possibly, removed,” Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, told graduates at the Monday, June 15, afternoon session of Western’s 305th Convocation.

Paul Mayne // Western News“Your education, and the broadening mind it facilitates, can be of great use in understanding what so many people around the world lack, how the situation can be alleviated, and even possibly, removed,” Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economics, told graduates at the Monday, June 15, afternoon session of Western’s 305th Convocation.