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From the College of Natural Sciences

A personal challenge

Dear Students, 

In our world of ever-growing distractions, I'd like to issue you a challenge this week: put down your phone and connect directly with people around you.

I was going to entitle this email "Get off my lawn" or something along those lines. But then I realized that this was really a challenge for myself. I had read some research from here at UT that found our brains work differently—and not as well—when we are with our phones. So I thought I'd invite you all along for the ride that I started today. I am almost always staring at my phone on my walk from the parking garage to my office. Today, I put my phone away and simply enjoyed the walk.

On the way I took note of how many people I passed were staring at screens. The vast majority of the people I saw were looking at their phones. One nearly fell in the turtle pond. One was walking at a snail's pace, balancing an open laptop on one palm while working the track pad with the other hand. Several people in pairs were walking "together," though both were looking at their phones.

Modern smart phones are amazing tools, but they often provide as much distraction as productivity. So this week (or the rest of the year), work to intentionally set them aside. Chat with people when you are sharing a meal. Talk to someone as you walk across campus. Or just admire the canopy of the oak trees you are walking past. Focus on what is happening where you are. Take the time to ponder the questions you never seem to have time to work on. Don't worry about monitoring yourself (although I'm sure there is an app for that). Simply put your phone out of sight and engage with the people all around you.

We have an amazing community here in the college and the university. So take the challenge and become more involved with it than ever.

Best,
Dr. Vanden Bout

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Saturday, 18 September 2021

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