Heard on Campus: Andrew Belser at the Penn State Forum

“If I take two people of different socioeconomic status, sexual preference, and race and ethnicity, and I get them together across generations … all the rest of those differences will melt away, almost immediately … If you just put 50 years between them, they’ll see difference and go: Oh, you’re just a person. Because the generations talk to each other. I don’t know why that is, and I don’t need to know why. I know that it happens. Empathy rises.”

— Andrew Belser, professor of movement, voice and acting in the School of Theatre; and director of the Arts and Design Research Incubator (ADRI), presented "FaceAge: Empathy Rising Across Generations" at the Penn Stater on Jan. 25, as part of the Penn State Forum speaker series.

As the 2017-18 Penn State Laureate, Belser is touring his award-winning "FaceAge" exhibition — a multimedia video installation created from cross-generational conversations — throughout Pennsylvania, including community engagement, research and curricular components intended to facilitate intergenerational connections.

“A question I ask is: How do we design a culture so that intergenerational interaction just obviously happens? I’m going to suggest to you that the culture that we live in has some real challenges in this regard," said Belser. "We do not have designed into our culture a way for younger people to simply interact over and over again in meaningful ways, with older people.

“That’s the problem with the world, we don’t get into the same place together. So I’m going to suggest that intergenerational interaction might feel like it’s just human-to-human and it can happen anywhere — it can — but it has to be designed. You have to design space for intergenerational interaction to happen; otherwise, it will not happen. People of different generations have to bump into each other to have meaningful interaction. So … basically what FaceAge is, is a designed space that inspires intergenerational interaction, and then carries that space on, to make it permanent, or sustained, in the culture.”

Launched in 1996, the Penn State Forum Speaker Series is designed to introduce the University community to noted leaders and policymakers in their respective fields. Open to the public, tickets are $21 for each event and include a buffet lunch, followed by remarks from the distinguished speaker. Visit the website for more information about the series and a list of future speakers. 

Last Updated January 25, 2018