“It’s like going to Wikipedia and just clicking things randomly—that’s how I feel about Creative Scholars, and that’s more than enough reason.”

What is creativity? To Michael Stewart, lecturer in the English Nonfiction Writing Program, it’s “curiosity applied.”

Michael Stewart, in his English Department office

Michael Stewart, in his English Department office

“It’s a flippant response,” said Stewart, who has been grappling with the definition as part of the Creative Scholars Project since its founding two years ago. “I think it’s a broad word that needs to keep its multiple meanings, some of which are in conflict with one another.”

Creative Scholars has expanded Stewart’s scholarship and work, he said, changed how he operates his classroom. One concept typically discussed in relation to design, the idea of prototyping, has bled into his own creative process as a writer. He prototypes pages, “sketching” the writing before really getting into it. “Play is just imperative,” he said. “The discovering is really what it’s about to me. A lot of creativity is to me that sort of magic moment, the play and wonder.”

The biggest draw to the Creative Scholars Project for Stewart is the people. “The first day in there, I realized I was in a room full of really interesting people with aggressive minds, people doing things I’ve never even thought about,” he said.

Listening to other members present their work from across disciplines puts him back in the shoes of his students. “I remember what it’s like to be approaching material for the first time,” he said. “This has reminded me how exciting it is.” Through the Creative Scholars Project, he’s learned about everything from cephalopod research, to photography, to medical approaches to diagnostics, each time taught by a different person, in a different way. “Seeing applications of theory we talk about—it’s energizing,” he said.

For his own contribution, he brings to the group a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things, and offers the literary perspective: “There isn’t much textual going on, so I’ll bring in an awareness of the language we’re using and how that’s important.” He recently led a session on the effects of bringing games into the classroom.

While the questions central to the Creative Scholars Project remain consistent—What is creativity? How do you or can you teach it in the classroom?—every semester ends up being different, he said. “With different people in the room, you get different responses, and the ways of exploring have changed over the years,” he said.

“I don’t think we’re answering anything,” he added. “We’re iterating.”