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Be a Star: Create Value for Others

This week, DSHK was honored to have Professor Po-Shen Loh join us for a Dalton Speaker Series. Professor Loh, a distinguished Mathematics Professor at Carnegie Mellon, who has coached the Team USA Math Olympiad from 2013-2023, offered many words of wisdom, including what he believes constitutes a “star” student. The reasons may surprise you.

Professor Loh offered a space analogy, in which he described a black hole vs a star. In a black hole, the gravitational pull is so strong that it pulls all other energy, such as light and other electromagnetic magnetic waves inside it. On the other hand, a star takes tiny amounts of matter and fuses them together into massive amounts of energy that generates light. Then, Professor Loh described 2 different types of students, one who has exceptional test scores and skills but only uses it for own self interest and advancement vs. a student who has good grades and test scores combined with a positive attitude and desire to do good for others. The latter is a “star”, and Professor Loh shared his mission to create more stars all around the world. 

Professor Loh argued that the need to have a learning attitude and desire to help others is even more critical in the age of A.I. People who know how to create value for others will always have a job and a place in society, whereas people who only have great knowledge are at risk of being replaced by A.I. too. How do we cultivate “star” quality in our students? Here are some suggestions from Professor Loh:

  • Emphasize values: Rather than always accelerating curriculum, instead emphasize strong values, such as doing good for others. This will help students understand who they are and their purpose, which will motivate them to succeed.
  • Instill a positive attitude toward hard work: We cannot control the outcome, but we can control our effort. Therefore, it is important for students to have a positive attitude about hard work, and see that working hard through challenges is actually really fun!
  • Encourage the habit of reading: Lifelong learners are lifelong readers, and in order to use A.I. effectively, students must be readers. Therefore, encouraging a habit of reading is key.
  • Evaluate what you read: In the world of A.I. It is crucial that students not only read but also evaluate what they read. Is the information accurate? Can it be improved?
  • Cultivate logical thinking: Allow students to productively struggle through non-routine problems on their own so that they develop logical thinking habits. It is important to avoid “showing” students what to do, as this will take away their opportunity to develop thinking.

It was a privilege to have Professor Loh join our Dalton Speaker Series, and we look forward to working collaboratively toward creating a world full of stars.