Huntsman Post

Koch Scholars sit down with well-known American novelist

By Sterling Morris

Academics love to pull apart interesting novels, analyze them and theorize about the author’s intent.

However, a small group of USU students went beyond theory earlier this year when Orson Scott Card, the author of Ender’s Game, agreed to sit down and discuss his most famous book with them. The students were Koch Scholars, a diverse group of 15 students that meets weekly for discussions about freedom and responsibility, sparked by reading assignments that explore the same topics. The Koch Scholars program is sponsored by the Koch Charitable Foundation and the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

Randy Simmons, a professor mentor, leads a Koch Scholars discussion. - Photo by Steve Eaton

Mr. Card, who communicated with the group via a video conference call, seemed impressed with the insights the students brought to the discussion. They talked about the main character, Ender Wiggin, in Ender’s Game. The story, set in the future, describes Ender’s training at Battle School during a time when humans are being threatened by an invading alien race.

“I’m glad that you linked freedom and individual responsibility because that’s the part that often gets left out,” Mr. Card said. “To be free requires a lot of things, but one of them is accurate information — you have to know what it is you’re doing, what it is you’re choosing — and sadly for Ender, they deliberately kept that aspect of freedom from him.”

Mr. Card also spoke about leadership and power.

“The moment you decide that you are going to step in — that you are going to intervene, that you’re going to accomplish anything — then you have decided to do something powerful,” he said. “You’ve decided to be a leader, even if you have no desire to be a leader.”

Koch Scholars talk with Orson Scott Card via a video conference call. - Photo by Steve Eaton

Mr. Card’s comments gave students added insight into his thinking and the group’s 30-minute discussion with him sparked a lively follow-up exchange among the scholars after the call was over.

“As part of the Koch Scholars program, our students read some of the great books in economics and political science, but we also integrate a few thought-provoking novels like Ender's Game into the semester-long experience,” said Diana Thomas, assistant professor of economics. “The Huntsman School uses programs like this to create an environment of academic excellence and to offer opportunities for development to our students that go beyond the classroom.”

Among the selections on the Koch Scholars’ most recent 18-book reading list is The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle and Ender’s Game by Mr. Card.

All USU students who are interested are welcome to apply to the Koch Scholars program. More information about the program can be found at http://huntsman.usu.edu/kochscholars/.