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August 21, 2006

Convocation speaker encourages students to find their own answers

Investigative reporter Eric Schlosser has a lot in common with the ULM students he addressed during Monday’s Convocation in Fant-Ewing Coliseum. For Schlosser, writing Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the American Meal was one of discovery, a process he encouraged the incoming class of 2010 and all returning ULM students to engage in.

Schlosser, a self-proclaimed “perpetual student,” spends months, sometimes years, researching and investigating a piece. Students undertake a similar process by studying and interpreting research. ULM students are graded by their professors; Schlosser is graded by readers, critics and angry government officials.

“At the heart of my work, and the work you’re supposed to be doing here, is the field of discovery, to try and figure out what is going on. It’s not about somebody giving you the answer. It’s about finding the answer for yourself. That’s the real challenge in my work and the work you’re going to do here.”

Writing the bestselling Fast Food Nation did not depress Schlosser, it made him “angry but optimistic.”

“The crucial point: if things are not inevitable, then things don’t have to be the way they are. It’s as simple as that,” he explained. “Before you can make any kind of change in this world, you have to open your eyes and see things clearly. That’s what you’re supposed to do here for the next four years: start opening your eyes.”

Schlosser encouraged students to expand the way they learn. When in a classroom, it’s important to analyze what you are learning, he said. “You can’t just take notes and copy everything down. No matter how much you take down, a tape recorder will do a better job than you.”

Schlosser closed his speech by encouraging ULM students to seek the truth in everything they do. Knowledge is power, he said.

“The knowledge that you can get here, the degree that you can earn here in the next four years . . . can help you get some freedom and some control over your life. You’ve got to figure out how the world works so you can have a voice . . . so that you aren’t just one more cog in the machine, being told what to do.”

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