Jim Cullen on Turning History Into Hope
This year’s Henry R. Heyburn ’39 Speaker, Jim Cullen told students their “inheritance” is today’s America of prosperity and political stability, true since the end of World War II. Mr. Cullen, chair of the history department at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City, yet warned that this “overstretched empire is starting to contract.”
“In the twenty-first century, it’s apparent that the frontiers secured by the Second World War are under pressure; in some places, they are actually collapsing,” said Mr. Cullen. “There is talk of debt, decaying roads and bridges, and foreign competition. Closer to home, you hear how challenging it is to get into a good college, how hard it is to afford college, and how difficult it is to get a job with health insurance.”
Mr. Cullen wasn’t intending to deliver a “prescription for doom”; this ongoing decline is gradual, he says. “The smartest thing to do is act as though things will go on as they have before. … Chasing the American dream is your birthright, even if you were born somewhere else.”
“Collaboration Fuels Innovation” Encourages Nick Dougherty ’07
Nick Dougherty ’07, CEO and co-founder of Verbal Applications, spoke to James Mills’s Microeconomics class on Monday about launching a business focused on social change. The idea for Nick’s company, which provides a cloud-based communication platform improving patient care, grew from a senior design project at Boston University’s College of Engineering. The project goal was to create an app for someone who had suffered a stroke. After shadowing nurses in hospitals, Nick and his two co-founders designed an app to help patients with speech issues communicate with their caregivers.
Nick demonstrated the app with students, and he stressed how important collaboration is to business endeavors. “Competition is simply making something a little bit better than your competitor,” said Nick, “but collaboration fuels innovation.”
Nick and his partners quit their jobs last summer to focus full-time on Verbal Applications. Through their research, they also learned the inefficiencies of the hospital call button system; they are now working to expand the app into a full hospital communication system. Nick will give a TEDxNortheastern talk in January.