USAO explores “Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?”

Image of Frans de Waal.

USAO explores “Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?”


World renowned primatologist, Dr. Frans de Waal, to present during Feb. 16 symposium

The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma invites the public to attend its 10th annual Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium Feb. 16 with Dr. Frans de Waal delivering the keynote address. During “Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?” de Waal will explore the many ways human and animal minds are similar. In many cases, our special traits and abilities that make us human are in fact trumped by members of the animal kingdom. The symposium begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium at USAO, 1727 West Alabama, Chickasha. The event is free and open to the public.

de Waal is one of the world’s best-known primatologists who was named one of TIME Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People in 2007. In 2011, he was listed by Discover as among 47 (all time) Great Minds of Science.

“We are delighted to have a scientist as world renowned as Dr. de Waal present during this year’s Emerson-Wier Symposium,” said Dr. James Finck, assistant professor of American history and director of the Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium. “Dr. de Waal is known for his work on the behavior and social intelligence of primates. His presentation exploring animal intelligence will offer new and unique perspectives to those interested in topics such as behaviorism, social psychology and ethology. It is our hope that this symposium will open minds to reconsider everything we thought we knew about animal and human intelligence.”

de Waal has released multiple books on ape and chimpanzee interaction and the social norms surrounding their culture. His latest title, “Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?” will release in April. Based on studies involving crows, dolphins, parrots, sheep, wasps, bats, whales, and of course chimpanzees and bonobos, de Waal demonstrates that we have grossly underestimated both the scope and depth of animal intelligence. He offers a first-hand account of how science has stood traditional behaviorism on its head by revealing extraordinary animal intelligence.

Following the presentation, de Waal will host a book signing in the auditorium.

USAO’s Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium series is sponsored annually by the USAO Foundation and was inspired by endowment funds created by Oklahoma College for Women alumni Gladys Anderson Emerson and Nance Foules Wier.

For more information, please call (405) 574-1362 or visit

About University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma

The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma is the state's only public liberal arts college with approximately 1,100 students. Its mission is to provide the public with a distinctive and accessible liberal arts and sciences education. In combining an interdisciplinary core curriculum with superior instruction in major fields of study, USAO aims to provide a thorough education that prepares students for meaningful, purposeful lives.

About The Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium

The liberal arts symposium series is funded in part by the Jack Wier, Jr. and Nance Foules Wier Fund for Faculty Development and the Gladys Anderson Emerson Fund for Interdisciplinary Learning and Research.

A 1945 Oklahoma College for Women alumna, Nance Wier maintains that “teachers, not buildings,” promote effective learning. In 2005, she established the Jack Wier, Jr. and Nance Foules Wier Faculty Enhancement Endowment that provides funds to encourage faculty research and learning opportunities, such as the Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium.

Gladys Anderson Emerson’s most notable achievement in science may have been to isolate Vitamin E, but the nutrition expert is better known at her alma mater as a global ambassador for the liberal arts. Emerson earned two degrees at the Oklahoma College for Women in 1925 — one a Bachelor of Arts in History and English, and the other a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Chemistry. She then gained a Master of Arts in History and Economics at Stanford University. She went from there to the University of California for her doctorate. Emerson was the American Chemical Society’s 1952 recipient of the Garvan Medal, an annual award recognizing distinguished service to chemistry by women chemists.

During a professional career that spanned 50 years, Emerson lectured and conducted research at some of the most prominent facilities in the United States. Her articles — more than 100 of them — appeared in leading research journals throughout the world. Upon her death in 1984, she left a bequest to USAO for interdisciplinary learning opportunities and research.