“Big Questions” Seeks Big Answers

Does everyone deserve a chance to get an education? That’s just one of the many questions that a new documentary series produced by DePaul faculty members hopes to answer. “Big Questions” is a 13-episode series of stories from around the world that highlights impoverished and stressed communities and those who have come to their aid. The series focuses on education access in Ghana, refugee camps in Jordan, school building in Haiti, health access in Tanzania and wage theft in Chicago, among other topics. DePaul professors Patricia Werhane and Kim Clark, who are producers of the series, share what drew them to Ghana and what it was like being there to film segments for the series.

Patricia Werhane, the Wicklander Chair of Business Ethics and the managing director of DePaul’s Institute for Business and Professional Ethics, heard about a story in Ghana through a business contact. Dick and Suzie Kiphart, a couple from Chicago, decided to raise money for wells in Ghana when they learned that some girls in rural villages miss school because they have to walk three hours each day to fetch water for their families. “They’ve raised money for more than 80 wells and changed the lives of countless people,” says Kim Clark, an instructor in DePaul’s College of Communication. For one “Big Questions” segment, Werhane and Clark traveled with the Kipharts to a village where a well had been dug the year before. “We walked into this village, and a woman walked up to Suzie Kiphart with her two-week-old baby and said that she had named the baby Kiphart after them,” exclaims Werhane. “Don’t think we didn’t all have tears in our eyes at that!”

Suzie Kiphart with her namesake.

“Big Questions” first aired in 2013 as six one-hour episodes on WNIT, a public television station in South Bend, Ind., before the professors shopped shorter, 30-minute episodes to WTTW, Chicago’s public television station. New episodes will air on WNIT this spring, with the possibility of WTTW showing the series later on. Some full-length episodes are already available online, including “The Children of Syria,” which previously aired on WTTW. As Clark explains in the preview video above, “Our journeys around the world lead us to people facing some of the major struggles we face today.” Werhane adds, “We take you right into the action, highlighting a project dealing with a major issue to show you how leaders are solving problems in their communities.”

After spending so much time traveling and working together, Werhane and Clark have developed a tight relationship. They tend to finish each other’s sentences or one-up each other’s recollections. “This is a true story,” Clark begins, glancing at Werhane. “She always looks at me as if I’m exaggerating things! We were in Albuquerque, at the airport, and the plane got delayed. I was walking around the airport and this stranger said, ‘Do you have a TV show?’ And I said, ‘Yes, with her,’ and pointed at [Werhane]. They started talking to us, and [Werhane] and I both felt like rock stars.”

While being recognized for “Big Questions” is a pleasant surprise, Werhane and Clark hope the series will be memorable for its ability to introduce new audiences to global issues and inspire them to re-evaluate some of life’s big questions.

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