van Rooy Center for Complexity

Welcome to the van Rooy Center for Complexity and Conflict Analysis at the University of Hartford! 

The Center was established in 2008 though a generous gift from University of Hartford regent Jean-Pierre van Rooy and his wife, Marie-Claire. Our mission is to assist the University of Hartford and its faculty in advancing the understanding among its students of the fundamentals of the new science of complexity. 
 
As founding director of the van Rooy Center, I invite you to explore the Center and its activities. We invite you to learn about our history and what we are doing to further the study of complexity at the University. Please visit the Complexity Minor page (link to page) where you can learn about our interdisciplinary minor in complexity and why you should include it as part of your program of study at Hartford. 
 
If you have any questions, want to learn more, or want to get involved with the Center please contact me, Jane Horvath, Ph.D at horvath@hartford.edu.

The Study of Complexity

What is Complexity?

Complex systems exist everywhere in nature and in the world created by human beings. A system is said to be "complex" if it is capable of generating unexpected results. "Emergence" is the name scientists have given to events that defy scientific laws based on order and stability. The most quoted example of "emergence" is the butterfly that flaps its wings in the Amazon and causes a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. 

While traditional science has modeled systems as closed and in equilibrium, we are learning that reality is open and always ready to turn chaotic. A crowd turns into a mob. Smoothly flowing traffic suddenly increases and I-95 is blocked for hours. Human cells grow out of control and turn into cancerous tumors. A stable market suddenly shows signs of panic and crashes. A rock group comes from nowhere and sells 5 million CDs worldwide. Such things happen in airline traffic, and in the human body, in the financial and real estate markets, and in the global economy, in ecosystems and the Earth's climate. 

Fifty years ago the science of complexity was in its infancy. The analysis of the behavior of systems started more or less in the 1940s. Until then, scientists worked in a linear world, and built ideal simplifications. Physics followed the straightforward rules of Newtonian mechanics. Neoclassical economics postulated that people always behaved in their rational self-interest, and markets moved toward quiet balance. These closed theories were powerful descriptors, and allowed the world to make great economic, scientific, and technological progress in less than two centuries. But we have reached the point in the evolution of scientific knowledge where straight-line, cause-and-effect explanations no longer account for a world where systems are open and interdependent, where events are sometimes self-generating—located, as scientists like to say, "on the edge of chaos."

Why Study Complexity

Some problems can be examined and studied through a reductionist approach–breaking a problem into its components and manipulating the parts to bring about some change or understanding of the whole. This works in systems that are closed, characterized by linear relationships, and tend toward equilibrium. Such systems are sometimes defined as machine-like and are complicated, but not complex. 
 
Complex systems are open, non-equilibrium systems whose relationships are nonlinear. They are characterized by diversity, adaptation, self-organization, and, in some instances, emergence. 
 
The study of complex systems can help us examine some of the most important and vexing issues of our time. Students engaged in the study of biological, ecological, and engineering systems, those examining patterns of language development or the workings of economic and financial systems, and students exploring the impact of networks and big data all benefit from the study of complexity. 
 
University faculty from a wide-array of disciplines have at concluded that our students regardless of disciplinary study can benefit from the study of complexity.

Minor in Complexity

The van Rooy Center for Complexity and Conflict Analysis invites students of the University of Hartford to join in the study of complexity. With speakers, seminars and the opportunity for collaborative research, you will better understand the world and discover fundamental rules that we as human beings need to know and apply. The science of complexity has the potential to contribute to the avoidance of conflict, to the prevention of disasters, to political stability, to improved nutrition, and to the protection of the environment. 
 
For most students, the study of complexity will not replace your major. It will be introduced through modules in a number of courses found throughout the curriculum. You will find that the study of complexity will complement your basic understanding of a discipline—be it chemistry or English—and provide you with a way of seeing the world that is useful in any career. 

Hear About Complexity