The Outcome of The Great Connections Seminar 2016
This July, our high school-to-graduate school students hailed from places such as Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, Nepal and all directions of the U.S. Over half were returnees who paid their own way—one from Buenos Aires!
Six came to study how to be a teacher in our style, so they could take that skill back to their classrooms and organizations where they live.
For this purpose, I created a two-day Great Connections Training Program for Teachers and conducted it before the week started. I’m now being asked to conduct a class for teachers at Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala.
We added a new component to the instruction this year, a 5-day writing class. Malachy Walsh, former creative director for J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, was our instructor and he brought all of his knowledge and world-tested skill in excellent communication to the program.
Before he worked in advertising, Malachy studied literature and philosophy at the University of Chicago under the Aristotle scholar and member of the committee that created The Great Books, Richard McKeon. His love of these books was nothing but strengthened over the years by the advantages they gave him in advertising and marketing—his co-workers would marvel at how he solved certain problems. He knew it was from incorporating the principles of Aristotle’s Rhetoric into his thinking!
Malachy used the Rhetoric for our class this summer—and he was deeply impressed with how quickly our students were able to work together to produce excellent solutions to the writing problems he posed to them.
He went out of his way to comment to me about something else that impressed him: arriving early every morning, he would listen to our daily faculty meetings. At these, my instructors and trainees would review the performance of the students from the previous day and analyze what went well, what needed improvement, and what each student needed to optimize his or her experience. Then we would figure out what changes we needed to make that day to help students have the best experience possible.
He remarked that he saw how this review and revision resulted in better classes every day. Bottom line: this careful work is part of the reason we have consistent, remarkable outcomes after one week of classes.
For example, Saulo Maciel, a junior in Journalism from Campo Grande Brasil, declared “I learned more in one week than in ten years at school.”
Our students are ambitious to live well and spread reason, individualism, and freedom through their projects and careers. That includes their personal choices, the way they run the companies they plan to create, their work as journalists, musicians, computer programmers, or their academic teaching careers. We’re preparing a kind of professor different from the indoctrinating collectivists that rule most of the Academy today.
You can see these ambitions in some of the comments which are below. Unlike their experience at traditional school, they relished spending an entire week studying and discussing very difficult readings at least six hours a day, more than double the usual college class-day hours.
I hope you’ve had a chance to see the short videos we had made last year, now on www.rifinst.org homepage. You can hear the students, assistant instructors, and interested professionals recount the immense intellectual and practical value in our program.
Student by student, we transform lives, and these students go back to the world, empowered to turn the tide away from collectivism and towards reason, individualism, and freedom.
You are making all this happen. Our enduring thanks for your generous and important support through your contribution this year. Your gift and others enabled us to offer some travel aid this year, allowing Saurav Ghimire and Saulo Maciel to attend the program from Nepal and Brazil respectively. Each is taking back what they learned to teach others in their countries.
I hope you feel free to contact me any time about the program – or anything else for that matter!
Marsha Familaro Enright
P.S. Why do we get so many returnees? Because the program powerfully prepares students to find, choose and succeed in their life path. They don’t get this help at school, so they return to refresh and expand their knowledge.Imagine how helpful this is to students (and their parents) who attend before investing tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars at colleges?
What Students Said About The Great Connections, 2016
“It allows you to think outside the box. This is something that school does not teach and if I want to get ahead of the game, it is a must.”—Rene Miguel, Junior, Business, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois
“The Great Connections is an intense experience that helps people to learn how to learn rather than what to learn. I plan to implement the group discussion methodology in the office with my co-workers.”
—Ian Mihura (center), Junior, Computer Science, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
“I have never been in a classroom where students wanted to stay after the session had ended. I have never learned so much or so well in my life, and that is saying something, given my love for my university experience at George Mason. But you have shown a way for me to tap into a completely different aspect of learning—about the liberal arts and about myself—that likely would have escaped me had I not committed to attending this seminar. My only regret is that I haven’t gone since the first time you invited me in 2014!”—Scott McGinley, Junior, Economics, George Mason University, Washington, DC
“The Great Connections seminar gave me tools for communicating I’ve never encountered before. It encouraged me to be aware of ideas in a new way. Before I went, I liked ideas but now I am more confident I can understand and talk about them. I was taught to speak so my ideas can be understood.”– Madison Ross, Junior, Mathematics, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
“Before coming, I was frustrated because I was not learning enough in my studies; I was only working just enough to get decent grades. As a result, I was not enjoying school. The Seminar renewed my determination to put my all into my studies. I know now that it is within my power to achieve my dreams, to help advance the health of humanity through science and innovation.” –Nora Gibes, Freshman, Biochemistry, Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan
“Life-altering is used much too lightly, much too often. However, when I saytheseminar was life-altering, I mean it with the heaviness of a woman who is in awe of her experience. My entire life I have been searching for a way to TRULY understand life––why I’m here and how I can make the most of the time I’m given. My previous reality was that I had neither the resources—such as the inspiring pieces in this seminar—nor the ability to dissect the pieces with people who have a passion to learn and UTILIZE knowledge.”— Sarrah Ali, Senior, Cypress Creek High School, Houston, Texas
“I truly can say that I have grown intellectually and spiritually as a person. It has made me see reason, love, and individuality from a new perspective. This experience is one I will not forget.”– Kayla Torquemada, junior, physical therapy, San Jose State University, Pleasanton, CA
“Now I will be more confident to speak in international platforms, analyzedecisions by the pay off they give, use writing skills learnt and much more.” –Saurav Ghimire, J.D., Katmandu School of Law, Nepal
“I feel more aware of the need to stop and listen to my body, to reflect, to ground my choices and actions in self- love and self- interest; and to reflect on whether I’m acting congruently with my values and goals. I feel more determined to make the most of my hours and days. There’s so much I want to do, and every moment counts.”—Sable Levy, Junior, Actuarial Studies, University of Texas at Austin,
One of our students, Jake Ilson from Charlotte, NC, who attended the first Great Connections Seminar in 2009, and also returned in 2010, has applied again this year, and his comments are eye-opening and gratifying:
“My mom sent me the first year and the year after. I loved every minute, and I was lucky to experience this amazing and unique form of learning. Every summer I see my friends sharing posts about The Great Connections and I think ‘If only I could go again.’
“I dislike my primary school’s classes, I find them tedious and monotonous. I hope that this seminar could open my mind more to my potential and help push me to pursue my personal goals.
“It’s been 6 years since I attended the Great Connections. I still think about it constantly. Every time I find myself in a debate, argument, discussion, or otherwise, I think back to the lessons and struggles we had in the first two seminars.
“Great conversation can only happen with efficient communication. Everyone has a voice, and many times, more often than not, people are silenced because others talk louder. I learned to listen, and then to listen some more. Now, I make sure that everyone has a chance to speak, and, like the moderators of the seminars I attended, I try to keep the conversation civil and on topic.
“In this election season, this knowledge has become more useful than ever. I have never had such powerful discussions as the one’s I have over this year’s political snafu. Having learned how to listen and delicately respond, I can get my point across in an otherwise heated argument, and even sway people to see the shortcomings of our current system. I attribute these skills to what I learned from the Great Connections seminars.”
We were delighted to read this 5-star review on greatnonprofits.org of RIFI’s The Great Connections Seminar from a TGC parent. The student, Jessica, was a shy, quiet girl with a lot of inner ambition and hidden creativity. Watching her blossom throughout the week was a joy, and hearing about her continued transformation from her mother is deeply gratifying. Jessica’s growth is characteristic of what we continue to hear about the transformational experience The Great Connections Seminar has in the lives of young people.
“My daughter attended the Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute’s Great Connections Seminar in July, 2013. Her experience was life-altering. Our daughter was a shy, intelligent bookworm who couldn’t care less about politics, civilized debate, logic, or philosophy. Instead, she preferred “practical” knowledge that she could process by herself and put into action. The foundations of this “practical knowledge” was uninteresting to her—before the seminar. I knew she would benefit from reading Alexis de Tocqueville, Francis Bacon, Aristotle. I knew she would benefit from visiting art museums, businesses, and the Frank Lloyd Wright Home. I knew she would benefit from the philosophical nature of the seminars and the Socratic-style classroom discussions. What I didn’t anticipate was a completely transformed child coming home—one who spoke with confidence in her opinions and an interest in the “big” questions and their connections to the practical world. In addition to my beautiful daughter emerging from her shell, she now has a firm appreciation for her personal liberties and accepts that her participation is necessary for her to retain her autonomy in society.
And my normally shy daughter made a group of friends in this one week (just seven days!) that she’ll have for a lifetime. As her mom, I couldn’t be more pleased. These kids were all high-achieving, responsible, and intellectually curious… just the kind of kids I love for my children to be around.
I should also note that we were given a scholarship to help my daughter attend. Initially, the cost for the seminar was a bit daunting, but the President (Marsha Enright) was eager to work with us to enable my daughter to attend. We are both still very appreciative that the scholarships were available.”
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would…
“The only change I would like to see is for the Great Connections Seminar to happen more than once per year. My daughter is already excited to return—but she has to wait a full year.”
How would you describe the help you got from this organization?
How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?
How well do you feel you were treated by this organization?
If you or a student you know could benefit from a transformational experience like Jessica’s, please take a look and share The Great Connections Seminar! Scholarships and early registration rates are now available. It’s the opportunity to unleash the inner potential that traditional education leaves dormant. Take control of your education and your future now!
Last fall we received an email message in response to our Report on The Great Connections 2015 Summer Seminar about Derick Ansah, a spectacular student we had the pleasure of having with us last summer.
When Derick went back to school that fall, RIFI Founder and President Marsha Familaro Enright received an email from Nawaphon Sittisawassakul at the SUNY/Purchase Economics Department. The kind of growth described in his email about Derick is exactly what we aim to provide for all students at The Great Connections Seminar. It’s a touching message that we wanted to share with you. Transformations like Derick’s make The Great Connections Seminar such a valuable and meaningful experience for young people today.
The update you sent me looked awesome. It’s very cool to see Derick Ansah go through all that along with your other students from around the world. To tell you the truth, when I met him again at the beginning of this fall semester, it was like meeting a completely new person.
Derick had changed mentally and spiritually so much in the short months of the summer break and I think it had to do hugely because of your program. He’s now more critical and analytical of works and ideologies while in the Econ classes lectures, talks, and seminars. His question-asking manner in class has also increased in acuity and form. It’s as if he grew 2 years worth of college prowess in your short 1 week course. A lot of college students don’t get enough of this critical thinking and these deep analytical skills taught to them at most colleges in America today, which is sad.
He tells me that you dream of making your one week summer course into a full time school one day, I hope that your dream happens because America needs more of this.
George S. Clason, successful businessman and author of The Richest Man in Babylon, once said “Our prosperity as a nation depends upon the personal financial prosperity of each of us as individuals…our acts can be no wiser than our thoughts. Our thinking can be no wiser than our understanding.” Benjamin Franklin also once said that with all our getting, get understanding.
I find that you’re at the forefront of helping our kids understand not just themselves better, but the world, and the inner working of humanity as a whole. This can and will translate itself deeper down the line into a stronger, more prosperous society.
Thank you for all that you do, Marsha!
During the seminar, Derick was a natural leader whose affable, inquisitive nature brought TGC students together and helped tremendously to create an open and inviting environment. Throughout the week, it was evident that many of the ideas were new and challenging to him, and he worked hard to improve himself. What was admirable in Derick was that he always aimed to understand things for himself and connect the ideas with other texts and activities throughout the week, especially drawing from his own life experience. His attitude of openness and his enthusiasm to learn and challenge himself encouraged others to push themselves outside of comfort their zones as well.
Not only are other’s noticing Derick’s growth in intellectual prowess, he himself knows how he has grown. The effective methodology of The Great Connections Seminar creates an environment where students can discover within themselves their own powers and abilities. This self-empowerment allows students like Derick to walk away with the confidence that they can be an active leader in their own learning and life.
If you know a young person or student aged 16 and up who could benefit from a transformative experience like Derick’s, take a look at what this summer’s Great Connections Seminar has to offer. Scholarships and early registration rates are available now!
Hear students talk about why they find The Great Connections higher education program so powerful. 3 1/2 minutes.
What Students Said About The Great Connections Seminar 2015
“The seminar is transformative; I grew as a person. Working part time in the Philippine Congress, my biggest goal is to share what I learned with my colleagues and friends and apply it to positively affect our lives.” Ken Wu, junior, University of the Philippines-Dilman, from Quezon City, Philippines
“It has surpassed my expectations! I loved it! I learned so much from everyone, the texts, the experiences and myself! I’m really happy! I’ve gained awareness of when you are accepting someone else’s opinion (author, person or institution) without inspecting their arguments and logic. It can be very dangerous to accept ideas blindly, without thinking about the consequences they may have on your own life.” Isabel Moino, senior, Universidad Francisco Marroquin, from Guatemala City, Guatemala
“My biggest goal in life is to reach my highest physical and mental potential. I took away many things from the seminar, but three main lessons: 1. The reading selections allowed me to learn and incorporate a wider range of subjects. 2. Groomed analytical skills which I grew over the week. 3. The people I have met here are more similar to me on a conscious level than any other people I have ever met. I am very thankful for what I have learned from each one of them. Where I come from, people cannot even picture themselves doing what I’ve done this week; I can be an example of what everyone in my community can do for themselves.” Derick Ansah, sophomore, SUNY-Purchase, from Bronx, NY
“One of the best experiences of my life and I’ll definitely be back next year, perhaps with a good friend as well! I’ve gained more self-confidence and lost the self-doubt that weighed me down, which will be important in pursuing my job as a corporate lawyer and writer on issues.” Remy Oliver, freshman, University of Virginia, from Potomac Falls, VA
“As the week went on, I was surprised due to the fact that each new day was even more amazing than the last.” Kaitlyn Means, senior, Brookfield-Broadview Heights High School, from Broadview Heights, Ohio
“A life-changing experience! It’s crazy how such a diverse group of people can come together and grow as a family! Super glad I had the opportunity to attend. Knowing the importance of clear definitions and coming to terms with a reading will be very useful, as well as knowing the many aspects of power. But the largest lesson this week is how to live objectively via reason, individualism, and freedom. “Seth Kannarr, senior, Harlem High School, from Machesney Park, Illinois
“At Hillsdale College people have of a lot of philosophical and political debates outside of class. My impression was that engaging in these would be relatively useless because the disagreement would usually stem from a very fundamental disagreement (such as if there is a higher authority). But I learned this week that what seems to be two irreconcilable stances might actually just be two people using different definitions. I plan to use this knowledge when I get caught up in such a debate.” Nora Gibes, freshman, Hillsdale College, from Augusta, MI
“I struggle to set society’s influence aside and only focusing on what I truly want for myself. My desire of wanting to be a better person, being able to know me more. I believe that this seminar has helped me get on the path to really getting to know me, to discover what are the things that make me who I am, and to question more, and listen carefully.” Tanya Badillo, geophysical engineer, from Mexico City, Mexico
“I can see myself implementing a mandatory seminar to every business I might own some day. I believe that this will help them develop their reasoning skills and their collaborative structure.” Rene Miguel, sophomore, Harold Washington College, from Chicago, IL
Wish you could have joined us last weekend! “Types of Power,” “Causality Versus Duty” and “Federalist 51 on the Separation of Powers” were just a few of the fascinating texts we analyzed at The Great Connections Seminar. That was in between walking around Chicago to explore it’s fabulous architecture and sculpture. We all learned so much from the texts and each other about power in every aspect of our lives – and the ideas that make the world what it is today.
Tibor Machan recounted his unusual life, beginning with a harrowing escape from communist Hungary aboard a train filled with Soviet soldiers, to his part in establishing Reason magazine, leading to his worldwide fame as a reasonable exponent of Ayn Rand’s philosophy.