University Education As It Might Be and Ought To Be

Great Connections head Marsha Familaro Enright wrote a new article on university education as it might be and out to be at The Savvy Street. This is Part I of a five part series of articles on optimal higher education. Below are the opening paragraphs from the article:

Maria Montessori on Discipline and Liberty

Standard education not only fails to teach the philosophy, history, economics, and politics of a free society, but its methods oppress individuality and instead encourage conformity and obedience. It does the opposite of teaching young people how to live as free, autonomous persons.

In the main, the teaching methods at traditional universities have remained unchanged for centuries. Most classrooms rely heavily on an authoritarian, top-down structure of a single arbiter of knowledge, often in the position of lecturer, discussion leader, and knowledge authority, who conveys knowledge to the waiting student-receptacles.

Of course, many colleges and universities are using all the bells and whistles of the latest physical technology, which makes the world’s knowledge available to their students through Internet-connected classrooms, cool electronic-writing technology, online discussion groups, and handheld quiz machines.

But the more crucial and fundamental psychological and social elements to learning are often still ignored, especially at the university level. Yet, a free future demands more than the dissemination of information; where do free individuals learn how to use it in their lives?

Given what we now know about human development, learning, and motivation, university education is ripe for a revolution in its psychological technology.

Students need an educational program that embodies the ideals of self-sufficient, self-responsible, goal seeking, and autonomous individuals. Furthermore, when freedom and autonomy are directly experienced, students become more engaged, interested, and enthusiastic learners and more often adopt the ideas and values of liberty. Such a system for lower education has been around for more than 100 years.

This is why RIFI aims at innovating higher education, starting with The Great Connections Seminar. Continue reading the article here.

Marsha Familaro Enright on Changing the Teaching Paradigm

Enrollment now open for 2015 Great Connections at Early Bird Rates

Read the details about this summer’s seminar and how to apply here. Take advantage of the early bird discount.

The Great Connections Seminar

Saturday, July 25-August 1, 2015 Chicago

Michelangelo's Priogione detto Atlante

Free yourself:

Unleash your mind.


Strengthen your autonomy.


Expand your knowledge.


Experience your power to affect others.



Mastering the Tools that Transform Higher Education
into Lifetime Success

A Seminar for Students 16 and older

“The seminar gave me confidence that I could achieve great things. It was like something was lit inside. I acquired the intellectual tools to help me come to my own conclusions. And I realized how lacking my formal education was. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.

Registration is now open for The Great Connections Seminar.

Our theme this year is “Reason and Power.”

To students…

Are you looking for more than memorizing information and reciting it on tests? Do you want to be challenged to think for yourself?

Do you want to gain powerful knowledge and skills that will equip you for college, for success, for life?

Can you connect the abstract ideas propounded in your classrooms with life decisions and world events?

Can you confidently argue for – and act on – your point of view?

Do you want to connect with passionate and principled students from the U.S. and abroad to discuss life’s most challenging questions…while enjoying music, dancing, architecture, and art to the fullest?

Students practicing improv techniques.If your answer is “yes,” then join us this coming July for a unique “total immersion” learning experience in one exciting and challenging week of intensive classes, interactive sessions, off-campus expeditions, and rewarding camaraderie. It just might change your life, as it has for previous students.

(Students practice improvisation techniques at left.]

If you’re not a student…

Could your favorite student benefit from this program? Please forward this information.

No matter where someone goes to school, this unusual experience will serve them well. The knowledge and skills acquired here could prove to be their most valuable asset in college, graduate school – and life. For details, please read on…

Janessa Colomer

“I love this program! I learned how to approach [philosophical] topics, learn mathematics and found people who are motivated, determined, and proactive to further their education.” – Janessa Colomer, freshman, University of California, San Diego

Chicago by the riverPreview what you’ll experience…

Through this seminar, you will:
Discover why philosophy is crucial to your survival and flourishing, and find the important meaning and implications for yourself in seemingly simple issues.

  • Increase your ability to ask questions that will change what you get from – and how you perform in – your classes.
  • Become an “ideological detective” by training your mind to find the assumptions behind any set of ideas and judge their objective truth.
  • Develop the ability to present facts, ideas, and arguments to others with clarity and confidence while learning important ideas about philosophy, politics, economics, history, science and more.
  • Confront riveting questions about such issues as the source of authentic happiness, how to withstand social pressure, and what is the relation of reason and emotion.
  • Learn the principles and practices of introspection and use them to increase your self-understanding and autonomy.
  •  Examine art’s power to change the culture. Explore the application of the concept oLiz Parker and Rachel Milner, Great Connections 2009f objectivity to architecture, sculpture, and painting, and decide whether something can be judged a work of art – or not.

“It’s easy to rely on others as authorities. This seminar was a great reminder of my power as an individual when I have reason on my side – and a great source of confidence.” Liz Parker (on the left), Graduate, George Mason University, Arlington, VA

Connect timeless principles to today’s hottest issues…

At the seminar next summer, we’ll show you how to understand and enjoy challenging works that have changed the world. Discussions of Plato, The Port Royal Logic, Nicolo Machiavelli, Montesquieu, James Madison, Ayn Rand, and other great thinkers, will help you discover the often-hidden connections between classic principles and contemporary controversies.

Sable Levy talking with other students.“It’s four months later and, basically, I haven’t stopped thinking about the seminar. At the risk of sounding trite or hyperbolic, I know it has changed my life forever.”   Sable Levy, Drew University, Madison, NJ (second from right)

On architecture tour of Chicago.

For example:

  • Discover how the question of “what is knowledge” examined by Socrates in Plato’s Meno dialogue affects everything you think.
  • Consider the issues of terrorism and national security through Montesquieu’s examination of the separation of powers.
  • Learn how to increase your own personal power and self-control through introspection skills.

Brendan Moore makes a point.

“What I found incredibly valuable was that we were not only able to obtain theoretical knowledge but also practical knowledge.” Brendan Moore, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA (at left)

Benefit from individual attention…Instructors won’t force-feed you prefabricated notions. Rather, our talented faculty will teach you one of Great Connections 2013 students studying together at breakfast.the most important lessons of all: how to grasp the meaning of events and ideas for yourself.Each discussion group in the seminar has a maximum of 15 students.(Students have chosen to organize themselves in a study group at left.)

Why? One of our priorities is constant interactioEric Rhodes, The Great Connections 2009n between instructors and students. Participants will work individually and “hands-on” with superb teachers and mentors who will coach them one-on-one in achieving their goals.  Instructors won’t simply deliver a lecture and depart but will be available for face-to-face discussions both in and out of class.

“Eric spent several hours telling us about his experience in Chicago and how much it meant to him. His father and I are delighted!” Lucy Hair, mother of Eric Rhodes, University of California Riverside (Eric at right)

Free Yourself

You will experience a culture in our seminar like no other; one which encourages and respects your individuality, ideas, and independence, and which will energize you while you free yourself to take charge of your own education and your life.

Ian Mihura and Sable LevyWe made our own society, where my ideas, my presence and effectiveness counted. Now I know I can make a difference.” Ian Mihura, senior, Clarin High School, Buenos Aires (at left)

For one transformative week, experience a superior way of learning … and discover the culture of a rational and free society.

Meet your instructors…

Marsha Familaro EnrightMarsha Familaro Enright, Seminar Leader
B.A. Biology, M.A., Psychology, President, The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute, the Foundation for the College of the United States


Ms. Enright brings a remarkable range of knowledge and analytical ability in both the sciences and the humanities to her role as the seminar’s lead instructor. She will guide students in class discussions throughout the week, as well as lead informative tours. Ms. Enright has extensive teaching experience with adults and adolescents in schools, conferences, and summer camps. She also writes on topics ranging from economics to esthetics, human development to neuropsychology.

In 1990, Ms. Enright founded Council Oak Montessori School for children ages 3-15. Chicago Magazine named it one of the top private schools in the city in 2006 and 2011.

Andrew Humphries, Co-Instructor, The Great ConnectionsAndrew Humphries, Co-Instructor

B.A. Liberal Arts, M.Ed. Montessori Integrative Learning, Teacher/Facilitator, Michael Polanyi College, Universidad Francisco Marroquin

A graduate of the rigorous Great Books classics program at St. John’s College, Sante Fe, Mr. Humphries is a master leader of Socratic Seminars. A Koch Fellow, Grover Herman Fellow, and Young Communicators Fellow of the Institute for Humane Studies, he also worked at the Institute of Economic Affairs, the high school program at The School of the Woods Montessori School, Houston, the Centre for Civil Society, New Delhi, and Michael Polanyi College at Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Guatemala City.

Enjoy special presentations and meet exciting professionals…

Meet accomplished professionals in a variety of careers of potential interest to you. You’ll learn first-hand how they do their jobs and get personal answers to your questions. You will meet people such as:Karen Brienzo, Jack Denst Designs

Karen Brienzo, CEO and President Jack Denst Designs and Mail Managers, Chicago, IL

Ms. Brienzo started her career as an entrepreneur at the age of seven, selling decorated hangers. She founded the direct-mail handling business, Mail Managers, over 25 years ago. Today, she’s reviving the brand of mid-century modern designer Jack Denst, who is featured in the Smithsonian.

Ms. Brienzo is a founding board member of Council Oak Montessori School.

Dan CurranDan Curran, CPA, JD, Real Return Group, Chicago Stock Exchange, Chicago, IL

Starting his career with Goldman Sachs in 1959 and with a life plan to at least the age of 90, Mr. Curran has a long and colorful career as a market maker at the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the Chicago Stock Exchange among many other roles.

He was a board member of the Free Market Society of Chicago, and is a founding board member of The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute.

James Kandrac

James Kandrac, President, United Computer Group, Independence, OH

In June 1987, at 26 years old and married with a six-month old, Jim Kandrac founded United Computer Group, Inc. (UCG). UCG is an IBM Advanced Business Partner

specializing in mid-market and enterprise clients. UCG has been rated in the top 1% of IBM Business Partners nationwide. UCG’s VAULT400 BaaS is a premier managed risk mitigation and business continuity planning service for secure online backup and disaster recovery.

Mr. Kandrac has mentored Brecksville, OH high school students through the School of Entrepreurial Engagement of Northeast Ohio program for many years.

Think hard, work hard, play hard…

Students Jake Ilson and Eric Rhodes swimming in Lake Michigan

Our program includes informative seminars and mind-expanding presentations, plus adventurous off-campus expeditions that connect classroom theory to the real world. We will draw upon Chicago’s rich intellectual, architectural, cultural, and commercial resources, capitalize upon classic films, music, and works of art.

We’ll journey to famous museums, research facilities, business clubs, restaurants, retail stores and beyonChicago lakefrontd, such as:

  • Grant Park, Chicago,
  • Lake Michigan Oak Street Beach,
  • Chicago Stock Exchange

Experience the excitement of one of the most beautiful and vibrant cities in North America, Chicago. You’ll attend classes in the fully equipped conference center and apartments, Thomas Beckham Hall, one of the residences of the University of Illinois at Chicago. You’ll be just steps their great recreational complex, and a short bus ride to Millennium Park, the Art Institute, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the beautiful beaches of Lake Michigan.

Due to the individual attention each student will receive, enrollment is limited to 15 per seminar discussion group. DMarina Coll and Carolina Ciblis, Great Connections 2011on’t risk being left out – enroll today and benefit from the steep Early Bird Discount! See complete seminar details below.

“It was good when people said ‘I don’t understand.’” Marina Coll, English and philosophy teacher, Our Lady of the Shelter School, Buenos Aires, Argentina (on the left in the picture)

Seminar Details

The basics: The “Great Connections” seminar will begin at 3:00 PM on Saturday, July 25th and end at midnight on Saturday August 1st. You will check out of your dorm on Sunday morning, August 2nd and have the rest of the day to enjoy the city.

Location: Thomas Beckham Hall, The University of Illinois at Chicago

1250 S. Halsted, Chicago, IL

Capsule schedule: Participants will attend seminars in the mornings, go on excursions in the afternoons, and engage in extended discussions in the evenings. Saturday afternoon/evening: An orientation and initial Socratic Seminar. Sunday to Saturday: Socratic Seminars, special presentations, excursions, meetings with professionals, extended breaks to eat and explore on your own; Saturday evening: A closing dinner and party; Sunday morning: The day is free to explore the city or return home, at your option. The full schedule will be published in the near future.

Readings: In the spring/summer, we will email links for most of the texts so that you can read them in preparation for the seminar. On the opening Saturday afternoon, you will receive a specially printed book with all the readings to use during the seminar. We will also provide advance copies of the reading via email, and highly recommend you read all selections before you arrive.

Accommodations and Meals: You will reside in the contemporary, air-conditioned apartments of our conference building, Thomas Beckham Hall, 1250 S. Halsted. You will have one bedroom in a 2-bedroom apartment with a fully equipped kitchen. You can sign up to use the University of Illinois at Chicago recreational facility. We will provide the opening and closing dinners. A Whole Foods and a Jewel Supermarket are 5 minutes walking from the Hall and there are many food stores, eateries and cafes nearby offering everything from hamburgers and hot dogs to Thai food and sushi for your other meals. There’s also have a cafeteria within walking distance. Students often eat together and are encouraged to make meals together in their apartments.
Transportation: Downtown Chicago is easily reached from O’Hare and Midway airports via CTA train or airport shuttle, as well as by bus, train, and car. Links to maps, information about what to bring, and details about Chicago will be sent to you after you register.

Fee: Full tuition to the program is $1,200, which includes the opening and closing dinners, and books. Room in an equipped apartment, with use of conference and entertainment facilities, is an additional $800.

Fee Schedule:

Up to March 1st, tuition is $200, Room and Board $300

April 1st, tuition is $400; Room and Board $500,

May 1st,  tuition is $600; Room and Board $700,

June 1st, tuition is $700 and Room and Board $800,

After June 1st, tuition is $1,200 and Room and Board $800.

Some scholarships are available covering tuition, room and some board (see details on the Application Form here and contact Marsha Familaro Enright at or 773-677-6418 with any questions).

You have four easy ways to register for the seminar:

1. To apply online click here to go to the Application Form. After your interview and acceptance, you will be directed to a totally secure web page, where you may use your credit card to pay for the program.

2. To apply by postal mail, click here to print out an application form. Complete and mail to 9400 S. Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60643.  After your interview and acceptance, you can mail your check to the same address or pay online at our website.

3. To pay by phone, call us at 773-677-6418 with your credit card. Send your Application Form by email, postal mail or fax (773-233-8684).

You see the full schedule here.


How to Improve Reading Ability

Some new evidence has come out about the dismal reading level of most college students from Renaissance Learning’s research. Renaissance Learning is an assessment and analytics company that makes widely used online educational software for K-12 students.

Their extensive research report has quite a bit of useful information in it about how much and what students are reading, and what factors contribute to the most success in reading. A chart on page 42 shows that college freshman, on average, are assigned books rated at the 7th grade level.

Sadly, it also shows that books for adults on the New York Times bestseller lists average a 5.6 grade level for fiction and 7.6 grade level for non fiction!

At our Great Connections seminars, we read classic texts from philosophy, science, literature, history – you name it. And we read them together in such a way that students learn how to understand and read difficult, but rich, material, such as Newton’s Principia, Epictetus’ Handbook, Blake’s The Tiger, or Machiavelli’s Discourses on Livy. No mere 7th grade level for our students!

Renaissance Learning’s report argues that comprehension, volume, and challenge are key factors. We find that if we help students with comprehension of the most challenging but best-written texts available, what the University of Chicago’s famed president Robert Maynard Hutchins called “The best that has been thought and said,” they will experience real competency and be encouraged read more.

Hattip Patrick Peterson.

Please contribute before the end of the year.

You can make the difference of a lifetime today. Contribute to The Great Connections Scholarship Fund and help a young high school or college student learn how to live as a fully free person.When we think of free societies, we often think of industry, free markets, minimal government.

But real freedom starts within, with self-understanding, self-responsibility, self-direction, determination, and a nimble ability to adapt to life’s challenges.

Students are looking for the answers to basic life questions, such as:

  • How do I determine what’s true and false?
  • How do I determine what’s right and wrong?
  • How do I identify the best conditions under which to live?
  • How do I build a life of meaning and creative achievement?

But, most of the time, their education leaves them to fend for themselves.

Not at The Great Connections Seminars.

For the past six years we have been transforming the lives of young people by helping them to free themselves with:

  • The study of a wide range of civilization-changing classic works, including those of classical liberalism and free market economics, integrated by the power of philosophy,
  • A radical increase in their reasoning powers, self-confidence, and independence via our special active learning environment, and the study of logic,
  • Practice in the fundamental principles of introspection,
  • Hearing how successful professionals chose their work, why they love it, what they’ve achieved,
  • Creating a society within the seminar in which they can experience the culture of a free future.

The program costs $1,200 for tuition and fees, and $800 for room and board. Many students are struggling to pay inflated college costs and need help to attend the seminar, although they all are required to pay what they honestly can afford.

Your donation of $100, $500, $1,000, or a full scholarship of $2,000 today will help them sign up for our program starting in January 2015. You can contribute at this link.

To learn more details about the program, including the curriculum, schedule, facilities, and guest speakers here.

Here’s what they have to say about the program:

Brendan Moore, Great Connections 2009  “Meeting successful professionals who put into      practice the concepts we studied empowered me to see career  possibilities,  and to look at my future with optimism rather  than with  the jaded cynicism of my professors.” Brendan  Moore,  junior, Coe College, Cedar Rapids, Ia.

“Brendan told me he never would have had the confidence to study abroad in Africa before The Great Connections.” Candice Moore, Brendan’s mom.

Liz Parker, Great Connections 2012

“What the seminar taught me was that no matter what text   I have in front of me, or what my knowledge on a    subject, I can understand and interpret it. I don’t need  to do a lot of research or to consult experts.

“It was so empowering just to know I can figure out such  difficult ideas. Now when I go to job interviews, I’m not shy  and timid about what I have to offer. I think that I can  contribute good work and I’m productive; no matter what it is, I can figure it out, even if I’m ignorant on the subject.” Liz Parker, B.A. Economics, George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.

Nathan Gibes, Great Connections 2013  “I came away with not only a better understanding of      philosophy, psychology, economics, and education, but also a    greater ability to express ideas, understand the ideas of  others,  and make connections between very different areas of  thought.  These skills will help me in my college studies  and career  immensely.” 

 Nathan Gibes, senior, homeschooled, Augusta, Mich.

Noelle Mandell, Great Connections 2013


“I was surprised at how easy it was to connect quickly as a group. The level of awareness for the self and others was phenomenal.  Everyone was committed to learning together and was patient   and caring to those around them.” NoelleMandell, Junior, Loyola  University, New Orleans

You can help change the future by contributing today. Go to the link below.

Thank you for your support – and the students will thank you too.

Best regards,

Marsha Familaro Enright


The Reason, Individualism, Freedom Institute is a 501(c)(3) corporationAll contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Report on The Great Connections Summer Seminar 2014

Great Connections students analyze artwork together.
Studying Chicago architecture from the balcony of the DIRRT Environmental Solutions company.

The Great Connections Seminar 2014

Here’s What the Students Said

Sable Levy “The seminar is a very special, mind-opening, immersion into the practice of using  reason and thinking well with others that challenges and excites the spirit; a  gateway experience toward attaining greater heights of mental prowess and  clarity of communication.– Sable Levy, Writer, studying for certification in  Permaculture, Crystal Lakes, NJ

What surprised me the most was how, in one week, I could learn so much Carmen Rodriguez Alcaronand meet so many awesome people. I feel more passionate about whatever is  coming for me now, knowing that while I learn I will be happy and aware of what the  truth is and ways in which I can reach it.” – Carmen Rodriguez Alcaron, junior, Michael Polanyi College, Universidad Francisco Marroquin, Guatemala


Declan Campbell“The seminar is an amazing learning experience that teaches how to use reason in every aspect of your life.” – Declan Campbell, Hopkington High School, Hopkington, VT


Sofi Abud“What was most significant to me was how the seminar enabled me to express my entangled thoughts, which are even hard to explain in my mother tongue, in another language and actually do it well.” – Sofi Abud, freshman, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Kyle Novak “I was very interested to meet professional  intellectuals who aren’t just employed within American academia, to learn  about other possibilities. Most people are unable to discuss ideas without falling  back on bromides and prejudices, so this could be really eye opening for them and a  great opportunity to work on reading and speaking skills. I think that everyone  could grow tremendously by participating in the seminar.– Kyle Novak,  graduate student, University of Toledo, Ohio

Liz Parker “This seminar’s theme on free will gave me the courage to look forward with confidence, to boldly face uncertainty and feel comfortable with freedom. If I value liberty, if freedom for the individual is central to my values, there is a responsibility of action that I must accept. This seminar has shown me, once again, that it is not enough to simply believe in the ideas foundational to a free society, one must act and contribute towards producing it. I’m walking away from this seminar with a sense of duty and revived hope.” – Liz Parker, B. A. Economics, George Mason University, Apprentice Facilitator, Great Connections Social Media Volunteer Coordinator

Noelle Mandell “I found the seminar in its entirety to be both rewarding and valuable. I  learned the most from the Schiller reading; the insight provided about it by the  group was incredible, and the reading itself, although dense, was a great piece  and ripe with ideas that we were able to apply to our activities and  adventures. I wish I could convey my gratitude for the seminar experience in  its entirety.” – Noelle Mandell, junior, University of Houston, Houston


The trips to DIRRT, Second City, and Council Oak Montessori were enlightening experiences for me. Sometimes you think you understand something, and re-examining it in a different light allows you to rid yourself of that barrier that prevents you from learning more. Then I go and see it in action. I realized that I was not as aware of my emotions and thought as I had thought.” – Ivy Hood, senior, Rockford University, Rockford, IL

Brendan Moore “I have a more nuanced understanding of the role of the instructor and of free  will as a practice that requires effort, rather than a mere faculty that one  “has.” I will be taking this expanded understandings with me into  higher education.” – Brendan Moore, Apprentice Facilitator, senior, Coe  College, Cedar Rapids, IA


“I see my perception of myself has changed for the better because I

Kaitlyn Ransom now know that I have the confidence to approach someone with a question or idea. The seminar was absolutely fantastic but a week is simply not enough.” Kaitlyn Ransom, junior, Fountain-Fort Carson High School, Colorado Springs, CO

Here Are The Results

The Great Connections Seminars’ impact is spreading, thanks to the support of our contributors.

Their thoughtful, active support is making it possible for us to spread not only the knowledge and skills necessary for a free society, but to give students a unique opportunity to develop and practice the virtues needed.  Among others these are—rational independence and confidence in their own judgments, self-reliance, reality-loyal honesty, and a sensitive respect towards the rights and independence of others, with an eagerness to trade and share the best within them.

These are all habits and values which are deeply embedded and implemented through our methodology as well as content. Nowhere else, no other seminar or college program, is crafted to nurture these qualities through self-directed action. Ultimately, these capabilities will enable young people to change our future.

And the proof of this is the number of students who are now working to actively support The Great Connections Seminars so more young people can have this empowering and transformational experience. Here are some of the things they’re doing:

Magda Richards

  • Magda Richards (right), now Development Director for Junior Achievement Argentina, worked with J.A. Argentina Director Eduardo Marty to acquire a large Templeton Foundation grant for seminars. They have asked me to train at least ten instructors in Buenos Aires. I, along with our advisor, philosopher Stephen Hicks, and these newly trained instructors, will run a 150-student week-long program next year.
  • Noelle Mandell (pictured above), on the Executive Board of the large and growing Students for Liberty, is so enthusiastic about the program that she has arranged for us to give “sample” seminars at five Students for Liberty conferences. This is one of the ways we’re marketing the Great Connections program. We’re conducting seminars on selections from Alexis deTocqueville, Carl Menger, and Ayn Rand in Dallas, Winston-Salem, New Orleans, and Chicago.
  • Liz Parker (pictured above), a graduate of George Mason University who has her own free lance video, photography, editing, and social media business, has volunteered as our social media coordinator. She’s regularly posting news, photos, and videos about us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+. She also volunteered to lead a seminar on Menger in Gainesville and co-lead a seminar on deTocqueville in Dallas, as well as man our booth.
  • Sable Levy (pictured above), has set up a new, online community for us where students can meet and discuss texts of their choosing. We enjoyed our first discussions on selections from Carl Menger’s Principles of Economics and Alexandra York’s “The Legacy Lives” in recent weeks.
  • Brendan Moore and Liz Parker (pictured above), volunteered a week of their time toserve as apprentice facilitators this past summer. We’re pleased, eager to grow our cadre of people capable of running seminars with our methodology.
  • Every student has pledged to recommend three others; we acquired 20 new names from the students while at the seminar this summer and look forward to more from former and current Great Connections students.

Students analyzing paintings at art lessonThis summer our sixteen students ranged in age from 16 to 27; four were returnees from previous summers, eager to enjoy the seminar’s benefits again. The students came from Guatemala, Ontario, New Hampshire, Illinois, Colorado, Argentina, Texas and elsewhere.  Most important for changing the future, each one reported that their personal sense of effectiveness and resolve to make a difference had substantially grown and solidified through our specially crafted curriculum and teaching methods.

Ivy, Sable, Brendan studyingThey report that they found the works we studied of riveting interest and became passionately engaged in grasping these difficult texts for themselves, connecting the ideas therein with their own lives and the world; works such as:

  • Epictetus’ “Handbook,”
  • Aristotle’s four causes,
  • Rand’s “The Objectivist Ethics,”
  • Montesquieu’s “The Spirit of the Laws,”
  • The Declaration of Independence,
  • Schiller’s “On the Use of Chorus in Tragedy.”

Sable, Ivy & Declan at Improv

It’s clear the students reveled in becoming active in their own education, something most report sorely lacking in their other educational experiences.  They used the ideas from psychiatrist Ray Raad’s presentation on the experimental basis of free will throughout the week as well as the skills from our Improv class (“life is improvisation”) (pictured right) and the lessons on architectural history and style which culminated in a presentation on the radically innovative designs of the DIRRT Company (balcony pictured above).

I hope you’ve gotten a flavor of the students’ experiences and the intense value they get from The Great Connections Seminar. Please let us know if you have any comments or questions.

Most students attended on scholarship and we’re listing our honor roll of contributors, below. The students benefitted from the program enormously. If you contributed towards the seminar fund, I hope you’re proud of the superb learning experience you have made possible.You have given them the gift of enlightenment, a chance to develop their self-confidence, and, from what they tell us, the experience of what life would be like in a free society of the future where reason, individualism, and freedom are highly respected and implemented.

Please consider contributing to the scholarship fund for 2015. You can go to our Contribute page, or send a check to “RIF Institute” 9400 S. Damen Avenue, Chicago, IL 60643. Thank you!


A huge THANK YOU to all the contributors who made our seminar possible:

 Voltaire Fellows ($5,000+)

Anonymous Foundation
Daniel Curran
Chris Rufer

 Thomas Paine Fellows ($1,000+)

Roger Baumberger
John Enright II
Warren Gibson
Mimi Gladstein – contribution dedicated to Chris Matthew Sciabarra
John & Suzanne Kannarr
James T. Kirk
Charles Koch Foundation
Jay & Sally Lapeyre
David Mayer
Steve Nahm
Marjorie Peters
Charlie Wagner

Enlightened Supporters ($500+)

William & Tamra Dale
Paul Drake
John Enright III
Lynn & Richard Latimer
Marc & Diana Pelath
Kathy Ross
Steve Shmurak
Jim Smith

Supporter ($250+)

Ken Barnes
Rob Bradley
Stan Broitman
Joel Franck, MD
Larry Gould
William Greene
Roger Hoffman
Gen LaGreca
Art & Elaine Margulis
Lisa Markham
Lucy Hair & Lawrence Rhodes
Patrick Heller
Roger Hoffman
Carol Klein
Ann Preston
Raymond Raad

Enlightened Donors ($100+)

William Adamson
Ralph Blanchette
Scott Carper
John Cersuolo
Richard Combs
Paul Concepcion, MD
John Davis
Ilana Dover
Murray Franck
Jim Henderson
Catherine Jeffrey
Merlin Jetton
Reena Kapoor & Anurag Wadehra
Carol Klein
Carol Lett
Steve Lloyd & Marge Melstrom
Joseph & Lois Parks
Mary & Patrick Peterson
Peter Reidy
Sandra Rice
Molly Sechrest
Robert Sloan
Steve Shmurak
Frederic Skelding
Robert Sloan
Jorge & Clelia Svoboda
Francisco Villalobos


Elizabeth Brierly
Jase Carns
Ann Clark
Don Hauptman
Niles Johanson
Lenora Kaposhilin (in memoriam)
Kurt Keefner
Stephen Moses
Gordon Paine
Bob Palma
Gralee Parr
Robert Peterson
Stephen Sass
Alan Yottey


Our Mission
To foster active minds:
Empowering each individual with the knowledge, reasoning skills, and independence to understand the world and build a life of adventure and creative achievement.