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,