Do you have big dreams but don’t know how to bring them to life? Are you passionate about an issue but don’t know how to make a difference? Big Thinkers is a new student organization which began this Fall that provides an outlet for students who aspire to raise awareness about big issues and make a positive impact on the world.
Kyle Nacci, president and founder of the organization, created Big Thinkers based on the principle of “EPIC learning,” a concept comprised up of things that Nacci believes are lacking in the educational arena today.
“Throughout my life I’ve sort of been butting heads with traditional education,” Nacci said. “I have seen it as far too restrictive for people to fully explore their interests and to then… get really immersed in that interest and to be really passionate about it and work on it without regard to needing somebody to tell you what to do.”
This idea of EPIC learning involves (e)xploring interests extending beyond the borders of the classroom and connecting ideas to our lives and world in order to cultivate a greater sense of (p)urpose in learning. It also (i)ndividualizes learning by encouraging students to dive deeper into issues that are too specific for the classroom. Finally, it involves (c)ollaborating with others to bring life to impactful projects.
The collaboration piece is something that Nacci said could be improved in the educational system.
“When you’re in class, the most valuable resource there is the students so I think that classes need to be set up so that students have more opportunities to interact with each other and learn from each other and feed off each other’s creative energies,” he said.
This is exactly the atmosphere that Big Thinkers aims to create. At each meeting, the group develops their interests through discussion. They also use a Facebook group where members can post their own topics of interest and vote on which topics they would collectively like to discuss at the next meeting.
Robert Constantine, a film major and media production manager at Big Thinkers, said the group is still sort of testing the waters, exploring everyone’s expertise and what their interests are.
Big Thinkers is figuring out “how difficult is it to take something from just an idea into… some sort of progressive step towards making a change that we would like to see,” Constantine said.
The group has already begun to work on a couple projects, including one which stems from the fact that many students cannot see how they are going to use what they are learning in the future. Big Thinkers is working on doing video recording interviews with upperclassmen and graduate students to find out what they valued most in their undergraduate classes and how they have used what they learned.
With this initiative, the group would also like to aid freshmen in planning their future courses or majors so and initiate more critical thinking as they take each class and apply it to real life situations.
Big Thinkers is also working on a project that involves racism on campus, which arose from the observation that many students seem to think it is not a problem anymore.
“If [students] had more opportunities to have discussions about racism… they would realize that this is something that we need to be talking about and continue to work on,” Nacci said.
Big Thinkers thinks that it would start the conversation would be by asking students around campus questions such as how often they think instances of racial bias occur at URI and if they have ever observed or experienced it. They also plan to do video interviews and surveys to promote greater awareness of the issue.
Nacci aims to get involved with education reform after he graduates and views Big Thinkers as a smaller-scale version of this future plan.
Vicky Ferraro, political science and economics major and treasurer of Big Thinkers, said, “I see a lot of issues with the world and how things are run in society, but you can’t major in fixing the world, you can’t major in helping people, so you have to find different facets to do that.”
Stasha Medeiros, psychology major and recording secretary at Big Thinkers, is intrigued by how the brain works and why humans think the way we do. She says that Big Thinkers is a good fit for her because it allows her to hear everybody else’s opinions and further explore what issues we think about and why we care about them.
Along a similar vein, Patrick Lesch, film major and moderator at Big Thinkers, is drawn to the conversation had by these big thinkers.
“It’s stuff that you can’t really just bring up to somebody that you know in the cafeteria and actually talk about so I come for that reason, because it’s very different and it’s something I still enjoy,” Lesch said. “It’s easily a way for me to just hear other peoples’ opinions about certain topics, find out more about certain topics that I don’t know.”
Big Thinkers meets every Friday evening at 6 p.m., in the Memorial Union Room 308. You can also visit their website at http://www.eudaimoniainstitute.org/bigthinkers/. Big Thinkers will be hosting their first event on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. An organization called Rising Dreamers will be coming to URI to offer career advice, job and internship opportunities and free food. For more information email email@example.com.