“The way it really all started is that we decided we would invite some cool person to come give a talk,” says Kristin Wobbe, associate dean of undergraduate studies, of the Great Minds Multiplied “Innovators Making a Difference: Ideas With Global Impact” series.
But from these simple beginnings, the event grew and now involves three cool people who come and talk about world problems and how they found solutions — offering triple the inspiration and motivation. The event, now in its third year, is held each A-Term and C-Term. “It has a big impact,” Wobbe says.
Great Minds Multiplied — a panel discussion and offshoot of the Great Problems Seminars — comes at a perfect time: when students are choosing their project topics. They get to hear from real-life social entrepreneurs who are using their skills to make thousands of lives better all around the globe. And the community at large is welcome to listen in.
Martin Burt, founder of Fundación Paraguaya—an agricultural education and poverty eradication nonprofit with more than 50 partners in 30 countries—was the series’ very first speaker, in 2011. He encouraged students to look at their projects from the perspective of others, Wobbe says, and consider how others might be impacted by their work. After that, she says, there was no going back.
“The campus fell in love. He is so charismatic, with a powerful message he delivers very effectively. We wanted to keep him involved.”
Staying involved is what Burt has done, as WPI’s social entrepreneur in residence. “He has a very good sense of who we are and what we do,” Wobbe says. “He’s met with hundreds of students and dozens of faculty and is very happy to come back and work with technically minded students about problems in the world and how to solve them.” Burt’s wife, Dorothy Wolf, has also become involved with WPI, assisting with on-the-ground details of the Paraguay Project Center.
Burt recruits international speakers to come to WPI twice a year and join him at Great Minds Multiplied. This year’s speakers are Amitabha Sadangi, founder of International Development Enterprises India, a company that designs micro-irrigation technology to increase crop yields; and Nina Smith, founding executive director of GoodWeave International, which works to rid the carpet manufacturing industry of child labor practices.
Speakers are also available before and after the panel discussion for appointments and talks with anyone, Wobbe says. Burt, for example, is in Worcester all week. Invitations have been extended to several other colleges and universities. In the past, folks from Seven Hills Global Outreach have taken advantage of this opportunity and have come to campus, she says.
As far as the students’ impressions of Burt, “The conversation he brings to my classroom is rated as the most interesting and worthwhile thing we do in that term,” Wobbe says. She hopes for 70 to 100 attendees this year.
Tomorrow (Feb. 24), a Meet the Panelist Brown Bag Lunch will be held at noon in the Chairman’s Room of the Rubin Campus Center. Beverages and desserts are provided. The panel discussion starts 4 p.m. at the Odeum, with a reception to follow.