Great Minds Series

Great Minds Multiplied Brings Three Events to Campus This year’s Great Minds Multiplied series, “Making a Difference,” is expanding into three separate lecture and presentation events from Feb. 16 to 19, and again brings three internationally recognized social entrepreneurs to campus to share their passion. How better for us to learn how to change the world than from people who are working, successfully, on that on a daily basis, says Kris Wobbe, associate dean of undergraduate studies.
February 05, 2016

The speakers, says Wobbe, will discuss their journeys into social entrepreneurship, but they also offer an inspiring glimpse of what makes critical thinking so vital. “Students will be inspired, not necessarily to change their life path, but to gain a broader perspective of the needs in the world,” she says.

Now in its fourth year, the series kicks off on Tuesday, Feb. 16, when WPI hosts Jack Sim, the founder and CEO of the World Toilet Organization, for a talk, “Toilets Make a Difference.” Sim will be joined by Great Minds Multiplied’s inaugural speaker Martin Burt, founder and CEO of Fundación Paraguaya. Burt, whose foundation works toward poverty eradication, is a familiar face on campus as he returns each year for these talks and works closely with WPI students while here and at the Paraguay Project Center.

The talk will be held in the Rubin Campus Center Odeum from 5-6 p.m. with a reception following the talk.

With the moniker of Mr. Toilet, Sim uses a light approach backed up with a lot of facts to call attention to the worldwide problems of poor sanitation and the dire human need for safe, clean toilets. According to the World Toilet Organization website, Sim changed his career path so he could be “the voice for those who cannot speak out and fighting for the dignity, rights, and health for the vulnerable and poor worldwide.”

Sim and Burt will speak to students in classrooms as well, students in the Great Problems Seminars to show them how their work ripples through the environment they work in. They will also talk with students in the ID2050 classes, as students prepare to embark on studies in one of WPI’s Project Centers.

On Thursday, Feb. 18, the documentary “Daughters of the Forest” will run in Perreault Upper at 6 p.m. and will be followed with a panel of speakers at 7 p.m. The film is co-sponsored by Women’s Programs and shares the inspiring story of girls fighting poverty, inequality, and discrimination while protecting the largest forest in Paraguay. The panel of experts includes Burt international journalist and researcher Leslie Lynn Dodson, and assistant professor of social science and policy Laureen Elgert.

The last event in the series, “Careers That Make a Difference: Non-Profit Career Panel” will be held on Friday, Feb. 19, in the Mid-Century, Rubin Campus Center. The panelists, Burt and his wife, Dorothy Wolf, sponsors of WPI’s Asunción, Paraguay Project Center, will talk about careers in social enterprises. The event is cosponsored by the Career Development Center and will give audience members a chance to find out about what it’s like to have a career in social entrepreneurship. Many people have asked for such a panel in recent years, says Wobbe, to find out how to merge the passions for social causes with successful careers.

Wobbe hopes to see students, staff, and faculty from across the university. “It is a rare opportunity for the WPI community to hear from internationally recognized change-makers.” She is excited for the possibilities presented by these speakers. “It’s greater awareness,” she says. “Most of us see just the slice of life that’s right in front of us. WPI makes it easy to expand the slice that’s in front of us.”

“Students are eager and excited to hear the experiences of people outside of university walls,” says Marja Bakermans, PhD, assistant teaching professor of biology and biotechnology. “They want to be exposed to different areas of expertise and a great way to do that is to bring speakers into the class.

“Martin Burt, and colleagues that accompany him, can open students’ eyes to problems, issues, and solutions that students had never considered,” she says. “These unique life experiences that speakers share with the students captivate and motivate them to learn and do more.”