The Great Connections Newsletter May 2018

What’s Happening with the Gap Year Program

We’re going to open The Great Connections Gap Year Program in the fall of 2019! We’re expanding our powerful Great Connections Seminars into a full school year for high school graduates and those who are seeking to clarify and determine their path in life–before they risk a hundred thousand dollars or more on college.

We’re seeking a small group of students for the initial program and plan to aggressively recruit and expand after the first year.

We’ve crafted the program to help students develop their minds and characters for the best life possible.

We’ll offer them the power of reason, show them how important great ideas are for living, radically expand their knowledge, and provide a focused and guided opportunity for practical work experience.

We’ll draw from the classics and select modern works, carefully organized to help students discover how to live, how to understand themselves, and how to discover their path to achievement. 

We’ll use the same philosophy and methodology of education that has changed lives the past 9 years in our week-long summer program, including all-interactive, collaborative discussion.

Students will have individual coaching from our staff to help each student discover great ideas and practices for living and the the best plan for his or her future.

We’ll combine that learning with practical work: a small group project to solve a real-world problem and learn how to implement the solution. After this experience, students will focus on learning more about the market, technology, finance, and art.

As always, we’ll include galvanizing and inspiring works of the freedom movement, such as Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Ludwig Von Mises The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality.

They will be steeped in the liberal arts–in the original sense of “liberal,” which was “suitable for a free man.” They’ll learn from works that will teach them how to live as a free person. Our aim is to develop their autonomy and their confidence in their right to their own lives, happiness, and freedom.

You can read more about the program hereHere’s a presentation about the need for a Gap Program, the market for it, and our competitive advantage. Our detailed plan will be available when we start student recruitment, prospectively in the fall.

We have a good, central location with easy transportation, and a fully-equipped private dorm is available with which students can contract, University Center. Nice apartments are locally available too.

I will be the lead instructor and am the curriculum designer, with my colleague and former student, Liz Parker as co-leader. Malachy Walsh will teach our students effective writing (pictured above teaching at the summer program). He’s our advisor and a former Senior Partner and Director of Strategy at J. Walter Thompson Worldwide. We will have a team of people to work our operations, recruitment, advertising, and development so we can leap from our initial first year into aggressive growth.

To excellently implement the program the first year, we need more staff than the projected tuition income can cover. We are seeking to raise capital for the pre-op and first year costs in order to hit the ground running for subsequent development. We plan to be in the black by the fourth year of operation.

I’m excited to report that we’ve raised more than half of the capital from generous individuals like yourself. This group includes industrialists, tech entrepreneurs, financiers, and foundations.

I hope you’re pleased with the progress! Please let me know if you would like more information.

How We’re Reaching More

At the behest and with the great technical expertise of Liz Parker, we’ve started a podcast aimed at raising awareness of the way ideas, especially philosophical ideas, impact individual minds and lives: The Great Connections Podcast.

In a conversational format, we’ve been tackling such topics as:

  • the claim that there is no self,
  • how each person constructs his or her self,
  • why there is violence on campus.

We’re also interviewing students and experts, for example psycho-therapist William Schultz on the ramifications of Neuroessentialism, the doctrine that you are your brain. In addition to our website, we have the podcast on many outlets, including: ITunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, and YouTube.

As a supporter, I thought you might be particularly interested in our interview with Jake Ilson, who first came to The Great Connections as a 16 year old in 2009, and who has returned four times. He describes in detail how it radically affected his life and discusses how it’s different from any other powerful program, such as Outward Bound. You can listen to it here.

We’re steadily adding more episodes. We would love to get your feedback—and if you like the show, please recommend to others!

Connecting Ancient Ideas to Today

The time is near for our departure for The Great Connections in Greece and Italy. We’ll travel across the Ancient Greek world, including Attica, the Peloponnese, Lesvos in Ionia, and Magna Graecia in Sicily. We’ll be studying, sight-seeing, and exploring the world where Aristotle invented biology, Sappho lived and wrote, Agamemnon ruled, Milon of Croton competed in the Olympics, Archimedes invented, and the Riace Bronzes were sculpted.

Our theme is: What were the features of this small society, in ideas, practices, and culture, which caused it to be the foundation of our civilization today, and which makes Western civilization distinctively different from the rest of the world?

We’ll have reports and pictures for you afterwards, and we’ll be posting on Facebook and Instagram. If all goes well, such trips will become regular events! Hopefully, you can join us some time.

(Picture of Pyrrha, Lesvos, where Aristotle lived, courtesy of supporter Ralph Blanchette.)

Applied Rationality or How to Think Yourself Better

At the end of January, I attended a 4-day workshop by The Center for Applied Rationality, or CFAR, in order to garner more tools for the Gap Year program. CFAR teaches a set of methods and habits to “Actually Change Your Mind.”

They’re part of something called the “Rationality Community,” which attempts to use reason and evidence to, as they say, “make the world a better place.” This includes strategies for personal growth, as well as analyzing charitable activities for metrics of success.

At the workshop, I collected numerous lessons that will help our students learn how to introspectively identify patterns of thought, feeling, and action, and how to change them for the better. Using these lessons will be part of the psychological and personal development work of the program.

Recent Recruitment Efforts

With the bells and whistles of our new website, more advertising, and now, a more regular newsletter, we’re aiming to increase our visibility online.

As in many previous years, we promoted our program at LibertyCon, the new name for the international Students for Liberty conference, in March. Instructors Andrew Humphries and Liz Parker, pictured above, manned our table.

We garnered a good list of interested students from around the world. At this point, students from Nepal to Argentina, Ghana to the Philippines, Central, and South America, and all around the U.S., have attended our program.

Our program is pedagogically rooted in the Montessori approach to individuals and their developmental needs. We’ve applied her principles and insights to the young-adult level of development (which I explain in some detail in the e-book we sent you in December, “Light Your Path.”) Montessori students will be one set of prospectives for our program.

To stay in touch with the Montessori movement, I attended a Montessori history conference in April and gained some useful information about Digital Humanities resources. But I was quite dismayed that all the conferees were subjected to political screed from Oberlin history professor David Orr in his 2-hour talk. He offered no pedagogical wisdom whatsoever—and objections to his views were countermanded by conference leader David Kahn!

Paula Lillard Preshlak, head of Forest Bluff Montessori School, objected to the presentation as giving us nothing worthwhile to use for students. She’s the daughter of Montessori notable Paula Lillard and sister-in-law to Angeline Stoll Lillard, University of Virginia psychologist and author of Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius.

Kahn shut her down. I contacted her afterwards and gave her online resources that countered Orr’s pessimistic, anti-human, political rant. She was delighted with the feedback and the information—she was eager to pass it on to friends and relatives.

Score one for reason, individualism, and freedom!

Be a Great Connections Champion

Word of mouth is our best recruitment and development tool! That’s how Isabel Moino, Isabel Duhau, and Carmen Rodriguez, pictured above, all found out about our program.

Please be a Great Connections Champion and suggest our program to parents, grandparents, students, and potential contributors.

If you know of anyone we should approach for a large capital contribution, and especially if you can give us an introduction, I would be very grateful.

If you have pledged or contributed to the Gap Program, thank you again. If you haven’t, please consider making a donation of some amount so I can add your name to the roster when I approach capital donors. Capital donors are eager to see that a project is supported by a substantial number of people.

We’re aiming to raise the rest of the money by the fall.

You can send a contribution to: RIF Institute, 9400 S. Damen Ave., Chicago, IL 60643

Or, you can contribute here

As always, if you have any questions, ideas, or suggestions for me, please let me know. I appreciate your interest! I hope to see you in person some time in the near future.

Best regards,

Marsha Familaro Enright

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