Open Forum sparks informal discussion of thoughts, beliefs on campus

Subjects to include society’s reliance on technology, the value of self-reflection and the consequences of immortality

After a week of ice and snow delayed its start, Open Forum opened the conversation for its third semester of topical intellectual discussions during the Institute’s first full week of classes. 

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Open Forum began in summer 2010 as a place for students and faculty to engage in non-academic intellectual discussion. Subjects for this semester include society’s reliance on technology, the value of self-reflection and the consequences of immortality. Last fall’s agenda included forums on topics such as service, diversity, elections and cheating. 

“What I love most about Open Forum is the environment. Everyone is from an entirely different background,” said student Matt LeBrun, a member of Open Forum’s executive board. “It’s very enriching to hear childhood stories from a physics professor or about the challenges international students have faced. When I read a newspaper article, my mind is racing to determine what some of the folks I’ve discussed things with at Open Forum would think about the article.”

Discourse about the relationship of politics and civility began Open Forum’s third semester of activity. 

“This notion of civility has come up in the media often in the past few weeks, particularly after President Obama’s call for more civility in public discourse following the Arizona shootings,” said Lindsay Anglin, marketing coordinator for the Office of Undergraduate Studies. “Open Forum, as an intellectual discussion program, is the perfect platform for voicing opinions and thoughts on these kinds of topical social issues.”

As part of its format, Open Forum invites guests to deliver short personal essays, tapping into a deep human need and echoing a movement familiar to many: This I Believe.

A nonprofit initiative that encourages youth and adults in “writing, sharing and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives,” This I Believe began as a radio show during the 1950s. In recent years, the program has been rekindled through its inclusion as a series on National Public Radio (NPR).

Last fall, undergraduate Student Government Association President Corey Boone and Dean of Students John Stein were two featured speakers in Tech’s This I Believe series. On February 22, President G.P. “Bud” Peterson will deliver his brief essay.

Making a Statement

In conjunction with these personal presentations, Open Forum is hosting a campus-wide essay contest to the same theme. Many students will participate by default in ENG 1101 and ENG 1102 classes, but all students are encouraged to submit their pieces. Finalists’ essays will be posted online, and the winner will deliver his or her essay during the final Open Forum of the semester on April 19. Some examples of essay topics from thisibelieve.org include, “I Believe in the Power to Forget,”  “I Believe in Laughter” and “I Believe in Being Cool to the Pizza Delivery Dude.”

Students have until March 15 to decide what they believe and submit their essays for consideration; submissions should use words and tone “that truly echo your belief and the way you speak,” as recommended by thisibelieve.org. Additional contest information and guidelines are available at Open Forum’s website.

To learn more about Open Forum or This I Believe, attend the next Open Forum, where LeBrun will share his This I Believe statement, on Tuesday, Feb. 1, at 11 a.m. in the Neely Room in the library; check the full schedule online for other future sessions.