Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

New lights

Presenting ten great, nerdy and neat ideas in one evening. Fun, right?

“Wow, this is so exciting,” said Lara Geis ’13, president of the Roosevelt Institute, in welcoming more than 225 students to the second annual WheaTalks.

“Our intention is to spark campus conversation and create an opportunity for students to teach one another and share the kinds of subjects and ideas that they don’t normally have a forum to share,” she said.

Which they did. A standing room-only crowd packed the Holman Room in Mary Lyon Hall to learn about ideas ranging from how theatre has the power to summon the divine to ways in which fungi could be used to clean the environment and promote sustainable agriculture.

The organizers said more than 40 students submitted proposals to win one of the coveted slots for presenters.

Nurit Applbaum ’14 talked about problems with micro finance in the developing world and offered suggestions on how to fix it. Professor Shawn Christian shared his love for house music with a sampling of his favorite “old school” tracks, including “You Love House” by the Groove Junkies.

In some cases, the presentations offered an opportunity for the audience to get involved.

For example, Sam Kottler ’15 told the audience about his interest and involvement with the Tor Project, both a free software program and a network that allows people to use the Internet anonymously and avoid surveillance by corporations and governments.

The system plays a crucial role in enabling activist in countries where Internet censorship is practiced, such as Syria, Iran and China, Kottler said. But it relies on everyday citizens around the globe to participate in creating a secure network.

“If you want to get involved, contact me,” Kottler said. “If you have $5 per month, I’ll help you set up a Tor node and you can help people in other countries gain the right to free speech.”