Hi, I’m Aaron Friel, a student at the University of Northern Iowa and president of the UNI Freethinkers & Inquirers. We organized an event last weekend called Progressive Picnic; here was our elevator pitch:
It’s hard to believe, but the fall semester is just around the corner! Start the year off right by hanging out at the Progressive Picnic on Sunday, August 24th from 5-8 at Lawther Field at UNI. At the picnic, you’ll have a chance to hang out with leaders from all the great student orgs and members of the Progressive Coalition! Live music will be provided by local bands Peas and Carrot and Commons Collective, and we’ll have games like bags and MEGA JENGA. And all with refreshing sno-cones to keep you cool during move-in weekend. Everything is free!
I asked three leaders of CFI On Campus affiliate groups--Max Nielson of the Secular Student Alliance at the College of Charleston, Aaron Friel of University of Northern Iowa Freethinkers and Inquirers, and Max McKittrick of the Illini Secular Student Alliance--to tell me what their organizations had planned for the start of the semester. Read what they had to say, and think about what your student group is doing to kick off the year. (Oh, and utilize their ideas all you want--the best events have usually been inspired by something another group did first!)
Nine months ago, my friend and roommate Austin Edwards approached me with a proposal: Create a club for atheists and nonbelievers at our university. I was apprehensive at first, but after a short while, I agreed that it was a good plan, and we went about organizing a pilot for a discussion group-style club.
The pilot went well, and we decided to start regular weekly meetings. We teamed up with another friend – Jason Chapman – to form the executive board, and started going through the process of obtaining student government approval. Our meetings were… interesting, I’d say. Somewhat sparsely attended and not particularly well planned, we still had a good time, and had a few meaningful discussions, but honestly, we lacked a direction and purpose for our club.Bear with me, this is actually going somewhere.
Philosophers struggle to make sense out of the apparent impossibility to accurately describe sensations – like perceiving the color blue – to people who’ve never experienced such a sensation before. They call it the ‘explanatory gap’. In reflecting on the Center for Inquiry’s Leadership Conference, I’m unsure how best to bridge that gap. The gist is…it was a really good conference. For the longer and hopefully more helpful insight into the conference, I’ll share a few points I took away, and we’ll see how they tie together.
The 2014 Center for Inquiry Leadership Conference was an amazing experience, first and foremost. Rarely have I had the opportunity to work with and talk to so many secular folks. The conference was really focused on providing us the tools to do whatever our organizations need to grow and to affect change, or simply to be the kind of affinity group our campuses need while also fostering discussion and community amongst attendees. I want to say thank you to CFI for giving me such an amazing opportunity to pick the brains of students and community leaders in the secular movement and an opportunity for others to pick my brain and see what I’m thinking. To the readers of this post, if you are ever debating whether to go to the CFI Leadership Conference, don’t; don’t debate it, go. You will not regret the experience and I’m here to tell you why.