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Calvin College Brings Together Thinkers on World’s Top Issues for Unique Event

Think of it as a Lollapalooza of the Mind. Or a two-week TEDx.

Calvin College calls it the January Series and for 29 years, it’s brought some of the world’s most critical thinkers to the Grand Rapids school.

For 15 days, starting this week, international experts will come to the college to discuss ideas big and small, topics that shape the world, from global health and autism to foreign affairs and cyber security. Speakers include New York Times columnist David Brooks, counterintelligence expert Eric O’Beill and Bethany Williams, a psychologist who specializes in healing children traumatized by war.

“At Calvin, we teach students to think deeply, to live wholeheartedly and to live into justice. That’s exactly what we do through the January Series, too,” says Kristi Potter, director of the January Series.

“As we listen to the wide range of speakers each year we are challenged to wonder and think courageously and sometimes that also means we are stretched in new ways.”

The free speeches are held every weekday at 12:30 p.m. on campus until Jan. 29. And they’re webcast and shown on large screens in 45 libraries, schools and churches throughout the United States, Canada and Lithuania.

Last year, they reached some 40,000 people, and its reach is expected to grow again as the award-winning event continues to evolve and add more diverse speakers.

This year, for instance, Calvin’s auditorium will be converted into a giant harp by William Close. He’s a finalist for “America’s Got Talent,” who plans to extend strings to the back of the auditorium — over the heads of the audience — when he performs Jan. 19.

It’s an unusual performance for an extraordinary event — one that combines passion, a thirst for knowledge, love of community and commitment to improve the world.

That exuberance typifies everything done at Calvin and Michigan’s top 15 independent colleges and universities. All pride themselves in being purposefully different than big state schools.

They emphasize community over crowds and a spirit of togetherness and cohesion that is truly unique. Their world-renowned faculty forge tight bonds with students, helping them maximize potential and chart their own paths.

Often less expensive than public institutions, the independents boast higher four-year graduation rates for a truly unique and affordable experience.

Be bold. Be different. Go independent.