PIE conference to provide a forum for the passionate

Juniors Catherine Durkee, Lisa Tucker and Lee Pennebaker are about to bring an exciting new opportunity to campus on March 29: the Perspective Inspired Experience (PIE). This conference will bring a variety of speakers to campus to talk about events or stories that have changed their perspective of the world or something that they are deeply passionate about.

“Our mission statement is: breaking boundaries of personal perspective by experiencing other’s passions and unique frames of mind,” Durkee said.

“The goal is to get people who are really pumped about whatever it is they do, or just stories they’ve had that have very much changed the way they view the world, and then give them 5-12 minutes to talk about that,” Pennebaker said.

To find speakers, the student trio first sent out an e-mail to the staff and faculty of Puget Sound, and then expanded their search to the greater Tacoma community, guided by references and suggestions. Thus, the spectrum of speakers ranges from professors to an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel.

“We weren’t very selective in the process of asking speakers, in the sense that we opened the opportunity up to all the faculty and staff of the University, and then we cherry picked from outside that community,” Pennebaker said. As a result, there is a wide range of topics and speakers and all students will be able to find something that they are interested in.

The idea for PIE originally came about because Durkee, Tucker and Pennebaker shared a common interest: getting students to share and engage in what they are passionate about. “I don’t see a lot of passion on campus and I think that’s a total bummer, so I think it’s a cool way to get students excited about passion,” Tucker said.

The student trio behind PIE began with the idea to get a TED talk license, but they ran into monetary issues. Instead of seeing this as a hindrance, they saw it as an opportunity to start something new. “We wanted to do something similar [to a TED talk] but more Puget Sound oriented,” Durkee said.

The students targeted faculty in particular not only because they have experience talking in front of large crowds, but also because they wanted to give the faculty a chance to talk about the things that they were truly passionate about and not what they have to teach in a syllabus. “I’d like to think that in some ways this is giving back to [the faculty] by providing an open forum on this campus, the place that they work, to talk about something they usually don’t get the chance to talk about and are very passionate about,” Pennebaker said.

While the speakers will not include students, the founders of PIE hope that the conference will spark discussion among students about their passions and integrate such discussions into the common conversations that students have every day. “It gives a forum for people who don’t normally have a voice to talk about what they are passionate about,” Tucker said.

Another, more subtle goal of the conference is to show students what they could be able to do in the future with whatever passion they have. The project itself is a good example of just such a feat.

“The conference is nothing more than an idea that the three of us decided to run with, and we have gotten an incredible amount of support from the Puget Sound community. Most importantly, no one’s done anything for us yet; we’ve had to drudge through,” Pennebaker said. “This is what college is all about. It’s about pushing yourself harder than you have ever pushed yourself in ways that you may not even imagine you would, and the beauty of where we are at is that it is a safe place to fall back to.”

PIE will take place March 29 and span the majority of the day, beginning at 10 a.m. The conference is broken up into three ‘blocks’ of time during the day in which speakers will present their passions in 5-12 minutes. There will be a long block in the morning and two shorter ones in the afternoon, followed by a reception. There is no formal question and answer session, but students will have opportunities to mingle with the speakers in between the blocks and during the reception.

And yes, there will be pie at the reception.