Thinking Big, a two-day student organised forum that encourages people to engage with global, long-term issues that face the world, took place in the Garret FitzGerald Chamber during the 14th and 15th of November. The event, which launched last year, challenged students to consider pressing matters for the future through various talks, workshops and panel discussions over the two days. Topics covered at this year’s event included Third World Development, Freedom of Information, Green Technology, Smart Cities, and Genetically Modified Foods. Detailed debates arose from workshops on Ireland’s drug policy and Third World Healthcare.
Eighteen speakers from backgrounds in academia, industry and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) addressed dozens of delegates. Conor Sheehan, Co-ordinator of Thinking Big 2014, acknowledged the difficulty the organising committee had in in “finding distinguished speakers who all had the same weekend free.” He revealed that a speaker had pulled out at the last minute, but praised the efforts of Speakers Officer, Charlotte McLoughlin, in securing a replacement.
The list of speakers included Gavin Sheridan, Frank Connolly, Dr Maria Murphy, Lucinda Creighton TD, Professor Ron Davies, Dr Iseult Lynch, and Vinnie Cunningham. They offered their insights and experiences from a variety of disciplines including politics, economics, journalism, human rights, law, nanotechnology, engineering, computer science, and statistics. Delegates were given the opportunity to interact with them in a series of question and answer sessions.
While there was a wide range of topics discussed, the organisers recognised that Thinking Big would only cater to a certain section of the student body. Sheehan said that “Thinking Big, while attempting to alter the perception of young people being apathetic, does recognise that we are essentially playing to a niche market.” He feels that there is a “large percentage of students that are interested in the topics of global economic disparity and environmentalism but there is also a large body of people in UCD who don’t care.” For him, Thinking Big is a way of engaging both of these groups, which will help with “raising awareness of these issues and getting people to think about our future.”
Sheehan was optimistic that the event encouraged students to ponder the world’s future, stating that all they want to do is “engage UCD students and make them wonder what sort of world they wish to live in.”