Two issues ago, I argued that Bowdoin needs to energize its student body around intellectual growth. While most of us take our education seriously, and while many of us spend summers or semesters pursuing research or independent studies in our majors, we hesitate to challenge each other on these topics. Moreover, we hesitate to ask each other the questions that stimulate inquiry. One way Bowdoin can engender more open passion for learning is to reserve one day each semester dedicated to student presentations on learning outside of the classroom.

I won't claim this idea as my own; Wellesley College, which we can consider a peer institution in many ways because of a common dedication to the liberal arts, already holds two conferences, the Tanner Conference in the fall, and the Ruhlman Conference in the spring. The Tanner "celebrates the relationship between the liberal arts classroom and student participation in an increasingly diverse and interdependent world," and the Ruhlman "[intends] to foster collaboration among students and faculty across the disciplines and to enhance the intellectual life of the College." The breadth of presentations on both days is astounding. Last year's Tanner conference, which showcases students' summer experiences, offered titles ranging from "For Love or Money: Independent Filmmaking in the World of Hollywood" to "Something's Fishy: Developing Tools to Evaluate the Quality of Estuarine Habitats." On both days, Wellesley closes the classroom, but expects students to attend the presentations of their peers.

Although Bowdoin offers some opportunities for student presentation, our system differs in several fundamental aspects. First, student presentations are not well-publicized, and so attract only those with active interest. Honors students in all departments give talks in the spring, but in many departments, attendance is by invitation only. The biology department, which has open talks, still doesn't distribute the schedule to majors. Other student talks, like presentations following Alternative Spring Break or Beyond the Pines trips see the standard student digest and flyer campaign. But because these avenues of communication are so overloaded, only the most interested students will attend.

How are we supposed to inspire each other when only the students who are already inspired attend? By canceling classes for a day, Wellesley sanctifies the talks. The college sends a message to students that these talks are invaluable—or at least as valuable as a whole day's worth of tuition—and therefore forces students to take interest. Some critics, citing poor attendance at Common Hour and other talks, might argue that Bowdoin students wouldn't attend. This point isn't so much a criticism, however, as much as a definition of the problem.

We need these conferences—and canceled classes to emphasize them—in order to foster intellectual enthusiasm at Bowdoin. Weak enthusiasm underlies Common Hour absence.

Second, Bowdoin doesn't offer opportunities for students who do work outside of certain areas to present. As a student body, we gather such an impressive collective experience over the summer, but the majority of presenters are recipients of institutional or department fellowships, with a few exceptional cases. Furthermore, students who don't present summer work don't practice presentation, a skill most professionals use. Wellesley rectifies this imbalance by allowing anyone to apply for a spot. As a result, the presentation topics range broadly, engage most interests in the student body, and reward any inspired students with the opportunity to practice. During a day without class, student audiences don't need to be forced to attend talks. Presumably they attend out of real interest.

Lastly, Wellesley invites alumni and town members, who attend talks and meet presenters. The talks remind alumni that the institution is inspiring students, and students have the opportunity to speak with alumni. Providing similar opportunities to students, members of the town also appreciate being included, and nurture town-college relations. The student above who presented on filmmaking might have attracted an established filmmaker to her talk, and perhaps that same student now has her dream job as a direct result of meeting that alumnus. As valiant as our Career Planning Center may be, no Bowdoin parallel exists.

Bowdoin should not copy Wellesley's system, but we should take a lesson from its success. We are a smaller school and coeducational. I suggest we borrow the three aspects that endow the Tanner and Ruhlman with such success—no classes, open applications, and alumni attendance—and accommodate them to Bowdoin. How do we do that? Building intellectual enthusiasm is a challenging endeavor, but Bowdoin would be better for it. I'm not yet sure how we will proceed, but put me on the committee.

Jonathan Coravos is a member of the Class of 2011.