New Big Questions hit Marquette

College of Arts & Sciences junior Trevor Gundlach holds one of the questions that the Big Questions series hopes to answer through a campus-wide discussion. Photo courtesy of Trevor Gundlach.

What are you are doing right now? More importantly, why? Why are you reading this newspaper? Why are you at Marquette? Why are you getting a college education? These are the kinds of questions asked around campus by the Big Question series, which has seen a revamped effort at Marquette this year.

Last year, Vocation Programs in the Office of Student Development debuted the Big Questions series in an effort to encourage students all over campus to reflect on the lives they lead. Vocation Programs Assistant Trevor Gundlach, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said the series is designed to “spark an idea or a thought in someone’s mind that they might not have otherwise had; a deeper level of thought.”

To do this, OSD not only poses thought provoking questions but also offers a public forum for students to share their thoughts and answers. Furthermore, it opens the conversations up to faculty and others to provide more varied views.

Assistant Dean for Leadership and Vocation Programs Kate Trevey said that OSD applied some of the lessons it learned during the first year of the series to make this year an even greater success.

“We had some ideas about where our publicity would be (to) get the students talking,” she said. “We learned that we needed to be in some different places, definitely more of a presence on social media.”

Vocation Programs Assistant Sean O’Reilly, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, has worked to further the series since its inception by engaging students online with Gundlach.

“The original idea was mine, but the Facebook idea was Trevor’s,” O’Reilly said. “I came up with the idea of having a Big Question every other week, and then Trevor made it popular.” Gundlach’s plan to foster an online discussion about the Big Questions proved to be effective almost immediately. Trevey said that, within a week of creating a Facebook profile, Big Questions Marquette had already accumulated over 1,000 friends.

In addition to allowing students to interact on social media, O’Reilly said that getting non-students involved is also key to the series.

“In the past, we’ve had a speaker – every time we have a question – speak on that question,” O’Reilly said. “This year, we’re going to continue with that for most of the questions. We will have speakers who come to campus or who are already on campus give a talk on their own answer to it and then open it up for discussion.”

Some of the notable speakers from last year include the cast of MTV’s The Buried Life, which followed four men trying to cross every item off their “bucket lists,” and the Rev. Grant Garinger, a Jesuit priest and an artistic assistant professor of theater arts at Marquette. They answered the respective questions of “What do you want to do before you die?” and “How do the secrets you keep impact the life you want to lead?”

Although she did not want to give anything away, Trevey was willing to hint at one speaker and question planned for this year.

“We have a really, really, really big name speaker coming in November that is also a very well known musical artist,” she said. “And the title of one of his songs will be the question.”