Eight Southeast Missouri State University students from Southeast’s Donald L. Harrison College of Business traveled to the second annual Foundation for Economic Education Conference (FEECon) in Atlanta, Georgia, June 7-9.
The conference was organized by the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), a libertarian economic think-tank dedicated to the “economic, ethical and legal principles of a free society.” Southeast students joined over 1,000 attendees from around the globe for the three-day event which included nine distinct learning tracks, more than 50 sessions and more than 60 speakers.
Southeast undergraduate students participating in the conference included Ibtihal Alrasheed, a finance major from Dammam, Saudi Arabia; Enzo Kuba, a management major from Sau Paulo, Brazil; Dilidaer Maimaiti, a business administration major from Urumgi, China; Jake Meier, a finance major from Saint Louis, Missouri; Rachel Orf, a business economics major from O’Fallon, Missouri; Gavin Pringle, a double major in applied mathematics and finance from Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Derek Shoemaker, a general studies major from Lebanon, Missouri; and Evan Wilson, a financial economics major from Saint Peters, Missouri.
“FEEcon experience is a great way for students to reflect on how markets work and relate their economics knowledge to the world around them,” said Dr. Natallia Gray, assistant professor of economics.
During the conference, students explored various learning tracks, including entrepreneurship and business success; technology and innovation; paths to education; philosophy, politics and economics; market urbanism; debating the issues; innovation challenge; creative pursuits; and challenging statism.
“The conference is a great way to learn modern economics because they make it so relevant to current events and students’ interests,” Gray said. “Students also have opportunities to learn from well-known world class entrepreneurs about their career paths and how to start their own businesses.”
Several successful entrepreneurs served as keynote presenters at the conference, including Scott Harrison, founder of Charity: water, a non-profit bringing safe and clean drinking water to developing nations; Magatte Wade, TED Global Africa Fellow, founder of Tiossan and a 2011 Forbes 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa; Lonnie Johnson, former U.S. Air Force and NASA engineer, and inventor of the Super Soaker water gun; and Tina Guo, internationally acclaimed Grammy-nominated acoustic and electric cellist, recording artist and composer.
The speakers were a highlight during this year’s conference.
“I really enjoyed the presentation by Scott Harrison and his water charity because I am interested in non-profit organizations and entrepreneurship,” Kuba said. “I found it very interesting to know the story behind his success.”
“The most impactful presentation was titled ‘Self-Interest: Necessary for Value Creation & Freedom’ by Yaron Brook, the former executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute,” Orf said. “He challenged us to remove the negative connotation largely associated with self-interest and claimed that making decisions with our best self interest in mind is a more morally sound alternative to living selflessly.”
Alrasheed said she attended the entrepreneurship and business success learning track which featured four speakers discussing how they created their business and continued its growth. “The conference has improved my knowledge about economics, government and starting a business,” Alrasheed said.
The conference also provided unique networking opportunities and experiences that inspired many of the students in their own academic and professional careers.
“Meeting so many people who were passionate about the same things I was made this entire trip worth it,” Wilson said. “It was very fun and makes me realize that there are so many roads I can take for a career in the near future.”
Meier said, “I gained a new perspective on many issues in our economy, and how things are related in ways we would not think of otherwise. Talking and listening to entrepreneurs who built their start-ups from almost nothing but an idea and a plan has reaffirmed in my mind what I want to do in my life now more than ever.”
Five students received full scholarships and one student received a partial scholarship from FEE to attend FEEcon. Two students were awarded funds through Southeast’s Department of Economics. Additionally, Gray received an external teaching and professional development grant for 2017-2018 from the Charles Koch’s Foundation to help offset expenses for the trip.
About Foundation for Economic Education (FEE):
FEE was established in 1946 and hosted many small-scale seminars and lectures. The foundation has grown substantially over the past few years with FEEcon 2017 being their largest education event in history. FEEcon was open to anyone interested in entrepreneurship or exploring economic thinking. They encourage people who are intellectually curious, and willing to engage in the presentations and discussions to apply. The conference also provided professional networking opportunities and personal and professional development workshops for students and young professionals.
Top photo caption: From left to right are Southeast students Dilidaer Maimaiti, Evan Wilson, Gavin Pringle, Jake Meier, Derek Shoemaker, Rachel Orf, Enzo Kuba at the 2018 Foundation for Economic Education Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Not pictured: Ibtihal Alrasheed.