Inspiration abounds when DePaul connects with Chicago Ideas Week

Tour at Wintrust Arena
Vice President for Facilities Operations Bob Janis leads of a tour of Wintrust Arena with Mitchell Hirsch, principal with architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli, as part of a Chicago Ideas Week Lab. (DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)
DePaul's sponsorship of Chicago Ideas Week connected our community to thought leaders from around the globe, encouraged an important conversation about social activism in the city and put a spotlight on the new home of Blue Demon basketball.

Organized by the nonprofit Chicago Ideas, the week of programming is billed as "the world's most accessible ideas festival" for its nominal cost to attend. Each year, Chicago Ideas attracts nearly 30,000 attendees and 200 speakers who are engaged and passionate about the future of Chicago. Each of the 150 events that happened during the week, which occurred Oct. 16-22, provided a platform to educate, inspire creativity and allow for new ideas to be discovered.

DePaul served as one of the sponsors of this year's Chicago Ideas Week to encourage critical discussions and provide DePaul's civic-minded faculty, staff and students an opportunity to connect with issues that are important to them.

Our community jumped at the chance. Approximately 350 students and 200 faculty and staff used the DePaul discount to attend Chicago Ideas events with speakers such as International Rescue Committee President David Miliband, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, Teen Vogue editor Elaine Welteroth and actress and Emmy-winning screenwriter Lena Waithe. Faculty, staff and students also could win tickets through giveaways organized by Newsline and Student Affairs.

On Wednesday, DePaul sponsored a Chicago Ideas panel discussion featuring the Rev. Michael Pfleger, senior pastor at St. Sabina Catholic Church; anti-violence activist Camiella Williams; and Rami Nashashibi, executive director of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network. In a panel moderated by ABC7 Anchor Karen Jordan, the three spoke about how their personal social activism is rooted in faith and Chicago's storied history in civil activism. Nashashibi, who the MacArthur Foundation recently awarded its "Genius" Fellowship, earned his bachelor's degree from DePaul in 1997.

The next day, the university hosted its own Chicago Ideas Lab: a sold-out, hands-on experience at Wintrust Arena. Bob Janis, vice president of Facilities Operations, joined architects Mitchell Hirsch from Pelli Clarke Pelli and Troy Sherrard and Renauld Mitchell from Moody Nolan to guide participants on a tour of the arena that included exclusive information about the arena's design. The tour gave participants a behind-the-scenes look at the athletes' weight room, a locker room and a men's basketball practice.

The group also heard from Michael Merchant, director of governmental affairs for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto and men's basketball coach Dave Leitao. Before wrapping up, the attendees met the men's basketball team on the court and shot a few hoops.

Though Chicago Ideas Week ended Saturday, Chicago Ideas events continue throughout the year. Check the Chicago Ideas website to sign up for updates.