Professors Needed to Talk to Curious Minds Who Love Learning
Katie Pira ’07 has a curious mind attached to a Mensa IQ. That combination along with her volunteer spirit had her reaching out to her alma mater to tap professors to participate in this year’s Memorial Day weekend regional gathering of Gulf Coast Mensa.
“UST has some of the brightest minds in Houston,” Pira said, “so I want professors to come and share their knowledge with us at this public event open to both members and non-members.
“Our theme this year is SynRG 2020: Roaring Redux, sort of a flapper meets futurism atmosphere!” Pira said. “BUT our topics can be about anything! Examples of past topics: graffiti art with Gonzo247, zombie apocalypse survival, foraging, the Higgs boson, genetic genealogy, WWII history, archaeology, life on the International Space Station, psychology, green construction, canning and more.
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Why not Join Them? Are you a Mensan?
Pira, who had been in the Gifted and Talented program as a child, didn’t test her IQ until recently at the urging of a friend, co-worker and mentor. What she learned is that 1 in 50 people actually qualify, but many of them never tested.
“It is not as out of reach as some people might believe it to be,” she said.
Mensa membership is diverse. “When you have a social organization whose only criteria for entrance is IQ, you get people from ALL walks of life. It’s scientists, teachers, stay-at-home parents, machinists, artists, welders, doctor’s, Boomers, Millennials, Gen-X, elementary school students, anyone!” she said.
How a Liberal Arts Education Prepared Her for Many Careers
Pira received a B.A. in International Studies with a minor in Philosophy from UST. She is a work-from-home mom who has her own web design and content company KPCreative.
“While I may not have gone into the foreign service (which was my intent as an 18 year old), being put in the position of having to write an undergraduate thesis really honed my natural talent for writing,” she said. “I’ve done MANY things since graduating from college, but the one thing I seem to always come back to is writing. I’ve been a staff writer for a financial website, a freelance blogger, and now a web design and marketing consultant for small businesses.
Pira credits her UST education with helping prepare her for daily life in so many ways.
“I was made to think critically,” she said. “As my education progressed, I learned how to gauge credibility and conduct sound research. Not only is this at the crux of what I do for most writing jobs, it’s helped me navigate our new reality as Americans. Social media was in its infancy when I was completing my degree at UST. And though I didn’t know it at the time, when I graduated, I was so much better equipped to handle the daily onslaught of information, misinformation, and everything else that is our new normal,” Pira said.
Liberal Arts Education Opens the Door to Explore
“Ultimately, what made UST so appealing and enjoyable to me was the well-rounded nature of the curriculum,” she said. “My desire to learn or do EVERYTHING can be a bit of a blessing and a curse – I’ll throw my full effort behind most anything I learn, but I’ll never be a specialist (a fact I’ve come to accept about myself). While I had my area of focus within the International Studies program, I never felt confined by my course load. UST always encouraged me to study subjects outside of my major, and even within my major, I was given the freedom to explore the core subject matter in less conventional ways.”
Continual Learning with a Volunteer Spirit
“If there’s anything I’ve learned from being a Mensan, it’s that everyone’s experience of Mensa is unique to them,” she said. “For me, it’s been an incredible volunteering opportunity as well as a source for personal and professional growth. The organization is entirely volunteer run, with the exception of the American Mensa head office. What that means is that you get out of the organization what you put into it.”
“I’ve held positions on the Gulf Coast Mensa Board of Directors, volunteered as director of Programs for our annual convention (SynRG), helped launch our chapter’s community service program, and organized scholarship fundraisers. In fact, Mensa is where I got my start in web design, performing work on the chapter’s website as a volunteer. Membership has provided me so many opportunities to hone skills and practice leadership, and I worked hard at it.
“On the other side of that, I’ve made some amazing lifelong friends in the organization. Mensa is first and foremost a social organization, meant to provide a common connection for high IQ individuals, and I’ve had a blast opening myself up to different experiences and new people, Pira said.
“At the end of the day, our IQs don’t make us any more or less special than the next person, but there is an almost child-like openness or curiosity among members that I’m hard pressed to find elsewhere,” Pira said. “We love to learn and there’s something empowering about finding people who believe there’s no such thing as useless information."
With that said, Pira invites UST professors to add to their knowledge bank by participating in this year’s SynRG Gathering. Everyone is welcome, so see you there and bring your curiosity.