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IdeaFestival returns to WKU for the 11th year


Around 850 students from across the state attended WKU’s IdeaFestival on Thursday, Feb. 15. 

“I can’t tell you what jobs will be there when you’re out of college,” Elizabeth Joyce, the assistant director of programming said.“There’s jobs being created all the time but if you’re a creative thinker, critical thinker, you work well with other people, and you can communicate, it doesn’t matter what they tell you – you will find that job. ”

The reasoning behind the creation of IdeaFestival was  to show that there is more out there for students than just the typical jobs they have heard about and has been designed to inspire. 

From 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. middle and high school students attended a series of speaker sessions in Van Meter Hall. This year, five individuals shared their stories of success to students. This may not be the stereotypical route to success that students have heard of in the past. 

John Mittel, a University of Louisville Medical School graduate, put off his residency because he developed caffeinated water, called Phocus and has since partnered with Jack Harlow. 

Kesi Neblett is a Gatton Academy student who went on to graduate from Columbia University as a division one volleyball captain and computer science major. She went on to star in Netflix’s newest reality TV show, “The Mole”. 

“The idea to me is to let the kids see what’s out there and what’s possible,” Joyce said. “You may think you’re going to be a doctor. But suddenly, you take this complete pivot, and that’s how you’re like doing caffeinated water. And it’s okay, it’s okay to say I put…four very expensive years into medicine and I’ve decided I’m not going to do that either. I like for them to hear about the journey, to see what’s possible.”

“They [the speakers] gave us insight on leadership and how good ideas have impacted their lives,” Brady Glen, a sophomore from Marshall County said. “We got to listen to that and it’s very motivating.” 

Andee Rudloff, an artist based in Nashville has attended the event for the past 11 years. She created a large black and white mural for students to paint, the only rule is to never have the same color touching. She is going to donate the mural that is created to one of the schools that attends the event, as a reminder that anything is possible. 

“What this process does, I truly believe, is ignites your creative confidence,” Rudloff said.  “Too many people lose that creative confidence. They feel like ‘I can’t paint, I can’t draw’ and here, everybody can put a little bit on and be part of creating a mural.”

Other activities that students could partake in included a 3D printing lab, coding and designing, AI robotics data, creating solar eclipse glasses, exploring virtual reality, medical exploration, stop motion and ozobot coding, learning to use weather instruments, and much more.

Keith Philips, a professor from WKU’s biology department, has been attending the festival for three years. His station allowed students to explore and learn more about the insects that inhabit the earth. He brought an extensive collection of insects for students to inspect, most of the bugs he collected himself through his travels. 

Philips enjoys interacting with the students who come by his station and teaching them “all the cool things about bugs.”

“It’s helping a lot of young people find fun stuff that they want to do,” Jett Seidal,  a sophomore from Marshall County said. “It’s helping (future) leaders come into their positions better, and it’s really cool that they’re doing stuff like this.”

Not only does this event inspire students regarding future job opportunities but it also introduces them to WKU’s campus. 

“Just kind of look around, I mean, we’re all close to this area so this might be a college we attend,” Glen said. “So it’s cool to be here and get to see everything.” 

News Reporter Izzy Lanuza can be reached at [email protected]


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