Mind-bending list still points people to Beloit College
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Click here to view the entire mindset list for the class of 2015.
BELOIT Ron Nief and Tom McBride weren't aiming to build a better mousetrap, but nevertheless, the world now beats a path to their door each year.
The two men wrote their first Beloit College Mindset list in 1998. They didn't even think the list would ever leave the college's oak-shaded precincts.
Boy, were they wrong.
Today, the list is the topic of lively conversations from Vienna to Johannesburg, not to mention coast to coast in the U.S.
It's been a publicity windfall for Beloit College. Prospective students and their parents from all over the country know about the college because of two things, Nief said: The book "Colleges that Change Lives," and the Mindset List.
"It draws people here. People know about it, and thus they know about Beloit College," Nief said.
A small college doesn't have the world-renowned biologist or economist to address the major questions of the day, Nief said, so the small college has to find other ways to become known.
The Beloit International Film Festival serves that purpose on another level, Nief noted.
Nief retired in 2009 as director of public affairs at Beloit College. McBride is a professor of English and the humanities.
The two were just hoping in 1998 to bridge the gap between the incoming freshmen that year and their professors who might not have realized that their new students have a profoundly different world view.
Professors couldn't just say "Vietnam War" to conjure up a whole set of memories, for example, because the 18-year-olds of 1998 came of age long after that war ended.
Today, McBride and Nief are talk show regulars whose website recorded 1.2 million hits last year.
Educators, marketers, preachers, all the branches of military service and the Texas Highway Patrol have used the list to help their people understand the mindset of the current crop of 18-year-olds.
And every year, college deans and others are champing at the bit to get the new list so they can use it for back-to-school speeches.
The pair recently released a book that uses their idea to explore further back in time. It's called "The Mindset List of American History."
McBride said the college admissions office displays copies of the book.
"It's the college's way of signaling that we care about 18-year-olds; we care about student development; we are interested not just in the intellectual lives but also in the diverse social lives of incoming students," McBride said.
They've also found ways to use the lists to teach history. Students at Beloit Memorial High School interview older family members to come up with their own lists and then research the history of those periods to put their lists into perspective.
It's a way of showing young people that they, too, will one day be a part of history, McBride said.
For the two aging men, studying the mindsets of the young has been a stimulating occupation in their later years. It also helps McBride accept his ultimate fate.
"I think the more you study history, you sense how things do move into oblivion," McBride said. "You begin to get comfortable with that, and there's a certain serenity, and you realize you're going to be moving into oblivion."