John Brems, left, and Justin Ullman, center, contemplate a point made by Shayan Milani during a meeting of the new UA Olympia Academy club.


At the first meeting of the Olympia Academy, students discussed such topics as the nature of knowledge, the rise of technology, morality, ethics, science versus religion and the saying "everything happens for a reason."

The creators of the new club at the University of Arizona aim to bring back a sense of intellectualism to the university that they think has been missing. They meet weekly for intellectual conversations on a wide array of topics including math, science, religion and politics.

Their first meeting as a UA club was Jan. 25. The club was created in homage to Albert Einstein, who created the first Olympia Academy.

Besides stimulating conversation, the club offers exposure to knowledge and information that goes beyond the walls of the classroom.

"School gives you the tools to get a job, to make money, to survive," said Charlie Maxwell, a junior majoring in math and physics and a co-creator of the club. "But there's more to life than that and school doesn't prepare you for any of it."

The creators said the club is for the open exchange of ideas.

"We want to hear everyone's opinions," said Taylor Siebenberg, a co-creator of the club and a junior majoring in math and physics. "It's a lot more to work with and you can really see the bigger picture. You can make the world more clear for you."

Justin Ullman, an original member of Olympia Academy and a junior majoring in math, said the club lets students think critically and draw their own conclusions.

When the group was drafting its constitution, "it was most important that we had a section about trying to stay calm and rational and question yourself as much as you question others," Ullman said.

Raymond Sanchez, an original member of Olympia Academy and a sophomore majoring in neuroscience, said he feels strongly about the club's goals.

"The idea is that there's not enough open-minded, intelligent conversation between people," Sanchez said. "Most of the encounters you have with people on a daily basis are very superficial."

Although Olympia Academy had its first official on-campus meeting Jan. 25, the group has been gathering for discussion since Sept. 21. The co-creators and original members were excited to become a UA club because of the opportunity to invite more students to the discussions.

"Everyone has something to say," Maxwell said, "and we're just trying to get people to come out and say it."

Ullman said he believes the club shapes young minds.

"Members of Olympia Academy attend meetings because they want to grow their mind, be more intelligent, be well-spoken," Ullman said. "That's the function I think Olympia Academy serves - intellectual growth."

Students who have attended meetings have taken a liking to the club and its idea, Siebenberg said.

"You better yourself, learn how to communicate well, learn how to portray your mind and learn how to convey your ideas to everyone," Siebenberg said.

Members not only have the opportunity to converse with peers, but also with UA professors from different departments. John Pollard, director of the general chemistry department, is the club's faculty adviser.

"Dr. Pollard is a great addition to the group," Siebenberg said. "He draws attention, keeps the conversation unified and has a lot of knowledge to bring to us."

The members are so excited about the club's future that they suspect other college kids will love the concept, too. "I personally want to see it expand farther than just UA," Siebenberg said.

Drew McCullough is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact him at 573-4117 or at