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July 21, 2010
By Jane Tors
Every summer the University of Nevada, Reno campus becomes a temporary home to some of our nation’s brightest young minds. This year, the THINK Summer Institute, a three-week residential summer program sponsored by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, is attended by 60 gifted and talented students, ages 13-16, from across the country.
The seventh annual 2010 THINK Summer Institute is in session July 10-31, and provides these students an intensive, full-immersion college experience and an opportunity to earn transferable college credits by taking courses taught by University faculty members.
This is the first year Melissa Burnham, associate professor in the College of Education’s Department of Psychology, Counseling and Human Development, has been part of the THINK faculty, and she is energized by the experience and the level of student motivation.
“They are curious, motivated and come with a wealth of knowledge on which to build, without having had formal prerequisites,” Burnham said of the THINK students. “I normally enjoy teaching, but these kids make it even more challenging, fun and fulfilling.”
“This is a different experience than any I have had in my nine years at UNR,” she said. “In fact, it’s different from any teaching experience I have ever had, including teaching in other University settings.”
Burnham’s class, Human Development – Mind, Brain and Learning, is proving to be as insightful for the instructor as for the students.
“Because they have had both traditional and relatively nontraditional experiences, they are particularly well-equipped to comment on the differences and the implications of these differences for learning,” she said. “I look forward to hearing their thoughts on these topics, and perhaps initiating some application of what we have learned and what we might do to start reforming education as a whole. While this is a daunting task, what better population to inform the discussion than a group of exceptionally gifted individuals with personal experience?”
Each THINK student takes two classes. In addition to Burnham’s class, the options include Public Health Biology, Computer Science, Statistics, Philosophy and Nano and Micro Technology.
“We are excited to have more students attending THINK this year than ever before,” said Jan Davidson, who founded the Davidson Institute for Talent Development with her husband, Bob. “This increase means more profoundly gifted students will not only be academically challenged this summer, but they will also be making long-lasting connections with same-age, intellectual peers.”
Former educational software entrepreneurs turned philanthropists, Bob and Jan Davidson founded the Davidson Institute for Talent Development in 1999 to support profoundly gifted students under the age of 18. In 2006, the Davidson’s gave $16 million to the University, of which $11 million went toward the Davidson Mathematics and Science Center, which opens to classes in August 2010. Their gift also established The Davidson Academy of Nevada. Housed in the University’s Jot Travis Building, The Davidson Academy is the first public school of its kind for profoundly gifted students.