Seventh Annual HYPE Conference at UNH


Sarah Eastland, Senior Staff Photographer, Editor

by Sarah Eastland

1,300 students and staff from New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine, and even skyped in from Germany attended a conference on philosophy and social issues this Thursday at UNH Durham. This is the 7th annual Hosting Young Philosophy Enthusiasts, or HYPE, conference. This event is hosted by the Souhegan High School Ethics Forum in partnership with the Spaulding High School Praxis society and Bedford High School HYPE organization.

HYPE is aimed at introducing students to healthy productive discussions on relevant philosophical issues through small scale socratic discussions lead by a trained facilitator from Souhegan, Spaulding, or Bedford. Not only does HYPE encourage thoughtful dialogue but it also builds important relationships between schools and students from across the state that last far longer than the day itself. Student’s are not the only ones to learn from this day though, faculty and staff will also be participating in seminars with each other and with students. They will be discussing this year’s EQ like the student only groups but they will also be talking with students about how they can bring clubs like Ethics Forum to their own schools.

When HYPE began in 2010 the conference only included about 100 students including the entirety of Souhegan Ethics Forum. In the past 7 years however, the program has gained 1,200 participants and has moved from the Souhegan Annex to the UNH Recreation Hall, the largest rentable event space at UNH besides the Whittemore Center.  Souhegan Ethics Forum is now partnered with University of New Orleans, Saint Anselm’s College, and UNH, and the teachers in charge of Ethics Forum, Chris Brooks and Amy Pham have been invited to attend the University of Chicago’s version of HYPE in May.

Every year there is a new essential question posed and this year HYPE leadership chose, “What does it mean to be a responsible citizen?”, there are also 5 sub- EQ’s to encourage further thought and discussion by the participants and to help facilitators lead healthy discourse. EQ’s and sub-EQ’s are chosen by students– just like with everything at HYPE. The event is entirely student run and organized, with only a handful of faculty advisors, as it has been from the very beginning.

Students brought a wide range of personal stories to each of their small discussion groups, making each entirely different from the next, which is exactly the point says HYPE MC Lindsey Hagerstrom, “The goal is that in a small group format with people they don’t know, students will gain an understanding, a different perspective, on life… in different areas.”

Key-note speaker former governor John Lynch also touched on this idea of understanding. He listed off 6 characteristics that make responsible citizens during his speech and the most important of these he says is being is being able to work with people you may not always agree with, “It is important to learn from each other, working together, debating the issues, talking about the issues, regardless of political parties or persuasions of ideology”.

Many students echoed this idea during discussions. One group lead by Dylan Morneau spoke of the importance of educating others, being respectful, and not attacking each other despite potential disagreements. “It is the duty of a responsible citizen to be informed before stating their opinion… and they must have the intent to inform [when stating their opinion]” said one student.


As the day’s activities came to an end and exhausted student organized closed up shop, the preparations for next year’s HYPE conference had already begun. A new partnership with UNH has opened even larger doors for Souhegan Ethics Forum, and they are hoping to continue to grow this event every year.