Sign of the times: K-State alum prompts students to think deeply with whiteboard questions

Jacob Friesen on Kansas State campus in Manhattan, Kan. on Oct. 31, 2017. Freisen is a recent graduate in Agribusiness and comes to campus to ask students life question. (Photo by Olivia Rogers | Collegian Media Group)

“How would you change the world? Do people have real value? Can you pursue joy too much?”

These tough questions are exactly what Jacob Friesen, a recent Kansas State graduate in agribusiness, wants to ask. Students passing by Ackert Hall can see Friesen and his thought-provoking questions written on a sign every day.

“In college, life happens so quickly — you’re making major decisions, you’re always busy,” Friesen said. “What’s really important gets overlooked.”

During his freshman year of college, Friesen said he began to realize how much his view on life was being challenged. Friesen grew up in a Christian home, but he realized he always took his life for granted.

“There are so many influences, from professors to people in your residence halls,” Friesen said. “As students, our minds are changing and our thought patterns are changing. We’re out of our comfort zone. We need to stimulate discussions about that and about how to live the best way possible. I was challenged at college with big questions.”

Friesen said there is a misconception that college students do not want to discuss the “big questions” of life, and he wanted to challenge it by standing outside of Ackert Hall with his bike, his backpack and a whiteboard. Each day, there’s a different philosophical question written on the sign designed to stimulate conversation and challenge assumptions.

Typically, about four to six people stop and engage with Friesen directly. He said he has talked for over an hour with one student before, debating about the exact meaning and interpretation of a question.

“People tend to have a well-rounded answer,” Friesen said.

Although the vast majority of students don’t stop, the questions still spark discussions.

“Even when people don’t stop to talk to me, I often hear them ask the person they’re with,” Friesen said. “It starts discussions.”

Friesen grew up on a farm in the small town of Overbrook, Kansas. He is a legacy K-Stater; his siblings, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents attended the school, going all the way back to when the school was known as the Kansas Agricultural College.

Perhaps the biggest thing Friesen wants to emphasize with his sign is that there is no need to be intimidated by different people with different backgrounds, religions or beliefs. Friesen said the family atmosphere at K-State allows students to seek truth together, and he said he believes you can disagree with someone and still be friends with them.

“General morality is a big and … messy topic,” Friesen said. “The foundations for living and morality are being questioned.”

The next time you see Friesen and his sign, don’t be afraid to start a discussion. These questions and how they are answered will be a true sign of the times.

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