North Dakota's Mensa Chapter would like to have an active chapter in Minot like those in Dickinson and Grand Forks, said Ann Knudson.
Knudson, from Bismarck, administered tests on Sunday at the Minot Public Library to people interested in joining the organization. Mensa admits people who can score in the top 2 percent on accepted intelligence tests. Knudson said Mensa is both a social organization and a group that researches high intelligence. Some chapters also offer scholarships to members.
Only two people were expected to take the test on Sunday and there are currently only two Minot members, but the hope is that more people will get interested. A local member of the group is training as a proctor so the test could be offered again locally. There is a statewide retreat for Mensa members held in Valley City every June.
Kera Rolsen, from Minot Air Force Base, has been a member of the organization since 2009. She is currently deployed, so she said it has hard to participate in local activities.
She originally joined because she wanted to meet others like her.
"I'm a U.S. Air Force member and I work with some exceptionally smart people every day," she said in an e-mail. "However, I want to meet more people outside of the military that I could interact with socially and intellectually."
Rolsen remembers taking two tests to qualify for membership.
"The testing process involves two tests; however, you only have to 'pass' one to be accepted," she wrote. "The first test is the short test and it involves a set number of questions that get progressively harder to answer. The goal is to complete as many answers as possible in the time allotted. The second test is closer to traditional standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. There are several timed sections assessing different aspects of intelligence: logic, visual matching, language comprehension, math and memory. I was very disappointed in how I did in the math section because I only answered two questions! I was so caught up in trying to remember the equation for the area of a circle that I ran out of time."
Knudson said she used her old SAT scores to join Mensa about 10 years after
she graduated from college.
The SAT test has changed now so that it is no longer accepted as a qualifying test, Knudson said. The test administered on Sunday was intended for people ages 14 and up, but Knudson said other tests can be used for admission.
The organization has members as young as age 3. Mensa members are of all ages, races, and interests. Knudson said it's one of the most democratic organizations she's ever belonged to since the only requirement is to score in the top 2 percent once on an intelligence test. By coincidence, Knudson discovered that some of the online friends she plays games with on Facebook are also members of Mensa.
Rolsen, who is originally from Carrboro, N.C., said she enjoys getting the Mensa magazine and is hoping the organization will be a resource for her when she has children and begins raising a family. She said gifted education was somewhat lacking during her own school days.
"When I was in sixth grade, my mother got a call from the school requesting a parent-teacher conference," Rolsen wrote. "My math teacher had noticed that I wasn't paying attention in class, I was being disruptive, and I didn't seem to be grasping the lessons. The faculty was afraid that I was slow and wanted to broach the subject of putting me in a class for the developmentally disabled with my mother. She assured them that that was not the case.
"As proof, she showed them all of my homework -- not all of it completed to date, but all of the homework for the year," she said. "The teacher had given us a list of homework and due dates the first week and I had completed it by the end of the first month. I was acting out because I was bored. Unfortunately, there were no advanced classes to put me in. I wasn't fully challenged in school until my junior and senior years in high school when I could finally start taking (Advanced Placement) and honors classes.
"So, while the school was fully prepared to deal with me for being slow, they really had nothing in place for the opposite end of the spectrum," she said. "In the end, the best solution they could manage was to let me teach class once a week.
"I think these kinds of experiences are another reason I joined Mensa," she said. "I want to be able to gather information for when my husband and I start raising a family so that I can help foster my children's intelligence. I've found a lot of information on how to enrich a child's home learning environment."
One criticism leveled at schools in the era of No Child Left Behind is that programs for high achievers have languished while schools focus attention on boosting the achievement of lower performing students. Rolsen said in her experience most schools are not set up to handle exceptionally bright children regardless of the No Child Left Behind law.
"My recommendation (to schools) would be to offer more advanced placement classes and at lower grade levels," Rolsen said. "Gifted children should have no problems passing a standardized test so the focus of their education should be to let them proceed at their own pace and offering a broad range of fields to study."