Where Students Can Learn “On Purpose” with Wayfinding Academy Part 1
When Michelle Jones gave her last lecture at the Concordia University in Portland, Oregon, she shared her imminent endeavor with her audience: starting a college that was an alternative to traditional institutions.
Gina Lorubbio, a brand manager, who was sitting in the audience absorbed Michelle’s message and enthusiasm, loved it and knew she was going to be part of it.
Today, Michelle, Gina and a team of change makers are in the process of accepting applications for their dream come true: the Wayfinding Academy, a two-year college at the heart of a movement to re-imagine higher education.
Michelle’s last lecture was the culmination of about a decade of thinking and trying to change higher education from within the system – a quest Michelle had to realize was too hard to accomplish. Early on in her career, she had come to see that the role she was in with students as a full-time professor wasn’t quite the mentor role she expected and desperately wanted it to be.
About two years ago, she started getting together in a colleague’s kitchen having big philosophical conversations about higher education. These discussions led to them taking the leap to create their own college realizing the ideas and qualities they thought to be crucial for college and beyond.
They began to take all the necessary steps involved with such a big undertaking – from doing all the paperwork, which took a lot of grit and patience, to fundraising, to becoming one of the highest funded Indigogo campaigns in the history of Oregon, and finding a building that will serve as their new campus. At the same time, they began hosting labs in the community; which are workshops by experts on specific topics that are open to the community, as a way of serving them.
The Wayfinding Academy isn’t just meant to be a college, it is the beginning of a movement to revolutionize higher education and that is where Gina’s expertise lies. Having had her own challenges in college and with finding her way and purpose, Gina now leads the Wayfinding team as a brand strategist.
Jonathan Field’s manifesto called The Art of Revolution inspired Gina and helped her to understand what it takes to build a movement addressing questions like “how do we tap into the hearts of people?” or “how do we resonate most deeply about our shared experience?”
In our conversation, we discuss the following topics:
- The Wayfinding Academy creed, which is powerful and emotional
- The 4 tenets of the Wayfinding Academy:
- 9 Core Courses designed to give graduates all the skills and qualities they need to be a good citizen of the world.
- Community engagement: “Portland is our campus.”
- The Advocate Program: every week a student will meet with their advocate whose job it is to guide the person through their education
- The Portfolio: students will continually develop their portfolio while they’re studying. At the end of the two years, they’ll end up with a rich representation of who they are, what they’re capable of and what they want to do in the world.
- The Luminaries Program
- The challenges that go into creating a college from scratch
- The process of buying a building
- The general dealing with the unknown and uncertainty
- The positive surprises along the way
- The response of the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission Process has been quite wonderful despite the challenges of them building something that looks and acts and sounds and talks differently than the current system.
If you are interested in enrolling for the Wayfinding Academy, there is a rolling application process but the staff will begin to review applications by the end of April. You can find out more here: http://www.wayfindingacademy.org/become-a-student/