I get two distinct reactions when I explain my year at Experience Institute. I start with my elevator pitch: I’m designing my own master’s degree over the course of the year with three three-month apprenticeships in biomimicry. Two-week meet-ups before and after each apprenticeship in Chicago are set up to support reflection and refueling with the rest of my 14-person cohort who are studying a range of topics in design, business and social impact. It usually makes sense to then offer up a little sidebar about the basic premise of biomimicry and why it is so fascinating to me (whole ‘nother blog post). After this there is an immediate fork in the road—those who resonate with the idea of a self-made masters degree in a field that most people have never heard of… and those who don’t see the appeal.
As for the latter group, I can understand where they might see holes, quick sand, land mines in what is truly a non-traditional program. I understand because I put a lot of effort into grasping what the potential risks and downsides may be. I imagine the people who don’t see the value in my undertaking are thinking about questions like:
- Is this a good investment of time and money?
- Why can’t you do this on your own?
- What about your job and career?
- What are the promised skills and outcomes?
- But is this program accredited?
- Aren’t you scared?
I’ve worked through all these questions with a lot of research, soul searching, and conversations with smart people inside and out of Experience Institute. The result is whole-hearted alignment with the other group of people who respond to the introduction of my upcoming year with simply, “that’s awesome.” They (and I) say that because we recognize the opportunities that come with such a challenge. I have real fears about all of this, not least of which is walking into a world of unknowns about how the year will play out. But this is the kind of fear we are meant to walk directly toward, instead of run away from. This is how I want to live my life.
Here are the reasons why designing my own master’s degree with Experience Institute is truly an opportunity of a lifetime:
- I have genuine ownership of my education
- I can work with experts regardless of their location or institution
- Education through experience is more effective for how I learn
- I am surrounded by fiercely smart people who care about what they do and how they learn
- Planning both the broad framework, as well as the details of my education, brings an entirely different depth of learning
- There are intentional opportunities ingrained into the program to address my personal growth, not just my professional development
- I am able to explore biomimicry in a way that no other current higher education program offers
- No matter what, this year will not be boring
My definition of success is simple: work toward living my values everyday: health, creativity, work, freedom. Keeping this top of mind, I’m certain the unknowns will work themselves out, the projects and apprenticeships that I choose/earn will bring entirely new ideas into the fold, and I’ll continue to solidify what my life after Experience Institute looks like. Bring it.