May 06, 2013

Meeting Stanford

Last January, at a small party in Chicago, I met a spunky Stanford student from Sweden named Erik Olesund. Our similar interests in caring for people and designing a better world made us fast friends. We spoke about his time at Stanford and his work with a small class entitled the FEED Collaborative. As I shared about The Leap Year Project and the initial ideas for Experience Institute, he mentioned that there might be an interest in working together.

“I got it! You should come speak at Stanford.”

I was flattered, but I was unsure of how I would fit.

“No really. Stanford is focusing on how experiential education becomes more ingrained into our on-campus experience and how it benefits education at large. A lot of people are talking about it right now. You need to come share your story!”

Over the following months, we laid out plans for me to join Matthew Rothe, Debra Dunn, and Erik’s friends Sarah & Denis for a workshop we entitled, “Designing the Future of Education.” We put up posters around campus and posted an application to attend the class. Within the first few days, we had double the applicants as we had space!

Finally, 26 students joined the three-hour workshop. It was a crash course in Design Thinking, a problem solving method created by David Kelley, and a brainstorming session about education reformation. The class was bustling with questions, conversation, sticky notes, sharpies, and flipping pages.

While preparing for and executing the workshop, we heard both their perspective on the current educational models and the excitement around reimagining education by creating a simple framework around real-world experiences. People are interested in pursuing an education that not only teaches them information, but also gives them a community and a story that helps define their values and mission.

Though the workshop was a highlight, some of the most impactful parts of my time at Stanford came in the days surrounding the event. I met with a slew of bright, passionate professors and staff members. I was able to ask questions and hear their perspective on Experiential Education. It was exciting, even uncanny, how pertinent our ideas around Experience Institute are. In nearly every conversation -- with students, professors, and even David Kelley himself, there was a confirmation that the arena of experiential education is necessary, but still a vastly uncharted territory. The conversations spanned from experiential learning in elementary schools to creating high-tech web applications to align and match students with real-world experiences.

My mind is still spinning from last week’s trip. It was unlike anything I have ever done, and I’m incredibly grateful to Erik, the FEED Collaborative, and the staff at the d.School for the opportunity to join them.

I’ll share more in the coming days, but just know that Ei's sails are set and full. We’re onto something special and we’re excited you’re here at the beginning.

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