December 27, 2013

Rambling without Fear and Planning Life as He Goes

Dane Johnson’s biggest fear is talking to people.

“I’m afraid of talking to people, yet, I tend to do a lot of that,” says Johnson. “But when I stop doing it, I realize wow, this is actually scary.”

Yet, Johnson’s personal blog, Ramble with a Plan, is filled with highlights from his different interactions, especially conversations with unique individuals who cross his path. A natural writer, these interactions are what will fuel and define Johnson’s yearlong program with Experience Institute.

Johnson is one of the six students in the founding class of Experience Institute. A native of Northern California, Johnson graduated from William Jessup University in 2008 and has been experiencing life as informally as possible ever since. Experience Institute (Ei) will be one of his more “structured” ventures since college. However, Ei is far from a traditional, regimented education. Its program is rooted in education through experience, something Johnson is well accustomed to.

After high school, Johnson backpacked for six months in Europe before attending college. And after earning his undergraduate degree, he travelled to East Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. “I loved school and learning and sitting in a classroom and talking about things. But I found travelling to be more transformative.” Travelling, Johnson believes, gave him a more “well rounded view of the world.” This came into play when Johnson was ready return to a formalized education and choose a graduate program.

“I had no intention of applying to Experience Institute,” Johnson explained. “How I heard about it is such a random event.” The program was recommended by a friend of Johnson who met Victor Saad, the founder of Ei, while on the road with the Better Together tour­—a nationwide tour that highlighted individuals in different states who were bettering their communities.

“I wasn’t sold,” said Johnson, laughing. “I kept wondering how an ‘unproven program’ was going to benefit me in the real world.” Johnson ended up applying to Ei and a traditional program. He is thrilled with his decision to follow through with Ei.

“Even this far, Ei has taught me some important lessons. Like that everyone is human and we all share that basic level of humanity.” In planning for his individualized, yearlong program, Johnson decided to get in touch with this broader sense of humanity through “communication,” specifically via blogging and interviewing people.

The Ei program is based upon three different apprenticeships, which are hinged upon the theme of the student’s choosing. Because “communication” serves as Johnson’s theme, his first apprenticeship is a one-month storytelling campaign for a programming school in Chicago—an interview web series highlighting women in the field of programming. Simultaneously, Johnson will be working on copywriting for Saad’s initial brainchild, the Leap Year Project website as well the Ei website.

Johnson’s second apprenticeship is currently in the works. There is a possibility that Dane may partner his digital branding and marketing skills with the global consulting firm, Sapient. Sapient has an office in Santa Monica, close to Johnson’s home territory. That being said, Johnson’s third apprenticeship is still a mystery but considering his initiative thus far, will be in fruition soon.

Johnson said that he “came to Chicago on a one way ticket,” to start a new chapter. He won’t be turning back until his own story comes full circle.

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