Mid-Year Update by Aaron

An up-close look at what Ei's been up to in 2019.

Aaron Wilson-Ahlstrom

Director of Programs

 

Aaron here. You don’t see me too often on the blog. I enjoy being one of the quieter ones at Ei. I’ve been here since 2013 as the Director of Programs, which is a fancy way of saying that I’ve helped to design and facilitate the over 400(!) classes we’ve taught over the years.

I’ve always loved learning and am an unapologetic nerd. I’d rather play board games on a Friday night than hang out at a bar, prefer How Stuff Works to Game of Thrones, and am the type of parent that thinks a one-week Chinese language immersion camp is a fun family vacation (yes, we did that one summer).

I also love meeting and working with people when they’re learning – when Ei is hosting a Leaps workshop and people are talking about what gives them life, where they want to be in the future, and brainstorming ways to take their next steps, the feeling for me is electric.

So, Director of Programs at an experiential learning organization is a great fit for me. And today I wanted to share a more detailed look at what Ei has been doing this year. Let’s dive in together

For Starters…

Ei exists is to establish experience as a credible form of learning. We believe working on real projects and problems is when individuals and teams learn the most about their work, their world, and themselves. So we spend our days designing experiential programs and workshops for two groups:

  1. Colleges & Universities

  2. The Workplace

We currently working alongside teams at Stanford, UC Berkeley, and roughly a dozen companies. Grab your favorite beverage and let’s dig into each area…

The Experience Lab at UC Berkeley

Did you know over 50% of college graduates remain under-employed or unemployed a year after graduating college? Students finish college with energy, passion, and drive that could be used to help solve problems and grow organizations. Instead, that energy turns into desperation, fear, and confusion when they can’t find their way. It’s like teaching students to swim in a pool for sixteen years and then tossing them into the ocean. They need more practice swimming in open water as part of their degree, or just after graduation.

So two years ago, we teamed up with our good friend Matt Meltzer at Sage Corps to create a post-college work/study program that helps recent graduates learn skills in trending jobs and then launch into a field experience in one of fifteen global cities.

Then last year, we approached UC Berkeley as our first university partner, received the green light, and opened applications. Ever since, we’ve been reviewing hundreds of candidates for the founding class this fall. It’s been amazing to meet students around the world who are ready to jump into a new program and develop more clarity and skills for their next career steps.

We’ve already starting to interview candidates for the Spring 2020 program. If you know a recent college graduate, send them our way.

To learn more about the program visit: explab.berkeley.edu

Stanford Project

Two years ago, we began working closely with a team at Stanford interested in helping students take a “gap” year or quarter. We’ve been running experiments to figure out which resources and structures are needed to support students in developing their own learning experiences in the field. The easiest time and place to really test these concepts is actually the summer — a season when students have very little scaffolding. There is a real need for students to have the support and space to think more intentionally about what they might do, where they might gain experience, and what questions they want to answer.

Victor’s been leading the charge on this work, and we’ve spent the year teaching workshops on self awareness, storytelling, community building, and career navigation — skills to help students launch into meaningful work experiences.

We’ve also built software for companies to post summer projects that students can work on. As we write, the 40 Product Design students in this year’s cohort are now in their various experiences around the world. Throughout the summer, alums from the Product Design program will host check-in calls to help students pause, reflect, and consider how what they’re learning can fuel their next steps.

Workplace Learning for Leaders & Teams

Our flagship program is still The Leaps program — a part-time, 60-day innovation program focused on creating change. This fall, we’ll be leading the program at four different companies simultaneously. We’ve also begun creating shorter learning experiences (1/2 day and 1-day), for managers, leaders, and new hires. On the side, we’re neck-deep in a self-designed research project on the future of workplace learning. So every week, we’re sharing coffee conversations with leaders who support learning and development at their organizations. It’s been eye-opening and exciting to practice what we teach and become students again.

School Districts

We continue to get calls from school leaders who want to make learning more experiential and self-directed for their students. This past year we re-designed the Leap Map with prompts for middle and high school students. There’s a growing effort in schools to provide students with more opportunities such as capstone projects, after-school clubs, and initiatives for freshmen students—all to plan and carry out self-directed projects. The Leap Map has been a simple and powerful tool to support that work.

Making a New Product

Most of you have heard about the new card game we’re designing, What’s Worth Doing. After a deeper dive with students and friends, we uncovered a slight shift to the game that would make a big impact. That change pushed back our launch by 3 months but we think it’s going to make the game more unique and helpful. Can’t wait to share more!

The Ei Crew

All of this incredible work is being done by a team of over a dozen remarkable people — some full-time and some part-time — who are located all over the world. You’ll meet more of them throughout the coming months here on Wednesday Words or through the Ei Instagram.

What’s happening next?

Glad you asked!

  • New Course Catalog for workplace learning will be released next month.
  • The Kickstarter for What’s Worth Doing will launch later this summer.
  • Founding class of The Experience Lab will be gathering for the first time on September 5th in Berkeley.
  • 40 students in the Stanford Design Summer program will finish their pilot and present out their work at the end of September.

If you made it this far, you’re awesome. Really. We love this work and feel beyond grateful to have this community of friends, accomplices, change-makers, and all-around-good-people alongside of us. Thanks for being here!

posted by

Aaron Wilson-Ahlstrom

Director of Programs

As Director of Programs, Aaron provides leadership and coordination for Ei’s college and workplace programming, and advises on K12 programming.

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