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Areas of Practice

Towards a College of Practice

Extending and Deepening Liberal Arts Learning through a College of Practice [1]

The vision for Antioch@175 as a new kind of American College [2] is best described by the set of living and learning practices, which intentionally shape our community in relationship to the world.

The concern for the education of the whole person, which is the cornerstone of liberal arts learning [3], remains at the center of our college of practice. It addresses foundational questions of how we:

  • Learn to know,
  • Learn to make and do,
  • Learn to live together, and
  • Learn to balance the development of meaningful, healthy inner and outer lives.

A college of practice cultivates the habits of learning, doing, living and being in the world in experientially rich ways. It serves as a laboratory where students offer, test and develop thinking and action in praxis-based environments.

As a consequence of this kind of learning, students move from passive consumers of knowledge to active producers and shapers of knowledge and understanding, they extend beyond simply knowing to knowing- how.

In a college of practice students have a high degree of agency, and therefore, greater individual and shared responsibility to co-create their educations. This requires ongoing and deep collaboration with faculty, staff, other students, alumni and members of the community at large.


Five Areas of Practice at Antioch College

The five areas of practice emphasized at Antioch College were developed through a participatory design process (know as FACT—Framework for Antioch College’s Transition) launched in August 2016 immediately following the College’s successful efforts to gain accreditation. The areas of practice arise from Antioch’s liberal arts roots, ethical values, longstanding commitments and an assessment of how the College’s current resources might best be channeled to prepare students to address critical world problems. In June 2017, the Board of Trustees endorsed the areas of practice framework. A related redesign of the curriculum and academic calendar was completed by the faculty and administration and approved by the Board of Trustees in October 2017.

At Antioch College doing something with your learning is a hallmark. Students graduate with résumés not just degrees. Education is strongly oriented towards the experiential and applied. Whether in classrooms, laboratories or in the exceptional series of work-for-credit programs known as co-op, students learn by doing. To strengthen and focus that learning we offer a set of five interrelated areas of practice. Each practice is supported within the curriculum, by distinctive resource centers, on and off-campus work placements, and through strategic partnerships with local, national and international organizations.

ONE

The practice of environmental sustainability provides students abundant opportunities to acquire and apply knowledge in service to the natural world, its ecosystems and all their members. We give emphasis to this practice because there are no greater challenges today than those presented by the crisis of climate change, widespread environmental degradation and the multitude of disastrous consequences they portend.

In addition to a strong curriculum in environmental science, art, philosophy, Antioch’s has a 1,000 nature preserve, a raptor center, an organic farm and food program, an advanced alternative energy system powering its campus, and many paid work opportunities with environmental organizations.

TWO

The practice of deliberative democracy, diversity and social justice affords Antioch students a real world laboratory where they might explore, develop and apply the principles of inclusive, democratic and just action and governance within the context of the College and its extended community. In committing to a deliberative method for understanding the difficult choices that confront us, we accept and agree to work openly and respectfully with conflict, adversity, missteps, contradictions, perspectives, values, and beliefs. These things make democracy messy, human and ultimately very powerful.

We give emphasis to this practice because it is central to our learning to live and thus solve complex problems together. We seek to develop this practice in the belief it leads to the development of more resilient individuals, organizations and communities.

Our curriculum in the humanities, social sciences, arts and sciences offer intellectual substance for this area of practice, which is guided by the College’s longstanding commitments to participatory democracy, diversity and social justice. The Coretta Scott King Center is a major resource and an avenue for building partnerships for this practice as is the Cooperative Education Program.

THREE

The practice of creativity and story encourages the development and active use of skills, tools, knowledge, understanding and emotions that unleash our imagination to invent, solve, make and do, and, no less importantly, to place ourselves alongside others in the world through a range of narrative art forms and approaches.

Human creativity may be our most powerful and renewable resource. Each of us has it, although how it is encouraged and developed in each of us varies greatly. Our aptitude to make and find meaning through story—the ones we tell about ourselves and, the ones we tell to ourselves—is a defining human characteristic that cannot be easily farmed out to fast computers. As Ursula Le Guin has written “There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”

Antioch’s emphases in visual arts and media, literature, performance and writing are among the obvious curricular connections to this area of practice. The exceptional resources and expertise made possible through WYSO and especially the Community Voices courses and programs set it apart as a center for story telling. The Herndon Gallery offers professional level exhibition programming and the Cooperative Education program places students in leading creative sector work opportunities throughout the US and beyond.

FOUR

The practice of wellbeing is very much about the development of meaningful, healthy inner and outer lives. Attending to our inner lives and not just a mono-dimensional public persona is critical to being able to embrace what Rene Daumal called “the open totality of the human being” and to the free growth of our individual, multifaceted identities. An overall sense of wellbeing arises from an ongoing effort to balance the physical and psychological demands of contemporary life through research, diet, physical activity, mediation and the like.

Our curriculum offers many points of grounding for this area of practice, including courses from all four academic divisions and from Antioch’s state of the art Wellness Center, where courses and workshops in Yoga, mindfulness, martial arts, cycling and many other subject areas are available. The Antioch College Farm to Food program provides organically produced, highly sustainable and very delicious dining experiences. With the Glen Helen nature preserve a few steps away there are ample hiking trails and a bikeway that runs for nearly one hundred miles in either direction.

FIVE

The practice of work, world and resilient community lies at the center of an Antioch educational experience. Antioch College president Arthur Morgan developed this innovative set of learning and community building strategies in the 1920’s. Most often referred to as co-op (cooperative education), the concept of integrating real work experience into a student’s college studies continues to transform the lives of successive generations of Antiochians, supporting their exposure to a range jobs, their capacity to adapt to new conditions and cultures, and to better understand the evolving nature of work and the role it plays in the development of resilient individuals and their communities.

The College’s nationally recognized Cooperative Education program and its faculty provide the placement counseling, teaching, and mentoring support for each student as they embark on up to five separate co-op experiences during their time at the College. Hundreds of work experiences are available from which students may choose and personalize. Each Antioch student also studies a language other than English to a significant degree of proficiency, thereby, among other advantages, facilitating their placement in co-ops in other countries and adding a global dimension to their educations.

Building Out the Areas of Practice

In May of 2018, the College launched the latest phase of the FACT process, which involves the creation of a set of work groups to build out the areas of practice and a budgetary model to align resources behind the larger Antioch@175 vision.
 


Notes and References:

[1] This draft paper is among a series developed to evolve the vision and planning documents setting out the parameters for Antioch’s future as a “new kind of American college.” The need for such a college, in the form of changes that bring significant innovations educationally and financially to the current higher education model has been described and explored in numerous books, articles, conferences and research studies. Most recently, Cathy Davidson’s The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World of Flux (2016), makes the case by critiquing the prevailing model and its roots in late 19th Century American industrialization the corresponding university/college educational alignment led by Harvard president Charles Eliot.

[2] The Antioch@175 Vision Statement is posted online and was also expanded upon in the lead article (published in the Fall 2017 edition of The Antiochian) develops further both the need and attributes of a new kind of American college.

[3] The 1828 Yale Report challenged the purpose of a college limited education to narrow preparation in one area of study or for a particular profession, rather it argued for a broader, i.e. liberal, approach around a complement of subjects and disciplines.