As we were divided into three small teams in Professor Cathy Davidson’s class ‘The Future of Higher Education” at Duke University, we didn’t know very much about our classmates-only that we all came from varying backgrounds and all had one thing in common: a desire to make some positive change within the current educational model.
Our task was to design a university from scratch. No small feat. Brainstorming began. Formed into teams, beginning our seemingly monumental task, we shared our personal reasons for wanting to participate in a class that challenged us to rethink higher education. We all came to our team with our own lofty ideals. And we all had to leave some of our personal desires behind in order to tackle what was possible within a semester and allocate what we could each contribute individually.
Our team, now ‘Hand Head Heart’, met not only in class, but also fairly regularly on Sunday evenings via Google Hangout. We discussed what we were learning from the similarly titled MOOC that consumed the first six weeks of our class, “The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education”. We discussed the Google Hangouts we had with our collaborating classes at Stanford and the University of California Santa Barbara as well as the weekly readings. Most importantly, we discussed how we could mold all of our ideals into a coherent model for education.
From early on, we agreed that we wanted to work from the premise coined by Louis Nizer: “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
From that we came to form our motto: “Learning yourself to engage the world, engaging the world to learn yourself.” And then expanded that motto into a more concise statement: “We are a university that actively helps students to identify their passions and aptitudes, develop their interests and talents through holistic learning and community engagement, and use their lives and connections to change the world around them for the better.”
We now had a vision, a philosophy, a motto (and even a unique logo), but there is much more to creating a school than forming a brand.
So, during the remainder of our short time together, we were to hammer out all of the specifics. How would we finance our school? What was our curriculum? What could our students expect? Our teachers? We addressed these particulars with each other and with our class. And in the end, we have created a website for Hand Head Heart University.
We welcome you to peruse our final product and invite feedback on our University Handbook found at http://handheadheart.org.