Learning Journey 2: UC Berkeley

You can watch a slideshow of the people and places we met on our second learning journey here. Our day showed us how much innovation and interesting work is already going on right around us, off “Holy Hill” on the UC campus, in areas that converge with PSR’s historic identity and future orientation: areas like ethically-informed social change work; critical thinking on culture, global citizenship, and the place of religious institutions; and the creative use of arts and technology to effect broader institutional change.

We began the day at the Haas Center for Executive Education, a for-profit continuing ed part of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. The way they delivered a tailor-made curriculum content to their clients (short intensive sessions lasting at most two weeks residential) reminded the Commission of our discussions for more flexible courses, and the “short intensive bursts of education” that we have talked about. We then moved onto the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and learned about the innovative ways they have fostered social entrepreneurship and social change across all the departments at UC Berkeley, at all levels — undergraduate, graduate, and faculty. Read Kathi’s full report on the Blum Center below.

The afternoon opened with an invigorating conversation with theater and performance studies professor Catherine Cole, who is part of a leadership team at the Making UC Futures Project. Catherine shared the ways the project is attempting to think big, and outside of the box, about the future vision for where the university of California is going. We also learned about On the Same Page, a project Making UC Futures co-developed that creatively re-imagines Ansel Adams commissioned body of photographs for the university, made some fifty years ago–an effort that looks to the past for roots and identity, and gets incoming stakeholders of the institution (freshman) to get involved with remixing and revisioning a university of the future. The beautiful project made us ask ourselves

What are the aesthetics of our institution, our bedrock of identity? What are the aesthetics of this change and process we are involved in? To which figures, what moments from PSR’s fabled past, can we look to for finding vision and orientation for the future?

The end of the day closed with a conversation with Clark Kellogg, a Collective Invention Consultant for the Commission and present UC Berkeley Lecturer in the Business Department. The meeting took place in the nifty rooms of the Cal Design Lab at Worster. The flexible, multipurpose space of the Cal Design classroom (moveable walls, portable chairs, comfortable, mobile desks, smartboards, lots of materials for drawing and designing everywhere) made us think, again, about our profound needs for a transformation of teaching and learning space.

Here’s Kathi’s more detailed observation of what happened at the Blum Center earlier in the day:

The Center was founded and initially funded by Richard Blum, Board of Regents member, global entrepreneur, husband of Dianne Feinstein.  The initial concept was “an investment in the millennial generation;” all programs at the Center are designed to encourage innovation and risk-taking among undergraduate and graduate students. 

 There are lots of parts of the Blum Center’s programs that suggest exciting possibilities for PSR, but I want to focus on just one for this piece:   the curriculum for a minor at Cal in “Global Poverty and Practice”.  It is now the most popular minor on the UCB campus; its class has as many as 700 students in it each semester.  It is interesting to note that so many undergrads are drawn to this justice-oriented field of study.

 The program intentionally remains a minor—not a major—so that its classes will continue to draw students from across a wide spectrum of the university’s other departments:  engineering, English, philosophy, the social and physical sciences.  The first required class in the sequence acquaints students with the issues of global poverty; the second is on the ethics of global citizenship.  The signature piece of the program is a self-designed summer practice of 200 hours (5 weeks), either domestic or international.  (Much more to be said on the analogy to our field ed and immersion requirements.)  The following, and final, required class is a semester-long reflection course.  There are a number of enrichment classes offered in addition—courses like:

The hope for all students who graduate with this minor is that they will bring to whatever field they enter a sense of global citizenship, a first-hand experience that their own agency can make a difference in alleviating poverty, confidence that the possibility of innovation is constantly before them and always needed. 

We asked about continuing funding for this program, and the response was perhaps obvious:  there are a multitude of individual donors and foundations who have already indicated enthusiasm for supporting a program with this kind of potential for impact.  Imagine:  a generation of college graduates who have already seen that they have the tools to address poverty locally, globally. 

 So many possibilities for PSR:

  • for our students to cross-register for these classes that are held just a few blocks away;
  • for partnerships and collaborations that might allow PSR faculty to enhance the curriculum with  spiritual/theological/ethical underpinnings for this field of study
  • for thinking about programs appealing to new students and new donors.

Some of the questions we are entertaining from this experience include:

What if PSR were very clear about the one thing that infuses everything we teach and do here–“a theology for leadership of social and institutional change” or “attentiveness to the margins” or “knowledge and experience of the traditions from which people have made meaning”? 

 What if we were  intentional about offering, alongside PSR’s degree programs, a clearly-articulated, abbreviated curriculum more like a minor–i.e., not for students who are focused on a particular career path, but who simply want to add value to whatever other field they are entering or are already in? 

This might look something like the Certificate in Sexuality and Religion already offered, but it might take other forms as well (“short bursts of intensive education”).

 What if we could then say to prospective donors:   Every graduate of PSR leaves here with both a theological framework  for and an experience of leading a community through a process of adaptive change?

 And:

What is the one idea that is big enough to express the mission of PSR, and concrete enough to capture the impact of PSR graduates on the communities and the world they serve? 

One thought on “Learning Journey 2: UC Berkeley

  1. “Short bursts of learning” reminds me of a comment uttered by another seminary president which I will paraphrase:’..we are getting more people who want access to a course, a forum, some on-line resources for their own enhancement or to meet an interest they have …. they may never be interested in a degree or certificate but we need to be able to provide something that keeps whetting their appetite for more learning….”

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