A SelfDesigning Community In Action


With our fall semester  over half-way complete, I pick my head up and notice the buzz of powerful self-designed learning underway throughout every level of SDGI.

For my part, I have been immersed in David Marshak’s SD 501 course. Here, Dr. Marshak has introduced the learners to theories of consciousness evolution including Spiral Dynamics theory. Learners are exploring Integral Consciousness and the implications of using the lens of levels of consciousness as we examine our world and ourselves. In sitting in on some of these sessions, what strikes me is how masterfully, David activates all learners’ curiosity, capacity for analysis and reflection, regardless of their individual background in this area of study. Learners are encouraged to use their own lived experiences as “texts” that are relevant and meaningful to the shared inquiry. It has been a privilege to witness the rigorous study and the taking in of rich content in a way that feels so personally significant.

We have also kicked off our Café Connections series of Zoom dialogues. Dean Designate, Laurel Tien and I hosted the first two sessions. The conversations struck a lovely balance as they were informal and meandering, while also achieving a tone of seriousness as we discussed a range of topics related to SDGI’s growing programs and community. These Café Connection meetings, open to all, continue on Sundays at 10:00 and 4:00 each week. Alumni are taking “host” role for the next several weeks, as they facilitate dialogue around their thesis studies and research methods. SDGI faculty will also be hosting some conversations in future weeks. These Zoom chats are an excellent way for prospective learners or other friends to get a glimpse into the SDGI community, and our intimate and dialogic approach to learning in community.

Meanwhile a number of Directed Studies are underway, and learners are engaged with faculty in a wide range of learning adventures. Some learners are at work on their theses. One learner explores “conscious business” with a faculty mentor. Everyone seems deeply engaged in their work.

I have been sincerely enjoying a series of one-on-one check-ins with our amazing faculty. From a conversation with Liz Simpson about her work in Holistic Special Education, to talking with Mali Burgess about her work in aesthetics and beauty as it relates to consciousness. Our faculty continues to impress me with their brilliant insights in the areas of ecological, spiritual, holistic, integral and transformative education. Honestly, our check ins have been less about research and current projects, and more about making human connections. They have been thoroughly enjoyable.

One particularly engaging and ongoing dialogue I have enjoyed has been with a team of seven SDGI faculty around the theme of Learning as a Living System and how this theme along with Consciousness and Relationship seems to undergird much of SDGI’s pedagogy. Here Fleurette Sweeney, Pille Bunnell and Milt Markowitz have led the way, and Laurel Tien and I are also now joined by Ba Luvmour and Elaine Decker. What a powerful group of leaders and thinkers this is!

Also, working diligently behind the scenes at SDGI and SDF have been active and focused committees and other collaborative efforts. Our “Engagement Committee” is hard at work shining a light on SDGI to make our important work more visible to the world. Our “Academic Planning Committee” is reviewing new course proposals, planning for new professional development offerings, reviewing course assessments and much more. The “Admin Team” of Laurel, Deb Martens and myself are coordinating on a number of projects to ensure everything runs smoothly within the organization. The SDF Board meets monthly and is continuing to develop and refine our business plan and ensure all aspects of the organization will be well supported for years to come.

Here, from the Presidential Suite of SDGI, the view is magnificent. This is a deeply engaged, highly functioning and caring community. Many talented, creative individuals are weaving the fabric of this innovative program. I am so grateful to be a part of this process, and to be able to do my small part to contribute to the success of our Mission. And I have deep gratitude for everyone involved. Thank you!

Paul Freedman     President, SDGI

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