SDGI: A Caring Community

SelfDesign Graduate Institute

Fleurette Sweeney, SCH, Ph.D.
Chair of the Board, SelfDesign Learning Foundation, Vancouver, BC

In 2011 Brent Cameron, founder, and then executive director and principal of SelfDesign Learning Community, asked me as Chair of the Board of SelfDesign Learning Foundation to write a letter welcoming interested people to explore the SelfDesign Graduate Institute (SDGI)?a task I happily performed.

January 4, 2012, an historic day

Brent?s request could not have come at a better time. I was riding the crest of an exultant wave of excitement and gratitude after participating in the first session of the first course attended by the first cohort of learners registered in our newly approved SDGI.

It is difficult to express the significance of this to me personally as that day was more than six-and-a-half years after I invited a group of 39 folks?academics, professionals, youth and others?to explore the possibility of designing an alternative university. We gathered in residence for a three-and-a-half day Syntegration? around the question: What is required to create New Dawn University (our working title at the time) as a self-renewing learning community of care and what will I contribute to bringing this about? Although the name ?New Dawn? has since morphed into ?SelfDesign Graduate Institute? the inspiration generated during those days has sustained us during what turned out to be intervening years of searching out every possible way of bringing our imaginings to life.

The day of actualization!

I wanted to share with you what I wrote that day. If, as you are reading this, the thought occurs to you that you might like to become involved in the SDGI community, what can you expect from of SDGI as a self-renewing learning community of care?

  • You can expect that the knowledge you bring to our ?table of conversation,? whatever the source of your knowledge?that of a young adult searching for your calling, a professional experienced in the field, an activist, a parent, a concerned citizen?that knowledge will be listened to and respected.
  • You can expect to find from learners or faculty mentors a rich spread of diverse experience, wonderful resources for you to tap into.
  • Thanks to the technology available to us, no matter where you are, you can expect to participate in a variety of learning communities of conversation. Gradually, as friendships form and opportunities to explore different modes of academic inquiry are shared, the design of a form best suited to express your particular insights will reveal itself to you. This ongoing support will be available equally to those registered as learners or as mentors of learning. The organizational structure of SDGI is designed to be flexible enough to embrace diversity. For me, assuring that this flexibility is sustained is essential to our continuing to be a learning community of care.
  • There is one remaining aspect of engagement you can expect. All of us are learners?those registered as learners or faculty mentors, those gathering and processing administrative data, those attending to the management of finances, those responsible for developing policies, those in conversation with accrediting agencies and government?all of us can expect to engage regularly in reflective conversation in order to ensure that the expression of our commitment to self-renewal is continually revised. As circumstances change, whether cultural, economic, political; as places and the local bio-regions of our learners become more diverse; as the varieties of voices of those with whom we interact are heard, expect to take seriously our mandate to continue to become a self-renewing learning community of care.

In closing I quote loosely from The Earth?s Imagination, the work of the mathematical cosmologist, Brian Swimme. Brian says that what we imagine today brings the energy of the future into the present. I extrapolate further from Brian. He reminds us that,

The children are not our future. We are the children?s future!?for the sake of the children?all children, and our glorious planet Earth, their home.?

Our commitment in the SelfDesign Graduate Institute is to imagine a future of generosity, integrity, and care.

For more information, or to talk with an Admissions Counselor, please email us.


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