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Monday, October 25, 2010

Life is a Journey, Not a Series of Destinations

There are so many amazing classes here. And, they are very different from what I have encountered anywhere else. What I do when choosing classes is mainly look for a professor that I want to work with. This is because research has noted that the most important aspect of any classroom is not the material, but the facilitator. Yes, the content must be interesting to us, but if the teacher cannot convey what is effective in terms of useful skills and information, then what is the point of even being there. 
Most classes at Prescott College are discussion based, but this does not mean that professors don’t participate to the fullest of their abilities. The idea behind having a professor in the classroom is to bring out the conversation, and share ideas that have been shown to be effective. To me, a professor should not be standing at the front of the room, while we take notes. Studies have shown that when we become engaged within a conversation, more is learned, rather than when we are just listening. It is by asking questions that matter to us, than learning and development happen. For what is development, but connecting a series of ideas and relationships. 
I have heard, that many prospective students, and before exploring further, find this school to be more geared toward Adventure Education and Environmental Studies. This is just not the case. All programs we offer are very strong, with faculty who are committed to their work and facilitating the growth of others. I see them more as co-workers than pedestal goers. We have programs committed to social justice issues, shakespearean literature, systematics of seed plants, skiing in Alaska, the craft of the short story, environmental politics, ecology of war and peace, environmental perspectives and whitewater rafting, figure drawing of nudes, rock climbing and geology, sustainable building design, massage, yoga teacher training, environmental policy in China, U.S.-Mexico Border Studies, form and pattern in nature, counseling skills, public art, you get the idea. 
We are not just a shred the gnar kind of school, nor is everyone running around barefoot, but there are both of those communities here, and many more. Prescott College is filled with an extremely diverse amount of ideologies, lifestyles, and energies. This school attracts people from all walks of life. From dredded out people with bells in their hair, to the most exact scientists I have ever known. There are student writers who win national awards, and white-water rafting guides who live out of their trucks. You will never feel like you don’t belong, this is because, to me, we have an extraordinarily diverse population of people who are passionate about what they do, and how they intend to do it. 
In summary, this school is academically and emotionally challenging, although I have never studied for a test, or crammed for a mid-term. We are asked more of ourselves than this; we must show to others that what we have learned is truly meaningful to us through presentations, essays, and art projects. And, that we will be tested on the material for the rest of our lives. Going to school at Prescott College is a demanding task that takes concentration, organization, and many other skills that are developed over time, but I have never felt any of the work was tedious. Even though some assignments are quite challenging, there has never been the feeling that what I am doing is meaningless. As the amazing educator Kurt Hahn once noted, “Every challenge is an opportunity,” and every opportunity at Prescott College is part of the exploration of ourselves, others, and the biosphere. 
If you are confused about what school to give four years too, consider that life is an ongoing journey, not a series of destinations where we eventually arrive. As the seasons change, there is no time when we wake up and arrive at winter, everyday is filled with a process toward growth and decomposition.
As the song by The Flaming Lips goes, 
“Do you realize? The sun doesn’t go down, it’s just the world spinning round.”
And when it comes to exploring Prescott College further, ask the question of what you need in a school and let the journey flow. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

We are powerful beyond measure...

What do you want to study?
What do you plan on doing by studying that?
How do you plan to make any money doing that?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of the universal energy. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
-Marianne Williamson
Prescott College is one of a handful of schools that creates an environment for students to explore the infinite potential available to everyone of us. Although, what sets the school apart is the experiential approach to each and every classroom experience. We are not always held to the four classroom walls, but rather are off truly exploring what we are studying in our flock of vans. For myself, the most memorable experiences in school prior to Prescott College were the field-trips - visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.; running across the fields of Gettysburg; going to the Zoo and Aquarium...
Furthermore, we have the great option to cultivate a program of study that germinates into all aspects of our life, moving with the journey that does not stop at graduation, but continues throughout our life. Not more than a few days ago, there was an alumni event, where many arrived to see how the college had changed. Almost all of the past graduates mentioned how great a place the school has turned into, and wish they could do the experience again. 
In essence, life is not a series of destinations, but a journey filled with discoveries, memories, and the need to grow. Many schools have lots of “stuff,” but what Prescott College lacks in weight rooms, it excels in preparing students to think clearly, intentionally, and pushes them to explore what the words happiness and contention truly mean. 
To me, I could not imagine going to school anywhere else, and I have visited many colleges, and spoke with many of their admissions staff. Prescott College conjures up different feelings for different people. For myself, I feel supported, energized, excited, explorative, empowered, and among many other words, exceedingly grateful to be part of an institution that reminds us “we are powerful beyond measure...[and] as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Live the journey,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Who have I become?

Who have I become? For I do not feel like the same person when I started here three years ago. My time here has been filled with many beautiful nights, many daily challenges, and many times of genuine and amazing growth directly attributed to the Prescott College community.
Currently, this is the beginning of my junior year, and I have ventured into a way of life that several years ago I couldn’t have even imagined. In blogs past, I have referred to the poet Rainer Maria-Rilke in doing my best to explain the tendency for people to have all the answers to all of the questions unsolved within their hearts. Essentially though, if we had the answers, life would be monotonously boring and full of disenchantment. Gratefully, and as Prescott College consistently notes, life is a journey, not a linear formation of destinations, but rather an ever evolving, ever transforming story that changes based upon how we perceive the world, and how strong and capable we feel that we truly are.

I am sure that as a perspective student, or one who has already been admitted, many questions come about, and in many ways, even I still don’t have the answers to some of the ones I came here with, this is after three years of attendance at this amazingly effective institution. Alternatively, some of these big questions that arise can be answered very simply with yes; you will find affordable housing, you will make friends that will probably last a lifetime, and you will take classes that can be found at no other college, which will challenge your current ways of thinking, but you will grow into a way of being that positively transcends your current lifestyle beyond anything you are currently perceiving.

In essence, I will significantly go over some very effective steps toward alleviating a few of the major anxieties that are you probably being faced with as either a prospective or newly admitted student. Furthermore, you are not preparing for college alone, many have gone before you who can offer advice, such as myself. Moreover, and equally important, it would be incredibly irresponsible of Prescott College to not support our newly admitted students in the most committed way possible.

How do I find housing?

Again, to put this simply, you will definitely find housing that suits your needs. This may take a few different living environments so that you may better understand your needs within a household, but there are an extraordinarily diverse amount of living accommodations available for those who are willing to explore.

There are many ways to go about the process of finding and moving into a place that feels like home. I find that websites like craigslist to be secondary sources rather than the end all, be all. One must also remember that they are not the only one looking for housing, and that sharing a house is a much more affordable option that vying for a studio apartment. Some of the efficiency apartments around town can cost almost $700 a month, whereas sharing a house like I do, the cost is $300 per month. Moreover, I did not look for housing until after orientation. This is a common concern, but one must reflect upon whether one would like to pay for a months rent without being town, or let the journey run its course and secure housing during the ten days after orientation, which is more than enough time. Please believe me when I say this, letting people know that you are looking for a room will be the most effective way to locate housing. There are more rooms for rent in Prescott then there are students who need them.

In terms of college support with housing, there is a housing fair that helps people locate others who are looking for a place to stay, along with local rental proprietors who only work with Prescott College students.

When it comes to finding a place to call home, the answer to what the place looks like is different for everyone, but the process is generally the same. Be patient, and don’t worry that you might be sleeping in somebodies yard, unless you truly choose to do so.

What am I going to study?

The answer to this question will not be an answer but more of general recommendation to reflect upon your deepest needs and desires. Once this is done, and it will take time, you will grow toward a course of study that is significantly meaningful to you.

Some direct ways to figure this out:
  1.  Explore your interests. How will you know what you like if you have never explored it before? How does one know they want to be a doctor of they have never volunteered in a hospital or clinic? 
  2. In order to better understand who we are, we must understand who we are not? We should not be afraid to take classes outside our realm of comfort. Who knows what we might find? I started with an elementary education competence, and after an 800 mile horse-packing expedition focusing on integrated awareness, a few classes in social justice, and speaking with many supportive faculty members, I am currently creating a self-designed competence in Sustainable Social Development.
Start with Exploring what is needed, rather than what is wanted.

Begin with yourself, and expand from this central point. Through reflecting on our own needs, we can become better prepared to help others, and live into a lifestyle that creates much growth and lasting happiness.

Our parents, friends, co-workers, and everyone else in the world can support us in many wonderful ways. Alternatively, there are going to some who do not. We cannot blame others for the decisions that we make, nor can we do what others say is “good,” when we know in our hearts it feels like absolute poison.

In the end, wherever we go, there we are.

Taking a quote from a memoir written by Victor Frankl during his time of surviving in a concentration camp:

“Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms, to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”

In effect, Prescott College is not for everyone, but for those who call it home, it is an environment that has shed light on many places of darkness. We don’t have lots of “stuff” like many others schools, and we don’t have a big cafeteria, but rather, Chef Molly who maintains a first name basis with many students, and brings in local meats, vegetables, and grains from farmers who I have personally met.

Prescott College does not assess us students based upon our capacity to memorize unemotional statistics. Instead, it is the content of our character that is put to the test, and it is our responsibility, along with the great support of faculty and staff, to find our “own way.”

Live the journey,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Arizona’s Wetlands Explored through Prescott College

I just finished a block course here entitled “Wetlands Ecology and Management” with long-time faculty Walt Anderson, yet another Environmental Studies class informing my goal of teaching Biology/Ecology to highschoolers. After reading that sentence and remembering that Prescott College is located in Arizona, many of you are probably crying foul. Perhaps you even exclaimed something aloud, something like “You can’t study wetlands in Arizona! That’s preposterous!” Maybe you even threw your arm up in the air, index finger extended in a Doc Brown-esque moment of eccentric energy. I, too, was once uniformed and excitable as you, dear reader, but hopefully I can allow you to understand another aspect of Arizona as I do now.

When you mention Arizona, most folks picture a desolate wasteland, populated only by saguaro cactus and spontaneously appearing turkey vultures that begin to circle you expectantly when they sense you are nearing your demise. And while there are areas in Arizona that resemble that mental image, this state is actually one of the most diverse locations I’ve had the privilege to experience. For those of you stubbornly holding onto the idea of Arizona as a barren desert, I submit the following:

Pictured: Arizona Not Pictured: Desert Habitat

Arizona is actually quite a wet place depending on what watershed you find yourself in, and over this block my eyes were opened to the wonderful riparian communities that call this state home. Our journey started at the Hassayampa River Preserve, a Nature Conservancy site dedicated to providing habitat for many Riparian species of the Basin & Range province of Arizona where the ecology has been heavily impacted by Phoenix and its perpetual sprawl.

We entered a lushly vegetated reserve with an abundance of ecological diversity and a fair amount of water flow year round, as well as multiple standing pools of water that were providing homes for migrating birds passing through the area. This place seemed to be a desert oasis, pristine aside from a few educational placards and the trails running through it.

Hassayampa River Preserve

Our class was asked to look for and identify “signs of change,” and with no other instruction we set off in pairs and tried to fathom as many unnatural features we could in different locales around the area.

We found introduced and invasive species, the trails and educational placards, some alteration of the stream channel, and the educational center that had been built on the grounds. What none of us realized was that this riparian reserve had been a paved RV and ATV recreation area only 40 years prior. At that time, it was filled with trash, human waste, and heavily impacted by Jeep and ATV races through the creek channels. The vast majority of vegetation that we saw, and the “pristine” conditions that we observed were a result of efforts put into revegetating and revitalizing this place on behalf of the biotic communities that lived here previously and the shrinking riparian communities elsewhere around the state. At that moment, I was struck with no small measure of hope for our natural world to heal itself with the aid of humans. This would be a feeling that I experienced many times over the block, as we visited many locations that at one time had been ecologically decimated by human use, and now harbor species that have moved from other areas impacted by humans.

Through our scientific surveys of many of these areas, I came to a deeper understanding of the plight many wetlands face here in Arizona and around the world.

-Zach Schiewetz