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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Prescott College is the Result.

Dear prospective students of Prescott College,
        As a disclaimer for this school: Upon graduation you will understand the world differently than you currently do; you will work harder than you probably ever thought you could; and some of the remarks people make about this school will not hold true.
         As one of my professors asserts, “Prescott College is an alternative college, not an alternative to college.” To me, this illustrates very well what we do here. No, we do not have multiple choice tests. Yes, I read and write more than I have ever done before. No, we students are not seen as a number, and perpetuating the academic industrial complex. Yes, I know everyone on campus by first name, which means the expectations are set extraordinarily high. No, we do not invest millions of dollars into a football team. Yes, we have many classes that include traveling to engaging environments both nationally and internationally.
        Essentially, this college is seen in many different shades of light. Adjectives have included the use of various cereals, bathing habits, and the term “shredding the gnar.” In my belief, however, these could never describe what I have experienced here. I turned down some of the most “prestigious” institutions to attend this school and I feel completely justified in this decision. We have an incredibly challenging academic program that many do not take the time to see. Our education program is viewed by many in the industry as one of the most effective in the world. As for the Cultural and Regional Studies content area, which some would define as Political Science, students graduate as amazingly effective agents of change who understand activism, collaborative community building, and how systems of oppression are perpetuated.
        Yes, Prescott College does, arguably, have the best adventure education program in the country. And, graduates with a degree in environmental studies will probably never have a hard time finding work. The question becomes, however, are we these two programs? Or, is Prescott College effective because of the sum of its parts? In my belief, all of the aforementioned content areas are amazing because this school challenges the status quo of what education is “supposed” to be. Moreover, these challenge are not out of unreflective reactivity; rather, it is because we believe that education is about leading people toward wholeness. 
             In summary, when I searched for a school I admittedly began with the “top” universities in the country, then I began to see, however, what they held as important; if watering ivy, having teachers who do not know anyone’s name, and memorizing lots of information to fill in lots of bubbles sounds gratifying - then by all means venture forth. This school is not a so called hippie haven, shredders paradise, or any other false colloquialism. It is challenging, and I have never worked harder in any other academic environment.
                Look past what others choose to see, and view what is actually real. In 1963 the Ford Foundation challenged the country’s most innovative educators to come together and design an “ideal college for the future that would prepare students for contributing in an ever changing, and ever faster moving world.” Prescott College is the result. 
Enjoy the journey,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Oh, and How Prescott Provides

Barefooted political science bicyclists, fiddle playin’ rock climbers, ecoconscious punk farmers. No matter the different kinds of people you find at Prescott College, one thing connects them all: Prescott students love to be outside.

Oh, and how Prescott provides. Surrounded by National Forest with spectacular hikes, climbing, and views, Prescott is an outdoorsy student’s paradise. It’s a common thing to hike up round Thumb Butte, a beautiful towering rock monument that pinnacles over the town. Or hike through the Granite Dells, which are giant orange rock sculptures that meander around a lovely creek. Close by you find the Verde River, which literally looks green and echoes something out of an amazonian dream, winding round through many canyons and creating natural hot springs. Go south and you find fields of saguaro cacti, stretching into the Superstition Mountains which are wild and warm. Go north and you find the Red Rocks of Sedona, the green of the trees and the red of the rocks creating a spiraling breathtaking effect around the city that draws people from all over the country to experience its beauty. And if anything, Sedona is the red cherry on top of the gigantic incredible banana split of the Grand Canyon, which lies just a little farther north. Words can’t express the awe one experiences when looking down into the canyon, so I won’t try. The fact is, Arizona is epically lovely, and the places just described are only the tip of the iceberg. There is a reason why they say that the four corners region of the Southwest is magical, and that magic lies in the beauty of the nature that has remained in many places largely untouched by human development.

So students at Prescott College really know how to enjoy the natural wonders that abound in this region. Lots of places for a good bike ride, with lots of people to ride around with. Really cool bouldering and climbing spots. Oh, and the farm life. If you want to be outside and active in growing your own food and food for the community, why not join up with Karma Farms, one of the local community garden co-ops? Or the Splash community garden? There are so many people growing their own food round Prescott that there is more than ample opportunity to do the same for yourself. So whether it is beatin’ the path through the woods or getting dirty growing something yummy, you can bet you’ll find Prescott College students out in the sunshine.

Thumb Butte

~Brittany L. Davis, 10/17/2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

The First Days of School

If you come from a family like mine, you learn that school is very important at a young age. It is something to be celebrated and thankful for. To be knowledgeable is to be powerful. My mother jokes about this being the reason I am on the path to becoming a teacher—I want to have all the power, she says. We used to have a tradition celebrating my first day of classes with brownies for breakfast, a tradition which, sad to say, hasn’t continued to my time at Prescott College—not only because I refuse to wake up early enough to make them, but also due to the fact that my baking skills, to be perfectly honest, leave something to be desired. I am, however, greeted in the morning by a phone call, text, or Facebook message (yes, my mother has recently discovered and become obsessed with Facebook) wishing me a happy and safe send off to my first day of classes.
Prescott College classes start in a different way than any classes I had ever taken before, and no two introductory classes lead off the same. My curriculum theory class, following introductions, led off by jumping straight into the material. Being an upper division course with a number of prerequisites, this is common, especially for education students pursuing a teaching certificate. This class, though technically the first of the semester, was not our first interaction with the course materials. Over the summer, we were in touch with our instructor about our up and coming placement for a 5-day teaching practicum outside of our regular class time. We were connected up with cooperating teachers in local schools with whom we would be collaborating on lesson plan development and taking over their classes for a 5-day teach. This class has a sizeable workload but is extremely rewarding. We have only met four times and already I feel my brain expanding with new tidbits of knowledge.
My Tuesday mornings begin with Adolescent Psychology, an upper division, writing intensive course about the social and biological make-up of the modern adolescent. Being a secondary education student, this is a class that is extremely relevant to my desired career path. Working with teenagers has been a long-time passion of mine and this class is putting me on the path towards success. Though the course is only in its early stage, I am confident that I am in the right place and will benefit from the information. Each class begins with a check-in, accessing our individual states of mind and feelings about the course. Following check-ins, we begin absorbing ourselves into thrilling discussions about modern adolescence and reminiscing about our own experiences growing up.
Following Adolescent Psychology and a quick break for lunch, I find myself entering unfamiliar territory within the confines of Men and Masculinity, a class about manhood in America. As a female-identified person, masculinity is something of an unfamiliar subject to me and although it has been touched upon in other gender/sexuality courses I have taken at the college (Sexuality and Sexual Outlaws, History of Gender and Sexuality, The F-Word: Feminism and Social Justice), was never something I devoted a lot of time learning about. Taught by Courtney Osterfelt, an alumna of Prescott College and founder of Women’s Empowerment Breakthrough, this class explores many new topics regarding masculinity, social justice, and gender equity.
No matter the course I am taking, I am always very impressed with the quality of Prescott College classes and the way they motivate me towards excellence. I still get excited about the first day of school and even though they rarely involve brownies, Prescott College is a treat within itself.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why Prescott College?

Why Prescott College? There are hundreds upon hundreds of other schools across the world. Again, why Prescott College? This question constantly runs through my head after reflecting upon the other schools I turned down to come here. I envision my imagined life at Princeton, Marlboro, Evergreen, Naropa, or St. Johns. Who would have been my friends? What would I have studied? Then I remember that I wouldn’t trade my experiences here for any other. Especially after reflecting upon the people I have met, the places I have gone, and the possibilities that have come true seven semesters later.

In the beginning of the college video, my friend Batya says, “Do I love Prescott College? That would be an understatement. My love for Prescott College moves me to tears.” I can sincerely relate to this quote in more ways than I could ever know. In effect, this is the first time that education has made sense to me. I have never filled a bubble in for a test, sat in a classroom of 500 students, or questioned out of boredom, “Why am I learning this?”. The assessment for learning here is through exploring, writing, and presenting; so we actually have to know what we’re talking about. My classes have been no more than 15 people who I get to know extraordinarily well. In terms of the content to be learned, everything is brought into the context of our lives, so everything we learn feels like it matters.

The above examples can be found at certain schools. Now why Prescott College? Is it because we have more vans for exploring than classrooms? Is it because I know every one of my teachers by first name, and have built incredible relationships with them? Is it because we move (Our thoughts are like our body, if we don't move, we sit)? Is it because almost every student I have met has been amazing (It's people that matter, we are the greatest resource to our potential)? Is it because I can wake up every morning and know it will be a beautiful day (To play.)? There is no simple answer; it’s all of the above, and unanimously more.

For those of you reading this, you are probably on the search for the “perfect” college. In my belief, this should start with the question of why? then how?, and then what?.

Why Prescott College? Because education is a journey, not a destination…

So explore, engage, and trust the process,

All I know - I am grateful -...


A pond back east

On top of Volcan Concepcion in Nicaragua. That is a cloud of poisonous sulfer gas behind us.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Walking the Talk

As a student worker (and sometimes tour guide) in the Prescott College admissions office, I am often asked by students and parents alike, “What is the best thing about Prescott College?” To this question, there isn’t an easy answer. Perhaps there should be, as it is probably one of the most important question a prospective student could ask, but the truth is, there are so many different things that make Prescott College great—and no, I am not just saying that because I am paid to. :)

I could spend a great deal of time answering this seemingly simple question a number of different ways, speaking first about small class sizes, individualized degree plans, course contracts, personal attention, hands-on field experience, or a number of other things that make our school especially great. The truth of the matter is that I have thought of many of my favorite things about the school while writing this blog. In fact, I’ve probably started and re-started writing this blog entry so much that my finger is beginning to naturally gravitate towards the backspace button as I think of more reasons why Prescott College is one of the coolest schools in the nation. After debating in my head over which topic best illustrated the awesome-ness of Prescott College (and I mean awesome in the TRUE sense of the word—not like “oh, this new flavor of lip-smackers lip balm is totally awesome!”), I’ve finally decided on, what I believe, is truly the best thing about Prescott College. In order to illustrate my point, I should probably fill you in on how I came to this conclusion.

The fall term at Prescott College picked up for continuing students on August 30th and for those students who had previously completed their wilderness orientation, this meant it was time for our “Block” classes to begin. A Block class is approximately one month long and requires a lot more time and focus from students than a typical class during the semester because it meets on a day-to-day basis. Often Prescott College students select Block classes that are located off campus because this is usually a time with fewer commitments as students are only enrolled in one class for the month. A number of students do, however, choose to remain on-campus and take classes like the one I am currently enrolled in: Models of Leadership.

Taught by Wayne Regina, a faculty member within the Psychology and Human Development program, Models of Leadership is a class that focuses on effective and non-effective leadership styles by examining the psychology behind leadership and focusing on the types of skills, behaviors, and attitudes behind successful leadership. Our primary focus in the class has been in examining leadership models through the lens of Bowen Theory and differentiation, “a theoretical model derived from natural systems and applied to human functioning…that redefines successful leadership from an informational process to one in which the emotional maturity or differentiation level of the leader is the single most significant variable in the successful functioning of leaders in any system,” (see course catalog for more detail and description). In other words, we have been studying leadership styles and what it means to be an effective leader and collaborator. In the process of developing my own leadership style, I have come to the conclusion that the best thing about Prescott College is the way in which we are inspired to take what we learn and mold it in ways that not only promote content competency, but teach us about who we are.

One of the main reasons I chose Prescott College was due to the fact that the school strives to maintain honesty with its mission statement, working non-stop to “walk the talk” and practice what we preach in regards to sustainability and community development. The school’s commitment to self-directed learning is unmatched in anything I have ever experienced. We promote a sense of unity within our community, bringing together students and staff while also promoting individuality. In this way, our school promoted its student’s emotional intelligence and differentiation, as we are able to take self-responsibility and remain individuals while still active in our communal growth.

I am proud to be part of a school that inspires its students towards greatness. In this way, Prescott College has served as a teacher in itself, shining forth as an example of honesty in education, working hard to follow its mission and encourage students towards individual and communal excellence.

-Sydnie Bonin, 09.2011

Cumbersome Beauty

Three weeks are irrelevant. The time I spent on orientation took on a context greater than the month of September. It felt oddly like a lifetime, as if, during the time, I grew from infant to old man, and at the end flew up toward the sun. Suddenly, there was pavement. Traffic mumbled down the road. I was back, and it was difficult suddenly to comprehend what I had just done. Now, a week after returning to greater humanity, I feel prepared to explain my experience of Prescott College Wilderness Orientation.

We began in Prescott. All the orientation students sat in a big circle and were told to close their eyes. An inspiring speech was given as, unbeknownst to us, all of the orientation instructors and course directors changed into, in some cases horrifically undersized, cutoff denim shorts. Using flame shaped pieces of paper with our names and a cryptic code (CB2 in my case), we found our “destinies,” our orientation groups. These people we’d be learning the intimate secrets and gastric patterns of for the next twenty-one days.

The following day, we piled into Prescott College vans, one for each group, and were shuttled up a mountain on a very bumpy road. We built a trail all together in the morning, ate lunch in our groups afterward, and were off to a YMCA summer camp not too far from Prescott. Here, at Chauncey Ranch, we spent two nights. This is where we started to get to know each other. Our first hike was here. We had our first written reflection here and coordinated our own group rules. We sorted the food we’d purchased together back in Prescott and assigned group gear to each other. Our packs, at this point, were frightfully cumbersome.

On a fateful morning we loaded our packs into the bed of a pickup and climbed the stairs of the charter bus that was to take us to our temporary home in the wilderness. Except it was the wrong bus. “Stump’s group? You’re on the other bus.” This event really set the tone for our journey: hilarious and less-than-tragic missteps. Despite the miles of extra hiking and food made inedible with Dr. Bronner’s, the comic relief was like a friendly poltergeist that never left us.

Our first night we slept on a gorgeous red sandstone boulder at the edge of West Clear Creek, in the canyon so named. We jumped off into the deep, clear water and were like celebrating nymphs. Everyone smiled. It was good. On this first night, I had a long talk with the exquisitely big sister-like Iris Cushing, Shane Stump’s counterpart facilitating our journey. I was a bit overwhelmed and didn’t think I could sleep outside; I’d never slept in anything less substantial than a tent in my life. With a gentle voice and reassuring hand on my back, I was absolved of my fears and spent the night staring up into the brilliant star-filled sky the likes of which I rarely, if ever, had seen before.

The skies above our journey were equal in proportion to the rocks, water, and forest we hiked through. The skies were at times full of radiant, intense sunlight, crystal blue skies without a single cloud. They were malevolent grey curtains offering downpours and lightening prisons. They were intense sunrise and sunset, full of colors like autumn leaves and sherbet. They were the open universe, with shooting stars, constellations, and the great Milky Way looming at the furthest reaches of human vision.

Along our journey, we ate sweet sour canyon grapes. We climbed down waterfalls with ropes around waist. We drank water from puddles. We ate the greatest honeydew ever beset mankind. Sometimes we walked down national forest roads while the cows stared at us and followed, intrigued. Other times I wished I had a machete to make my way through such thick vegetation I had never imagined grew in the dry Southwest. We negotiated around cacti. We climbed 1600 feet in one day. Through much difficulty, and much doubt, we made it to our destination. However, when you’re hiking in a large horseshoe shaped path, not really traveling, just backpacking, there really is no destination. I think orientation, by its very circuitousness, exemplifies well the ethos of Prescott College: education is a journey.

-Estin Vogel, 09.29.2011