I’m fortunate to have been raised in a family environment that really valued education. I was privileged growing up to attend a variety of learning institutions where I was exposed to diverse pedagogies, many of which valued independent study and self-learning at their core. That being said, 4 years of public high school left me jaded and disappointed by years of forced learning and irrelevant expectations; I didn’t know what t I was learning or why, and was left wanting with questions on the application of my learning in real world (and its even real-er job market).
I was living in Vermont when I found out about Goddard. Attempting to explain Goddard’s IBA program, someone told me, “You can study whatever you want!” “Whatever you want?” I asked in disbelief. That spring, I attended the graduating presentation of a student whose work explored the female orgasm. The presentation traversed her own sexual history, the politics of women’s bodies, historical medical research informing popular understandings of women’s health, and the cultural context of women’s sexual liberation. Her presentation was interesting, well-researched, and strikingly original and I was proud to see her graduate at Commencement.
Whatever you want, really.
I was drawn to Goddard for its opportunity. The opportunity to study and explore topics of personal interest, the opportunity to engage with your learning in the real world, the opportunity for self-development that independent study forces students to confront.
As an undergrad in Goddard’s Individualized Studies program, I was first interested in exploring alternative business structures; I wanted to develop a cooperative business that championed a convergence of the arts, performance, community space, skills-based learning, tool-sharing, and a shared commitment to sustainability. I integrated my creative energies into my studies through academic research on design, color theory, creating spaces, place-making, set design, and the built environment. Seeing economic sustainability as a central tenant of my work, I began to explore unique business models, taking queues from the corporate world, nonprofit sector, sustainable innovators and small community businesses. I attended conferences and lectures, organized internships, took a job in the industry and was able to incorporate all of these lived experiences into my Goddard curriculum.
I had envisioned my undergraduate thesis as a month-long, community-based, pop-up art emersion in New York City, where I was living at the time. Unable to accommodate my ambitions in the city’s competitive rental market, I instead focused my efforts on writing a comprehensive exploration of sustainable business in the United States. I conducted interviews with business owners and thought leaders around the country, researched the capitalist economic paradigm, explored government subsidies to industry, challenged dominant forms of economic measurement (GDP) and offered my take on sustainable alternatives that benefited people, planet and profit.
Not only did I graduate informed by a wealth of practical, relevant and timely knowledge (that I sought out and thought through myself), but because of Goddard’s Being, Knowing, Doing pedagogy, I also graduated with professional experience in my field, something very few Bachelor’s graduates can say. Goddard prepared me for the professional world by providing invaluable opportunities to see how my ideas translated into potential career paths. The college’s independent study approach has prompted me to question, with academic integrity, the very foundations of my personal and professional ambitions. Through the accountability, determination, clarity of thought and perseverance necessary to conduct an independent study, I have become much more thoughtful in my considerations, confident in my ability to integrate insights across diverse disciplines and take pride in my time/project management skills – all of which were a direct result of my learning at Goddard. I know how I think, how I learn, the time it takes for me to complete projects, how to draft a course of study – all skills that have translated seamlessly into my professional career.
Left with questions unanswered, I recently enrolled in the Social Innovation and Sustainability MA program and am excited to explore topics that emerged during my undergraduate coursework. After careful consideration in selecting a Master’s program, I chose Goddard because it was the only institution that would let me study my passions and provide a healthy work/life balance. So far, my SIS work has involved academic research on the materials economy, creating/curating a waste-based photo series, event production, professional outreach and development, personal branding, web design, designing an economic impact study, application design – and I’m only halfway through my second semester! (More info at dynamic-nicolette.com)
At this point, I plan to pursue post-graduate doctoral research and know with absolute certainty that without Goddard, I probably would have never even graduated undergrad. Goddard has given me opportunities to rigorously explore my own learning and provided me with a community that’s worth its weight in gold. I have learned to be a better person: to be more patient, more understanding, consider unknown positions, be respectful and think systemically because of Goddard. This experience has been one of the best of my entire life.