If I were to go back to college today, knowing what I know now, how would I have wanted my upper level education experience to be different? What would I have majored in? These questions swirled around in my head and then made it to my notepad. And from my notepad, they've made it into conversations with others who I felt might consider them relevant or at least worth a hearty debate over a couple beers. Unfortunately, that is where a lot of those lines of questioning usually finish up: journaled, contemplated, and discussed, but not actionable. But this set of questions had legs. This set of questions was uniquely personal to just about everyone that I talked to. From those that graduated top of their class at an ivy league university to folks that never went to college but had early success in their endeavors, everyone weighed in on what they loved and what they'd do differently if they had it to do over again.
One of the people that I had this conversation with is my long time friend Skinner Layne. Skinner and I met 7 years ago shortly before he took his first company public and became the youngest board member of a publicly traded company in America. He had the foresight to sell high in early 2008 because he "had a hunch the rest of the year for US equities wasn't going to be that great." Doing what most folks say they'll do when they're young, he moved to Chile and has developed a pretty impressive network there as the "young successful American entrepreneur."
Skinner and my conversation about education earlier this year was particularly timely given the unrest within the Chilean education system last fall. It wasn't an Arab Spring but it was definitely in the vein of the 99% vs. the 1%. And while the Chilean government has taken some action to reduce the triggers that caused the uproar in the first place, the sentiment inspiring the students to action is ongoing. And it is not isolated to Chile, but bubbling up around the world. There is a problem that needs to be solved in the way that we prepare ourselves for what comes next after high school and I am proud to say that this rant has lead to an effort to provide a solution.
Exosphere is an entrepreneurial education community that Skinner has started in Chile (Why Chile?) as an alternative for some to attending a traditional university. The core of Exosphere is founded on are answers that we consistently given the questions of how would you do your higher education experience differently:
Focused Learning: When we know how we will apply what we've learned, we not only learn more quickly, but we retain that knowledge much longer.
Intentional Mentorship: Having someone who is not only invested in your education for a semester or two but in your long term success makes a huge difference.
Physical Community: Even with all of the new opportunities to learn for free online from some of the top institutions in the world, nothing can replace the power of learning with other like minded individuals and the relationships that develop.
The Exosphere community will be made up of our Fellows and Candidates. The Fellows that have already signed on and that are being recruited are entrepreneurs, academics, and individuals passionate about creating solutions to problems, not just churning out products. The Exosphere Fellows will be coming from around the world to the campus in Chile to invest in the lives of the Candidates and take a vested role in co-curating their individualized education. The Candidates of Exosphere will be some of the brightest minds that already have an inclination to change the world. The expectation of any Candidate arriving at Exosphere will be to understand the problem that they are most passionate about solving and a resolve to learn anything and everything required to create that solution.
I have been asked to serve as the Founding Trustee for Exosphere and will be working with our donors and partners to tell this story. I will also be building relationships with others who believe, like we do, that the education problems that exist in the world can be solved if we're willing to ask some tougher questions and think out side the box. Exosphere has already developed some amazing relationships with high schools and trade schools around the world that may serve as feeder schools for Exosphere Candidates. I am truly excited for what Skinner and the team are building and consider it a privilege to be involved.
For more information please check out the Exosphere website: http://exosphe.re
And, because it is a question I am still obsessing over and would love your thoughts: What would you do differently if you went back to college today?