Sphere College Project

Innovative Higher Education for Adults


Our Vision

Communities around the globe organized to empower individuals to work in fields they are passionate about and inspired by – a world where all individuals “live their gifts,” for the raising-up of humanity.

Mission Statement

The Sphere College Project provides discovery and higher education to adults of all ages and means, in a friendly, face-to-face environment through a network of skilled and experienced community mentors. At Sphere College Project, participants discover and pursue their passion and vocation for their own enrichment as well as that of the community, and participate equally to mentors and employees in steering the project’s success. Sphere values diversity, inclusivity, togetherness, communication, mutual respect for ideas and creativity, training, tools, and empowerment by creating an atmosphere of shared learning and investment in success. We believe that every individual has the ability to make a unique and positive impact in the community, and that our entire community benefits by educational programs that meet the unique and ever-shifting needs of its members.


The Sphere College Project provides guidance about life-path along with college-level programs by expert community mentors for adults of any age who, at any given time, or for any given reason, are not a good fit for today’s traditional higher education models.

The essential idea behind the project is to create an institution of higher learning that not only helps participants learn and develop tools but also supports them to identify what they wish to accomplish with their lives. Participants work closely with mentors (faculty) to identify key strengths and interests and to build an individualized, interdisciplinary program of study directly connected with their goals. Once participants have gained enough experience in the class setting, they are charged with developing and realizing a project that puts their passions into action in a specified community using the skills they have acquired. The project, which can be seen as an equivalent to an active dissertation, may be small and local, or large and global in scope.

The Sphere College Project is available to any adult, regardless of financial means. Participation is determined individually, based on a number of factors, and maintained through a contribution of time, money, and/or energy, depending on personal circumstances. Sphere is dedicated to an environment where everyone’s contributions are personally elevating, supportive of the Project’s goals, and are valued equally.

The Actualization

Picture this, first in the short-run, then, in the longer range:

  • 100 participants, and 15 mentors (and growing) with a diverse knowledge base and a passion for making a difference in people’s lives.
  • Core and specialty classes offer a variety of topics in several different locations, including in Sphere’s main headquarters in Asheville.
  • Participants and mentors gather in small groups, discussing topics from their classes, fostering a strong learning community.
  • Participants, mentors, and Sphere staff working together to develop community outreach initiatives, along with partnership strategies with local organizations and businesses to grow and fortify Asheville’s workforce.
  • Participants, mentors, and Sphere staff connect with Asheville’s city representatives to reinforce the value of an integrated and united community, recognizing that when we care for everyone, we are ensuring a social structure that is not only sustainable, but inspiring and harmonious, with respect for everyone.
  • Under the mentorship of faculty members and local community leaders, participants identifying and pursuing their passions and becoming leaders, or contributors, in community-enhancing projects like community gardens and youth education activities and events.
  • The College Project taking on projects that will financially sustain it and help it to grow, and continuing to unfold in a way that serves the entire population of Asheville and the community, at large.
  • Sphere College Project becomes known as the most innovative “college” in America, with the most diverse curriculum of any college, the largest number of community members served, and the largest network of part-time community-based faculty in existence.

Together, we can do this! And when we have proven its success here, our plan is to duplicate it in other communities throughout the United States, when the time is right.

What Makes The Sphere College Project Different?

The students associated with the Project discuss this question in one of our classes. See and hear what they say in this video: http://www.vimeo.com/9087364


The Sphere College Project began in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania in 2007, where it is soon to be revived. Classes have met in the Colonial Theatre,Wolfgang Books, Steel City Coffeehouse, and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education from May 2011 does a good job of describing our initiative.

Currently, we are launching our initiative in Asheville, NC and are looking to secure a home, within walking distance of downtown Asheville. If you have ideas on locations that might meet our needs, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you!


Sphere College Project
Phone: 484-302-1600

Email: info AT spherecollege DOT org



18 thoughts on “About

  1. Hi Richard,

    Congratulations on the website, glad to see things moving along…this will be great tool when referring students. Hope all is well. Let’s talk soon.


    Brie Bearden

  2. Hi Richard,
    This looks great! I am looking forward to learning more on Thurs. Thank you for keeping me in the loop and being bold enough to do this. 23 students…outstanding.


    • The number will probably fluctuate (the number who have expressed interest has gone up to 28) and settle down to a smaller number as people think about whether they’re really ready to commit right now, or have committed to something else, but it’s definitely more about quality. This is a really exciting time. Thanks for your enthusiasm and support (you and everyone else!).

  3. Hi Richard,
    I like what you are doing.
    It interests me and moves me.

    • Thanks, Hy, and again to all the others for your words of support. A venture of this magnitude isn’t accomplished in a vacuum. When we pull together we just may achieve something wonderful and potentially transformative for people.

      A new blog entry is in the works. Stay tuned.

  4. Hi Richard

    Glad to see things have started rolling. Congratulations and good luck.


  5. Peggy Farley sent me the video and i am very interested, and delighted that you are doing this. What a project to undertake in these times, but so needed! Thank you. If you would like it, we could put something into the Upattinas School Newsletter and a link on our website – or maybe it’s too soon for that. Let us know.


  6. Hi Richard,

    We spoke today at the Plaza in Phoenixville while I was doing voter registration. Glad I found the site (also facebook – cross posting). I am interested in the school, I’ll continue to gather information from the sites and hope to talk to you again.

    – Greg

  7. It was a pleasure to see some new introjectory thought for our community in Pottstown, Pa. Look forward to working with you. Cheers and Good luck.

    • Hi James, it was very nice to meet you. Thank you for your kind words. I was delighted with the response from Pottstown and will be following up. Stay tuned! -Richard

  8. Richard,
    It was a great pleasure to meet you again, this time
    with ample time to get a good introduction to your
    work with Sphere College. I hope we can follow up our conversation in the near future. Please keep me informed
    about the progress of your work,
    Very fond regards,
    Ron Thomas
    ps kindly respond via my own email

  9. Great project. I live in Lancaster county. Nice to see something like this happening PA.

    • Thanks for the comment, Nathan. And I just checked out your blog. Love the photos. I’ll be checking back to learn more about the plants. Really great.

  10. I’m still a little confused about this project, the college is building a curriculum around what the student wants to learn. So does that mean if I want to be an engineer or physicist, I can learn that from this college?

    • That’s the general idea, but it’s broader than that. We’re dealing with adults who are generally not a good fit for the current model of higher education. The first phase is to give students sufficiently broad experience in multiple areas, and to ensure that they have connected with a passion that will carry them through the challenging tasks of learning that lay ahead. If a student says he or she wants to be a physicist, they need to then convince a panel that this is indeed their passion. Then, with mentorship they will identify the interdisciplinary knowledge they need to accomplish that goal. Chances are they would narrow their goal down considerably more than ‘a physicist’. They will then construct a program of study that—and this is the most important part—fits their learning style, allowing them to go more deeply into the topic. There are many details that don’t fit into comments here, but perhaps that will help explain our model.

      • Free College looks like a bright educational model to me, especially if you’ve read the wealth of the nations by Adam Smith. Having mass amounts of educated individuals by this model would drive the current technology labor market into the future! I’m a current physics major and I want to be a researcher especially for technology such as neural prosthetics, How much convincing do I have to give this panel to let them know I want to one day give them technology that will allow them to walk again as if they had a new limb?

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