Sphere College Project

A New World of Learning


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New Space—Painting Party!

The Sphere College Project will be moving its classes into Local Sphere, a shop opening at 12 S. Main Street in Phoenixville. The shop will stock shelf-stable goods from local vendors in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and will have workshop/classroom space. Jesse Antonini, the store manager, will be hosting a painting party in the space starting at 1pm this Saturday, August 25. If you’re in the Phoenixville area, go join in, meet people. If you don’t want to paint, maybe bring some food or drink for those who do, or just drop in and say hello!

Here’s the link to the Facebook event: The Sphere College Project will be moving its classes into Local Sphere, a shop opening at 12 S. Main Street in Phoenixville! The shop will stock shelf-stable goods from local vendors in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and will have workshop/classroom space. Jesse Antonini, the store manager, will be hosting a painting party in the space starting at 1pm this Saturday, August 25. If you’re in the Phoenixville area, go join in, meet people. If you don’t want to paint, maybe bring some food or drink for those who do, or just drop in and say hello!

Here’s the link to the Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/216482335148274/


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Permissions, Please?

Oh, what a day! So I’ve been waiting for two years for something this big: an article about Sphere College in Chronicle of Higher Education! The big time! This is the article that could turn everything around!

But oh, wait. It’s only available via subscription. So most people whom I know can’t read it. And even if I should obtain a copy (I don’t have a subscription, and I don’t actually have the money to spend on a subscription right now) I can’t legally email it out or post it on my website.

Hmm. What to do now? I’ve got to get people reading this thing. It was suggested that I just go ahead and get a copy and post it anyway. I considered this, but only briefly. It just didn’t seem very wise to me to start out a organization built on trust that way.

Ok, well, I’m the founder of a college, right? I should be able to figure this out. I’ll make a few calls and talk with a few people and see what I can find out.

WELL. I’ll spare you the details. Suffice it to say that I spoke with a number of very nice people, and eventually discovered that all I have to do is pay a licensing fee (there’s this whole fee structure and details about how the article can be distributed) so I can get access to a nice pdf with advertising removed and pretty Chronicle masthead and everything. It turns out that the licensing fee is $675 for 1 year, which allows me to post the article on this website, email it around, and make and distribute copies. Cool! Only I don’t have $675.

SO I called my Dad and my uncle and they’re trying to come up with some money, and my sister offered to help as well. Meanwhile, I’ve got my RocketHub project that is doing pretty well—9 people have donated so far and it jumped from $150 up to $500 since yesterday! AND it was just selected as a Featured Project on the RocketHub home page! (It’s a kind of tiny photo—look for my smiling face.)

So if you’d like to see the article AND do something good for youths in Phoenixville, it would be a huge help if you could donate a small amount to my RocketHub project AND help spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, sending emails, etc. Then I’ll have the funds to purchase the license and make it available here. Sound good? Good.

And, oh look, it appears to have just now jumped to $550 in donations! Let’s go see who donated…Coleen! Thank you!

And check out this video.


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Student Successes

Other than the knowledge that we’re doing some very important work, what keeps us going after two years of struggling to establish a new institution of higher education in a challenging financial environment? Student successes, naturally–that’s the whole point!

Well, this is a big weekend for Sphere College students. On the heels of being awarded the Sunday Soup grant to have her artwork matted and framed, Virginia Stewart is showing some of her artwork in the Members Show at the Phoenix Village Art Center during the month of May. Virginia’s husband and Sphere College student, Jonathan Stewart, will have works on display as well. The opening is tomorrow night, Friday May 6 from 7-9pm.

AND this Saturday May 7 from 2-4pm, Frank Wolfe and friends will be entertaining during his book signing, Love and Bagels, at Steel City Coffeehouse. A superb article about the event appeared in the Montgomery News (with mention of Sphere College).

We invite you to come out to meet us and see the wonderful work our students are doing!

Meanwhile, classes continue each Thursday night from 7-9pm in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. As is the philosophy of Sphere College, the students select the topic of study. We are currently engaged in a 10-week session on Propaganda.

Please support the work we’re doing. Providing financially accessible education for adults in the way they learn is a critical component of a healthy society. You think a small donation won’t help? NOT SO! $10 from 10,000 people would raise the funds necessary for Sphere College to build an infrastructure that can grow. There are 15,000 people in Phoenixville alone. We need your help. Please donate!


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The 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge

The Sphere College Entry for the 2011 Buckminster Fuller Challenge is now available online, along with all the other entries. Please take a moment to visit the site! (Make sure to click on “Read More”.)

From the Buckminster Fuller Institute website:

“The IDEA INDEX 1.0 is a searchable database of incredible ideas submitted by design pioneers and social innovators from all over the world”, commented Elizabeth Thompson, BFI’s Executive Director. “One project wins the Challenge, but many of the entries are very worthy of support and attention. It is our hope that in publishing this work on-line, we can develop interest in, and support for comprehensive approaches to addressing our critical issues.”


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Another Take

How fun! The winner of the Sphere College Creative Writing Contest 2011, Jessica Perhaps Portia Epp, has made available her own version of her winning entry. You can find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFOvp91P4cM. Enjoy!

For reference, the one we made is available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so7xUSTw6vg. IMHO, it’s interesting to compare the two versions.


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What Exactly Is Sphere College?

I gave a talk about Sphere College on Monday at AT&T Labs-Research in Florham Park, New Jersey. The talk seemed to go rather well, and I had some excellent followup conversations afterward, some of which are ongoing via email. One reason we connect with others in this was is because the questions we get help us continue to develop our own ability to convey our ideas to others. During these conversations it became more clear to me precisely what, to my mind, Sphere College really is. In a nutshell…

The system I envision here is of a self-organizing system in which it is not possible for any of the entities—faculty/staff/students, current and future—has sufficient knowledge of the complete system to fully design it beforehand. Human experience is simply too heterogeneous. This implies that the implementation must be discovered on the fly. Communication among the entities begins with rather low fidelity (in the sense of accuracy of reproduction of a signal to its source), complicating the problem. However, the fidelity increases manyfold as the system matures. At all times a sufficient infrastructure must be present to ensure progress toward the common goal, embodied in our mission statement (which was written by the students under my guidance). The function of some of the entities—a minimal number—is to maintain the integrity of the infrastructure. I posit that this system is optimal.

Granted, there are many people to whom the above is not going to make a lot of sense, but think about it while we work on other ways to convey the concept of Sphere College. In the Steering Committee we have been discussing a nice metaphor. More on that at another time.


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Top Google Result

I’ve noticed in the stats for this blog that it regularly gets hits from people who are searching on Google for “what does crisis averted mean”. So I typed this into a Google search and, lo and behold, my blog post “Crises Averted(?)” is the first result. Coincidence? You be the judge! But we do seem to be averting crises on a pretty regular basis. Well, that’s what an educational institution must be able to do, right? Prepare people for keeping their wits about them while they navigate treacherous waters.

In other news, we haven’t yet achieved the funding levels that will allow us to flourish as a self-sustaining institution. This surprises me, since it’s hard for me to imagine anything we need more right now than a solid educational system that truly helps the general public be more thoughtful. They vote, you know. That’s ok, we’ll get there.

In the meantime, I must support myself. So I’m starting a sideline business of Pre-College Mentoring. I’ll be working one-on-one with high school students in grades 9-12 prepare to attend the college of their choice. My brochure is available at richardliston.org. Please take a moment to look, and send people my way. I’ll be happy to meet with people to discuss the range of services I can offer.