Sphere College Project

A New World of Learning

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Now Hear (Read) This!

Read this feature article about Sphere College in the Chronicle of Higher Education and learn about the college education you wish you had. One that was financially accessible, stretched your boundaries and aligned with your passion.

It is the education you personally can give to others, especially those talented people who don’t fit into the current box of higher education we’re trying to squash everyone into—those talented people who have something big to contribute to society and really are the change we need to create a more enjoyable and functional world, where we live rather than douse our dreams.

Read It and Be Inspired. Grab the article by following this link: http://spherecollege.org/ChronicleMay2011.pdf

And then take the step to make this dream come alive—for the present students, for those we can ignite and even, maybe, for someone you personally know.

Every bit helps foster the dream. You can donate the cost of lunch or a movie ticket easily. Just click HERE on this DONATE link.

You’re almost done. Now think of just a few people you know who understand that bringing effective education, individualized education, to a wider public is the key to creating a world where we are passionately productive, aligned with our joy, and choose to bring the very best of ourselves to make a contribution that matters to society and point those people to this entry. That’s it!

THEN sit back for a few moments and breathe a nice, deep sigh, comfortable in the knowledge that you’ve joined many other like-minded people in supporting what we would like to see happen—a world with a greater appreciation for the arts; with a greater capacity for understanding scientific thought; and a greater ability to be compassionate for those who differ from us while connecting more closely with those who are similar.

Ok, let’s really see what we can do to change the world now.


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.


Article in Chronicle!

This morning I received an email from my former PhD advisor at Georgia Tech (and a dedicated supporter of Sphere College), Ellen Zegura, that read:

Woo hoo!


She also attached headlines from Chronicle of Higher Education, one of which was: “It’s His Very Own College, and Welcome to It”. That’s how I discovered that an article about Sphere College I’ve been hoping to see in Chronicle of Higher Education for quite some time has finally made it!

This is big. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Chronicle of Higher Education may be loosely described as “the Wall Street Journal of higher education”. An article in Chronicle gives us a level of credibility that is very difficult to achieve otherwise. They wouldn’t waste their resources on something that doesn’t have merit, and they have clearly put a lot of work into the article. Our task at hand now is to leverage the article, to get the word out about it and continue to raise the funds that will support us as we move to become a self-sustainable entity and truly provide students with the resources they need.

Hmm, maybe you can help. Maybe you can point people you know towards the article, particularly people who work in higher education (it does require a subscription). Maybe you can provide a small amount of financial support either directly to Sphere College or perhaps even better at this time to the project I posted at RocketHub. This is a project to raise some funds to help promising youths in the Phoenixville community and to help me survive (yes, it’s like that these days): http://rockethub.com/projects/1831-walk-this-way. And please encourage others to support it as well! You know what to do: facebook, twitter, comment on other blogs, send emails, etc.

The point here is that we are all connected and must help one another out. I’m doing my level best to help members of my community. I’m asking you to assist me in that, and you will benefit as well by living in a more educated, compassionate, sensible and fun community, peaceful in the knowledge that you helped make it all happen.

So… let’s get to play!

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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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New Directions

Ok, big update here: the College has not yet become financially viable. It will, but it hasn’t yet. It seems that everyone is playing it safe. This is understandable in the current economic climate, but it makes it hard for new, innovative ideas to flourish.

In the meantime, I’ve got bills to pay and have to remain solvent, so I’ve begun looking for work in the software industry. My preference is for short-term part-time project work in C/C++ and/or moderate-term software management. If you know of anything, let me know: jrichardliston AT gmail dot com.

This doesn’t mean that I’m abandoning the College, BTW. Quite the contrary: it means that I’m doing everything I must in order to take the College to a place where it is self-sustaining. Although I’m not thrilled about shifting my energy away from the College, perhaps I’ll make enough income to hire someone to handle some of the tasks that we need done.

Another change is that the students and Steering Committee have opted to move to a “quarter system” for the Self and Other classes. 12 week sessions of 10 classes with a little break in between so we can prepare for the next quarter. Also, Michael Reddy is taking a leave of absence until we can find the funding to support his participation. These changes will take place at the end of July. Now I’m off to write up an information sheet for the students explaining the details of the transition.

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So Much to Tell

Oh, there’s just so much to tell. I’ve got about 20 irons in the fire. I don’t know which one is going to work out, so I’m just trying to keep them all hot. Yes, I do realize that without the details this is not a very satisfying post, but it’s a touch-and-go time here and I need to focus on keeping the College afloat. Either the College will become financially viable in the short term or I’ll be returning to the software industry for a while in order to continue to support the college. I can do that, of course, I would just prefer not to take my energy off of moving the college forward right now. We’ll see what happens and I’ll let you know what develops.

Ok, before I go tend to other things I’ll give you a tiny piece: today I contacted the UPenn Graduate School of Education. There may be some faculty members there who would be interested in learning more about the new model of higher education we’re working on and being involved in some way. I’ll be following up with them asap.

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Pick Up the Phone

Hi everyone,

Here’s the case: for the American System to work we must have a sufficiently educated public who makes decisions based on fact, not fiction. When there are huge financial resources available to those in positions of power to employ techniques of rhetoric (the art of persuasion) to formulate public opinion through the media, we need an equally effective educational system. That system must work with the way people think, work and live. It will not have an agenda—it will seek to help students go through the transformation they want to go through. It will not add stress to their already stressful lives. You guessed it: I’m talking about Sphere College.

Here’s your call to action:

Take a few quiet moments to think of any “high net worth individuals” you know who want to do something good in the world. Contact them and say “Hey, there’s someone I think you should talk to. There’s an innovative education project project called Sphere College that may be the Next Big Thing in education and you may very well be interested in either supporting it or helping to garner support for it”. Ask whether it’s ok for me to contact them. If so, contact me and give me their contact info: email address or (preferably) telephone number. I’ll contact them and give them a brief overview of the College and see whether their curiosity is piqued for more. If you don’t know any “high net worth individuals”, then think of people you know who would know someone.

If this ends up resulting in bringing support for Sphere College, then you can pat yourself on the back for being an important link in the process of building the College.

Ah, so many things are lined up it’s amazing. It’s going to be so fun when everything falls into place!