EXPO 2014: Four Discoveries from the First Year

When you give yourself the opportunity to design your education, you’re bound to stumble upon incredible discoveries. Those discoveries only reach their fullest potential when they’re shared with others.

Experience Institute's first graduation: EXPO

Ei’s founding class reunited with the team in downtown Chicago at CannonDesign – an architecture and design force – where we engaged in a 10-day design sprint toward our first ever graduation celebration, EXPO. We're not a traditional school, so we figured why have a traditional graduation?

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Instead, we hoped to share our process – and not only how that process shaped our learning, but how it might influence the future of higher education.

We’ve all experienced considerable transformation this year, but we chose four main discoveries revolving around experiential learning and higher education to share with our community:

I. Intention - Declare your mission, not your major.*(*Developed with the Stanford d.school)

By stating our intention, we empower ourselves with a plan of action. Throughout the year, we not only encouraged and supported each other, but we also held ourselves accountable by reminding each other of our initial intentions throughout our experiences.  

II. Action - Take a risk, not a class.

By launching into unknown fields of work and study, we challenge ourselves to adapt and learn with open minds. Those actions led to a holistic transformation—or, in other words, an education. We took risks, and we learned.

III. Reflection - Look back before looking ahead.

By contextualizing our learnings through reflection, we’re able to connect theory to practice and integrate our learnings with our experiences. Over the year, we determined our own systems of reflection, jotting into journals and sketching the sights around us.

IV. Iteration - Make learning a habit.

By making an intentional effort to learn throughout our lives, to iterate the processes by which we learn, we approach our curiosities wisely and with greater purpose.

These insights are not conclusions; they’re an invitation to join us as we continue to build new ways for learners to develop the practices instrumental to personal and professional growth.

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Our goal for EXPO was to compile learnings from our inaugural year into beautiful videos, animations, interactive displays and a gallery-style layout for the night.Both challenging and exhilarating, the project tested everything we’d learned throughout the year.

On September 4th, we invited our community of friends, family, connectors and host companies to join us for the evening. Our friends from Revolution Brewery and City Winery provided libations to keep the party flowing. Friends from Digital Kitchen, Post Family, Leo Burnett, Kilbourne Group, and others helped to make the evening extra special.

Upon entering, attendees were invited to view animated statistics from the students’ years displayed in CannonDesign’s reception area in larger-than-life dimensions. In a private viewing room, short videos of each student’s journeys played on loop. A gallery space displayed our main discoveries, as well as a curation of the students’ artifacts and reflections from throughout the year, an interactive map displaying their travels over the year, and more.

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Following a brief Q&A led by Sandee Kastrul, a key member of our board, our founder Victor Saad conferred diplomas to each of the founding students, sharing brief but moving anecdotes about their time together. Upon completion, a sea of community members stood together to applaud the graduates.

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The recent graduates then introduced our second class, whose first interactions with the Ei community occurred that evening. With the launch of our next class, we’re wasting no time in pressing our mission forward. In seeing the impact and growth of our founding class, we’re more certain than ever that experience, thoughtfully approached, can be a transformative force not only in higher education, but throughout emerging industries and fields. To paraphrase a remark made by Muffadal Saylawala’s in his student video, we have a new set of eyes. Instead of seeing problems, we see opportunities.

From our very first Meetup to the final moments of EXPO, we’ve grown so much. We’ve learned to listen more closely and tell stories that inspire conscious living. We’ve worked with truly remarkable teams, joined nature with business and architecture with music, broadened our horizons and invited the unexpected into our lives. It’s been an honor and a pleasure to share such a memorable year with our friends through EXPO.

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Click the image above to view additional photos from EXPO.

We couldn’t be more grateful to our supporters. EXPO was made possible by an array of designers and friends who provided us with invaluable feedback and made our ideas come to life.

Special thanks to:

Cannon Staff: Tim Swanson, Eric Zachrison, Nicole Wiznitzer, Dominick Gallegos, & David Jakes

Designer: Manuel Torres

Digital Kitchen: Video/Animation Team

Taylor Russ, Collin Mauro, & Tyler Jackson

Chicago Design Museum: Tanner & Roman

Michael Cowen of Leo Burnett