Introducing Our Emergent Educational Design

Starr King School for the Ministry

Chris Boyle

MA in Social Change graduate Christine Boyle

A Unitarian Universalist and multireligious theological school

Preparing spiritual leaders for the 21st century to

  • Create just and sustainable communities that counter oppressions
  • Cultivate multireligious life and learning
  • Call forth compassion, wholeness and liberation.

Starr King’s Emergent Educational Design

offers a graduate school experience that is

Global in its scope

  • Using new educational technologies, students and teachers live and work in settings all around the globe
  • A vibrant in-person learning community in Berkeley provides a home base
  • Global immersions deepen multi-religious and cross-cultural learning

Relational in its educational practice

  • Intensive periods in August and January build community among all students, faculty and staff
  • The personal advisor-student relationship anchors the entire educational process 
  • Cohort groups connect students for creative interchange across differences and distances, building friendship and mutual support 
  • Fieldwork and internships integrate relational learning that is attuned to specific cultures, contexts and struggles for justice

Adaptive in its modes of teaching and learning

  • Each student achieves competency in the degree threshold requirements through a personalized educational plan, adapted to their vocational goals and the needs of their community
  • Multiple modes of teaching and learning engage students in a holistic and liberating education that calls forth their gifts and develops their capacities for courageous and compassionate religious leadership.

THE FLOW OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR

Picturing the flow of the academic year gives a sense of how Starr King’s Emergent Educational Design works:

academic year chart

August Intensive Period  -  The whole Starr King learning community gathers in Berkeley for

  • the annual Symposium with an honored global religious leader
  • intensive courses
  • in-person advising
  • community-building through shared meals, worship, spiritual practice and rituals
  • new student  orientation for Fall

Fall Semester  - Starr King students pursue their studies in diverse locations and modes:

  • social justice fieldwork and projects in community sites
  • online courses through Starr King and the Graduate Theological Union
  • residential courses in Berkeley at Starr King and the Graduate Theological Union
  • hybrid SKSM courses, which are residential courses in which students at a distance participate by SKYPE
  • experiential learning integrating life and theological studies
  • immersion courses, such as the Boston History Immersion, the Rumi Immersion in Turkey
  • parish fieldwork and internships in Unitarian Universalist congregations
  • independent studies, research and writing
  • chapel, spiritual practices, and rituals – in person and virtually- sustain community
  • cohort groups connect students in diverse locations 
  • personal advising anchors each student’s educational plan

January Intensive Period -  Students and faculty gather again in Berkeley for:

  • intensive courses
  • in-person advising
  • community-building through shared meals, worship, spiritual practice and rituals
  • the annual Parish Internship gathering
  • new student orientation for Spring

Spring Semester -- Starr King students pursue their studies in diverse locations and modes:

  • social justice fieldwork and projects in community sites
  • online courses through Starr King and the Graduate Theological Union
  • residential courses in Berkeley at Starr King and the Graduate Theological Union
  • hybrid SKSM courses, which are residential courses in which students at a distance participate by SKYPE
  • experiential learning integrating life and theological studies
  • immersion courses, such as the “Rome at the Crossroads of Religion” immersion, or service-learning trips with the UU College for Social Justice
  • parish fieldwork and internships in Unitarian Universalist congregations
  • independent studies, research and writing
  • chapel, spiritual practices, and rituals – in person and virtually- sustain community
  • cohort groups connect students in diverse locations
  • personal advising anchors each student’s educational plan

May – Commencement Celebrations

Summer Period – June - July  Time for rest and recreation. Students have options to enhance their studies through:

  • Summer courses offered by member schools of the Graduate Theological Union Union (note: these courses are not included in the free cross registration system)
  • SKSM UU Polity Immersion at the site of General Assembly
  • Ten-week Clinical Pastoral Education
  • Independent research and fieldwork projects

 
The Flow of the Academic Year creates a rhythm…
Spiraling out, spiraling in…
an organic process of gathering together and scattering to learn and serve…
connecting with one another, and turning to diverse, specific, particular locations….
Reflecting and acting,
A rhythm of educational engagement
That focuses
And dances…
That centers and expands
That honors differences and creates connections…
A way of teaching
that accompanies and challenges,
that nurtures intellect,
and impels creative action,
that forms people for vocations as ministers, scholars, 
activists, artists, chaplains, teachers
grounded  in spirit and dedicated to:
  Creating just and sustainable communities that counter oppressions…
  Cultivating multireligious life and learning…
  Calling forth compassion, wholeness, and liberation.

Relational/Constructive Learning:

The Starr King Emergent Educational Design centers education on the transformative power of relationships and honors the “interdependent web of all existence.” Each each student works in relationship with a core faculty advisor who guides and accompanies their learning process. Cohort groups invite students into creative interchange with one another.  Courses, immersions, internships and fieldwork projects relate theological studies to the lived realities of specific communities, cultures and traditions.

Working within a counter-oppressive and multi-religious framework, Starr King students and faculty continually consider the relationships and intersections of religions, the arts, race, class, gender, embodiment, ecologies, cultural representations, sexualities, spiritual practices, justice and peace issues, technologies, and global economic realities.  In the preparation of religious leaders for the 21st century, none of these can be treated as peripheral or “add on” considerations, because of all these issues are integral to the realities, beauty, and complexity of human life, understood as a relational whole.

Relational  learning cultivates right relationship with self, with others, with communities of accountability, and with the sacred “ground of all relating” which is understood and honored in many ways in diverse religious traditions and spiritual practices. 

Constructive learning respects that students have knowledge, experience, and agency to bring to the learning process. Internalized and systemic oppressions are countered by constructive learning which calls forth the presence and full engagement of students as creators rather than empty vessels or passive recipients of knowledge.  Intentionality, self-awareness, and attention to social location are involved.  Constructive learning cultivates human capacities and ethical virtues that empower courageous, engaged religious leadership; it is a way of teaching and learning that brings compassion and justice to the world.

Relational/constructive learning represents an evolution of progressive educational practices that are deeply rooted in Starr King’s history.  Unitarian Universalist religious leaders in the 19th century pioneered revolutionary innovations in education to “call forth and direct aright all the powers of the soul” (William Ellery Channing).  Their approach made education both a spiritual practice and an impulse for social change, igniting movements for women’s rights, worker’s rights, indigenous people’s rights, the abolition of slavery, ecological conservation, non-violence and resistance to war, and openness to the wisdom of all the world’s religious traditions.

Relational/constructive learning calls forth empowered and engaged spiritual leaders, rooted in love and committed to justice.   

Rumi Immersion

            Rumi Immersion in Turkey, December 2011

THE FLOW OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR

Another way to describe it...

August Intensive Period: The whole Starr King learning community gathers in Berkeley

  • for core intensives courses, Fall new student orientation, in-person advising, and the annual August Symposium which engages students in small group study, shared worship and spiritual practices, communal meals, and features an honored global religious leader who engages the entire community on a common theme.

Fall Semester:  September through December -  Starr King degree students pursue their studies in diverse locations and modes:

  • many are in Berkeley taking  courses through  Starr King and the Graduate Theological Union and creating the in-person “Starr King Berkeley” community;  others are in their home communities across the continent and around the globe, studying through on-line courses and hybrid courses (by which they SKYPE into a Starr King residential course);  others are engaged in field work, advanced independent research projects, clinical pastoral education, or internships social change work, ministry, or chaplaincy;  some will meet-up  in person through a Starr King Immersion led by Starr King faculty and taking place for a week or two for contextual learning in sites such as “Starr King Istanbul” or “Starr King Boston.”  Personal advising, portfolio conferences, and cohort group meetings take place throughout the semester.

January Intensive Period:  Students and faculty gather again in Berkeley

  • for intensive courses, Spring new student orientation,  in-person advising, community building through shared worship and spiritual practices, and the annual  Parish Internship Conference.

Spring Semester:  February-May  Starr King degree students pursue their studies in diverse locations: 

  • many are in Berkeley taking  courses through  Starr King and the Graduate Theological Union and creating the in-person “Starr King Berkeley” community;  others are in their home communities across the continent and around the globe, studying through on-line or hybrid courses;  others are engaged in field work, advanced independent research projects, clinical pastoral education, or internships in social change work, ministry, or chaplaincy;  some will meet-up  in person through a Starr King Immersion taking place for a week or two for contextual learning in sites such as the U.S. Mexico Border (in partnership with the College for Social Justice), or for an immersion in “Rome at the Crossroads of Religion.”  Personal advising, portfolio conferences, and cohort group meetings take place throughout the semester. Commencement Exercises are held at the end of May.

Summer Period:  June-July Starr King students have an opportunity for rest and renewal, or may continue to pursue their studies

  • Some take short summer session courses offered at GTU schools.  Others are engaged in a 10- week summer Clinical Pastoral Education experience at a hospital, prison, or social service agency. Some enroll in Starr King’s intensive course in UU Polity offered at the site of the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly. Still others are engaged with independent projects, field work, travel-study, summer ministries, summer employment, or are enjoying a period to rest and play.

 

 


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