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What is Special about Education at WISR? (page 2)

Prospective students are also encouraged to ask for a copy of the article published in 2003, “Multicultural, Community-Based Knowledge-Building: Lessons from a Tiny Institution Where Students and Faculty Sometimes Find Magic in the Challenge and Support of Collaborative Inquiry”about WISR written by WISR core faculty members, Dr. Cynthia Lawrence and Dr. John Bilorusky. The following is the abstract of that article, and the photo below, is from a WISR graduation. From left to right: WISR faculty, Dr. John Bilorusky and Dr. Cynthia Lawrence, and Dennis Hastings who had just received his MA degree. Subsequently, Dennis Hastings went on to earn his PhD at WISR, pursuing historical, cultural, educational and social action projects, in keeping with his role as Founder and Director of the Omaha Tribal Historical Research Project (OTHRP), which has been officially designated “the cultural authority of the Omaha people” by the Omaha Tribe:

The two authors of this article, longtime colleagues at the Western Institute for Social Research (WISR), analyze and tell a story of community-based knowledge-building at WISR in Berkeley, California. WISR was created in 1975 to provide a very small, socially progressive, and multicultural learning environment in which community-involved adults could construct individualized Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral programs in close collaboration with faculty. In this article, we look at WISR’s history, keys to our success, how we measure our success, stories that illustrate some outcomes for our learners, and WISR’s intangible qualities, including the subtle ways in which WISR faculty challenge and support our learners. Quite importantly, learners at WISR often come to appreciate that they, and indeed, most everyone, is involved in knowledge-building, to a greater or lesser degree.

Our efforts at WISR are considered in relation to the “bigger picture”—the teaching and learning of inquiry and scientific methods, other alternative programs and the conventional higher education establishment. As individuals, WISR learners find their own voices, build bridges to their desired career paths and/or community involvements and pursue their hopes for bettering their communities. As inquiring colleagues of others, they further contribute to knowledge-building—in immediate endeavors in their local and professional communities, while directly and indirectly conveying to others what they are learning as well as how they are learning. Amidst the nuances of such collaborative inquiry, there is a special magic. That magic is the focus of this article and at the heart of why WISR continues to thrive in the face of seemingly impossible challenges to a tiny, alternative institution with limited financial resources. (The article appears in Community and the World: Participating in Social Change. Torry D. Dickinson (ed.), Nova Science Publishers, 2003, and the quoted abstract above is on page 63.)

Read more about . . . The Intangible Qualities of Learning the WISR Way