Featured Org of the Week: EXCO

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The Experimental College, EXCO, began in the Twin Cities in 2006 with Macalester chapter. Since then, a chapter emerged at the University of Minnesota. Jason Rodney ’10 and Linda Nguyen’10, EXCO organizers, gave The Mac Weekly the inside scoop.The Mac Weekly: What exactly is EXCO? Why was it started?

Jason Rodney: According to the website, ‘EXCOtc is a collective…that shares visions of a better world, offers free and open classes and is building a community around education for social change.’ I understand that EXCO was started by a group of students against the need-blind policy. When the policy went through, the students discovered the EXCO idea at a conference on Democratizing Higher Education. They organized a Skillshare event and began defining EXCOtc. This definition has been continually evolving.

TMW: What do you have to do to teach or take a class?

JR: All facilitators turn in an application, for purposes of communication, helping find classroom space and publicizing it. We have not yet turned down a class, but we do not fully fund all budget requests. We offer up to $300 honorariums for non-college affiliated facilitators, plus money for supplies, copies, etc.

TMW: What is being offered this semester?

JR: We have 60 courses this semester and the number is still increasing. A few of the many classes starting soon are Shape Note Singing and Sacred Harp, Web Technologies for Activism, the Role of Business and Society, Citizen Journalism, Becoming More Authentic: The Positive Side of Existentialism, Nonviolent Conflict Management and Resolution and New Ways of Loving: How Authenticity Transforms Relationships.

TMW: Who takes and teaches classes?

JR: Anyone is welcome to. Facilitators and participants range all ages, not all are college-educated and we are continually working to make EXCO accessible and useful to new communities. Because of how we started there was always a high participation rate amongst privileged people affiliated with Macalester, limited data says participants seem to be 50% college students. Our strategies to increase non-college student participation, include partnerships, like the Project for Pride and Living, which works with lower-income people through housing and services, ‘learning days’ with the Waite House in the Phillips neighborhood and how- EXCO could work in prisons.

TMW: Have you taught or taken any classes? What have those experiences been like?

JR: Hell yes. I consistently enjoy my EXCO classes more than my Macalester courses, no offense Mac, and I think it’s largely because: a) there’s a very different diversity in EXCO classes, z) some of the best ones are in coffee shops and living rooms and g) the curriculum is more malleable to the group’s interests.

TMW: Anything else you would like to add?

JR: We need more organizers! E-mail me, [email protected], if you’re interested in getting involved or learning more. The application to facilitate or to register is available at www.excotc.org. Everyone is welcome. Many classes start next week, Sept. 22.