Monday, May 27, 2024

It’s either not big news or Lesley University has an ineffective public relations department, but the local press seems not to have noticed there’s a new school in town: Lesley’s School of Integrative and Experiential Studies.

It merges Lesley’s Adult Baccalaureate College and Audubon Expedition Institute, proving that combining two things that are vaguely named merely results in more vagueness, although not twice as much — in fact, the name of the new school sheds more light on its parts than did their own, old names. “Integrative and Experiential Studies” is at least suggestive: it is meant to be diverse, in whatever way, and use life experience, somehow. If you work at Red Lobster for a year with a senior citizen of another race and little person of another gender, is that good for course credit?

The official description of the school is little more illuminating. It’s made up of pearly phrases  looping back on themselves with languid earnestness, if such a thing is imaginable, obscuring as they assure, and a quote from the school’s dean has exactly the same dreamily oblique manner. When he’s done talking, you shake yourself awake and wonder what just happened:

“Graduates from this school have an expanded capacity to transform knowledge into action,” Terrence Keeney says. “By designing and directing their own integrative programs of study, students develop the skills to think creatively and act with agency in the world.”

At least the formation of the school looks to have incurred the cost of a few trays of sandwiches (for meetings) and some replacement stationery. The last new school in the area cost $10 million, that being the Tufts University College of Citizenship and Public Service launched in 2000. Alums and eBay Inc. founders Pierre and Pam Omidyar wanted to make being “involved in public service … not something you put on your resume [but] something you should think about throughout every day,” as Pierre Omidyar said that April.

Cambridge and its surrounding communities being renowned for their education, these new schools can be taken as a sign of what the future will be like: soft, fuzzy, articulate without being meaningful, and possibly meaningful without being articulate.

So be it, class of 2005. Let’s get out there and transform knowledge into action. Act with agency in the world. And help each other.