Notes from Windward: #64

"So, what's a Chair, and what's it got to do with Windward?"

First, a bit of background

      In the world of colleges and universities, an academic chair involves the dedication of an endowment sufficient to insure that a given subject is studied and taught at a particular institution. Usually this is a non-standard subject which might otherwise not get the resources and focus needed. Because a chair has its own resources, it's not dependent on the general budget.

       By way of example, here's the Position Description published by a community college that's looking to fill their Academic Chair for Business and Technology.

"The Academic Chair reports to the Assistant Dean of Faculty for Business and Technology and is responsible for providing strong academic leadership, supervising personnel, assisting students, managing budgets and overseeing facilities. The scope of the Academic Chair's responsibilities extends to all of the department's courses and programmatic offerings including day, evening and weekend courses and distance-learning. Additional expectations include participation in campus and College functions such as open house and commencement, meeting regularly with full-time and adjunct faculty, attending award and recognition ceremonies and meeting with program advisory councils. The Academic Chair normally teaches one course per semester. "

      It's our goal to use this concept as a guide to expanding the educational opportunities available at Windward.

       Unlike many other communities, Windward doesn't have a community business where residents work so many hours a week in exchange for room and board. Indeed, no one draws a salary and everyone is expected to pay their share of the expenses.

      As one might expect, that's easier said than done. On the other hand, we've never encountered a situation where someone couldn't turn their passion into an income given the opportunity.

       Now, if a person has no passion for anything ..... then that is a problem. On the other hand, Windward is a good place to try things that one might not have had the time or opportunity to experience before. Sometimes, folks just can't hear the music of their heart because of all the background noise.

       Windward does many different things in order to meet its needs in as self-reliant and sustainable a fashion as we can figure out how to do, and each year we are able to meet that goal in better, more comprehensive ways. One advantage of this process is that as we learn more about how to create things of value for our own benefit, our people learn how to also create value which they can then market in order to generate their own financial independence.

       Residents are welcome to use the skills they learn on site in order to provide services in other venues. We live in a time when hand-made custom products are especially appreciated, and as we learn to make quality products that meet our own needs, we're also learning to be able to produce custom or hard to find products for others.

       As our body of skills, tools and resources grows, we're reaching the point where a more focused, more detailed approach is possible in certain areas. These areas are what form the potential "Chairs."

       In each case, we've identified substantial, long-term programs which will help Windward better achieve its goal of modeling sustainable, self-reliant systems, support our educational mission and enable the right individual to focus on an interesting, worthwhile field of study, teaching and practice.

       People undertake careers out of a combination of love and money; they want a job that they enjoy, and that will also provide them with the lifestyle they desire. That's great work if you can get it, but opportunities which allow you to be well paid for doing what you'd do anyway, well, they're few and far between.

      Looked at this way, Windward is an effort to create a context in which financial demands are reduced to the point where alternate paths become possible, even desirable.

       Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the "Chair" concept as we're thinking of it and the way it operates in academia is that we're doing these things because we think they're worth doing, and taking care to structure the process in such a way that the economic dimension of the puzzle is not the limiting factor.

       Because of the degree to which we've already achieved our goals, we're able to operate our programs with a focus on education rather than income. That doesn't mean that those activities don't need to carry their fair share of the organizational overhead, but what it does mean is that enough of the structure is already in place that such programs can focus on long-term benefits instead of short-term cash flow.

       Well, enough theory; time to start sketching out some specific examples of the opportunities we have waiting for the right person to step in and make them happen. I'm going to start with a discussion about growing mushrooms, and while that may not be a subject which would immediately spring to mind for most folks, it's a good example of what we've got in mind when we're talking about creating a "Chair". So even if you're not particularly interested in that subject, I'd invite you to read through the description in order to get a better idea of what we're working toward since there are many other interests which could fit the same model.

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Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 64