Author: Chelsea Burwell

Disability Studies Course Cluster Begins This Fall at Georgetown


This fall, Georgetown University is welcoming its first Disability Studies Course Cluster. Piloted by faculty members – Julia Watts Belser, Rebecca Kukla, and Sara Schotland – this cluster of three related but separate courses will engage students in monthly lectures and interactive workshops with scholars and leading voices in the disability studies field. The cluster is comprised of the following existing courses: ENG 270: Introduction to Disability Studies, PHIL 441.01: Bioethics and the Abnormal Body, and THEO 211: Religion and Disability Studies.


The first workshop of the semester was “Disability, Dignity and Ablution: Rituals of Care,” led by Emory University Professor of English Rosemarie Garland-Thomson. This module challenged students to re-envision notions of dignity and disability –as they are influential on policy and social conversations – and examined religious and secular imagery that regard giving and receiving care as sacred and central acts of being human.


This monthly course cluster offers students an opportunity to extend the usual boundaries of the classroom by synthesizing methods, insights and theoretical questions raised in their courses in the context of  key issues in public life. Moreover, these courses advance Georgetown’s hallmark Jesuit values, by asking students to reflect upon core ethical questions, principles of empathy, a commitment to social justice, and a sincere appreciation for difference and cultural diversity through their academic pursuits.


If you would like more information about this course cluster, please contact Julia Watts Belser at

Designing the Future(s) teams with Georgetown alums to host Interactive Design Lab in Boston

In the first design lab of 2015, the Designing the Future(s) initiative collaborated with Georgetown alumni Jerry Jacobs and Lucy Kapples to host an interactive design lab in Boston, Massachusetts. Twenty-five alumni and parents of current students, representing various career fields, participated in the event. Vice Provost for Education, Randall Bass, facilitated the design lab, asking participants to reflect on their most transformational moments at the University and those communities, networks and experiences that have shaped them. During the lab, some alumni said the “single best thing” about their Hilltop experiences included community; exposure to diverse people, experiences and geography; and the caliber of fellow students and professors.

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As Bass explained, there is a vital importance to integrating such high-impact experiences into learning at Georgetown. The re-design of curricular and co-curricular models developed through the Designing the Future(s) initiative seeks to build upon critical networks and communities in order to foster optimum, rewarding opportunities for Hoya students.

Following the design lab, attendees capped off their evening with a Boston Bruins game. Conversations around the topic of higher education did not wane during the hockey game as participants offered ideas and insights to Bass and his colleagues about the Future(s) initiative.

Formation by Design Collaborators Span the Globe

The Formation x Design project is transcending national borders thanks to the collaboration of Randy Bass, Georgetown’s vice provost for education, and international leaders. Ruth Deakin Crick, program director for the Master in Science in Systems Learning and Leadership at the Graduate School of Education in the University of Bristol; and Simon Buckingham Shum, professor of learning informatics, and director of the new Connected Intelligence Centre at University of Technology Sydney, are part of the project’s consultant team. Since its advent, the project has gained momentum in determining how formational learning occurs, and how it can be measured and best applied within higher education. Both Buckingham Shum and Deakin Crick – whose work focuses on formational pedagogical practices, digitally integrated education, and learning analytics – are working with the Future(s) team to advance a deeper understanding of Georgetown’s value to educate and develop the whole person.

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Ruth Deakin Crick and Simon Buckingham Shum | Source:


Recently, Buckingham Shum composed a piece on the Learning Emergence website about Bass’s direction for higher education and how Formation x Design is “defining the contours of this new landscape.” To read more about Dr. Buckingham Shum’s perspective on the Formation x Design initiative, visit Learning Emergence.


Design Lab highlights pivotal Hilltop moments for NYC Alumni

In early November, Vice Provost for Education Randy Bass and Director of Regional Development Brandi Durkac traveled to Facebook’s New York City Headquarters to host a Designing the Future(s) design lab. Our vision for higher education paralleled ideally with the pioneering spirit and atmosphere present at Facebook’s headquarters, where innovation and progress is built into the DNA of the company. The venue provided a space to cultivate budding ideas while staying true to our core values and identity.

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The event garnered a diverse group of Georgetown alumni, spanning several decades and representing various industries, including finance, medical research, sports management and technology. Throughout the design lab, participants mapped their journeys from the Hilltop to their current professional endeavors and tracked the skills, interests and formational moments that contributed to their success. Of the numerous skills noted, adaptability and willingness to take risks were two of the most common skills participants said shaped their Georgetown trajectory. The alumni group also stressed the importance of finding a mentor, networking and being introspective throughout their matriculation.

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Participants said they not only valued being included in the Future(s) formation process, but also were “comfortable being uncomfortable” and reminiscing on some of their most poignant Hilltop experiences.

This event is just the beginning for the Future(s) Design Labs, as we hope to host more events in the New York Metro and Northeast region in 2015. The last design lab for 2014 will be hosted in Santa Monica and San Francisco, CA.

Concept for Formation by Design presented at TEDx Georgetown event

For the fourth year in a row, Georgetown University hosted a TEDx event, showcasing the voices and undertakings of some of the Hilltop’s most innovative and thought-provoking faculty and students. Titled “Ithaca: The Road Less Traveled,” the event highlighted the significance of one’s academic and intellectual journey, not the ultimate destination. A focus on the meaning and impact of a Georgetown education sat at the heart of a featured TEDx speech delivered by Vice Provost for Education Randy Bass.

Discussion included the possibilities afforded to Georgetown and other universities by enacting “less term-based” infrastructures and applying more focus on “impact and purpose.”

“The university no longer has a monopoly on learning and certification, and in the next ten to fifteen years, we’re going to be outcompeted on costs – on anything that looks like the delivery of content or the delivery of information,” said Bass.

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“We won’t be able to be solely in that business –even though universities were in that business for a lot of the last thousand years.”

The aim of focusing more on the learning journey, along with the hybridization of three knowledges – of a domain, of the world, and of self – are at the heart of the Formation x Design work within the Future(s) initiative and ultimately serve as building blocks for transformational learning.

“High-impact learning [is] where you feel deeply invested in what it is you’re doing,” said Bass. “You feel a sense of ownership in some complex problem you’ve taken on… where you had a chance to integrate all the fragmented parts of your life; that’s high-impact learning.”

As iterated in the discussion, Formation x Design fuses the polarities of generic and interchangeable formal learning with the local and distinctive experiential education in Georgetown. While it is clear that the atmosphere for content consumption is drastically changing, Georgetown’s Formation x Design initiative seeks to build on the university’s unique qualities.

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“I believe that by the 2020s, there will only be two things we can say that a university does that’s distinctive in the whole learning ecosystem – mentored learning and the arc of learning,” Bass said.

This transformative thinking about higher education will build and sustain the world’s future ethical leaders, critical thinkers and complex problem solvers. The Formation x Design initiative works not to separate these paths but to instead integrate them and create a path for students that is well worth traveling.

Check out the video of Randy Bass’ TEDx discussion on Formation x Design below:

Formation by Design | Randy Bass | TEDx Georgetown

Alumni take part in first University for Life Design Lab

An engaged group of Georgetown alumni attended the inaugural University for Life Design Lab on October 15, hosted by Alumni Career Services and the Office of the Provost. The workshop, which included a walk-through of the Red House and a workshop in the Alumni House, focused on how Georgetown alumni can maintain a valuable and meaningful relationship with their alma mater beyond graduation. The group of alumni were varied in age, geographic region and profession and all had expressed an interest in the Designing the Future(s) initiative.


The primary questions asked during the daylong event included what do alumni want from Georgetown and in what situations would alumni turn to the University for resources – for example, for life decisions such as elder care and accountable care. Participants examined the themes of career development and Georgetown’s Jesuit-based tradition of ethical soundness in efforts to brainstorm future plans for the University for Life program. These pilot ideas included alumni-exclusive advice message boards, online mentoring groups and in-person sessions with university officials. One of the proposed programs will be developed in the next few months within the University for Life project.


Discussions and brainstorming exercises were facilitated and led by Designing the Future(s) members, including Director of Education and Academic Affairs Catherine Armour, Senior Analyst for Strategic Initiatives (COL ’12) Ryan Fuchs and Director of Development Mid-Atlantic Brandi Durkac. The design lab was an exciting innovation and a chance for entrepreneurial alums to gather and share their insights on behalf of the University.

Georgetown alum Mike Malloy (SCS ’12) [far left] surprised participants with a pair of sunglasses – made by his company Waveborn – at the end of the design lab.

Georgetown alum Mike Malloy (SCS ’12) [far left] surprised participants with a pair of sunglasses – made by his company Waveborn – at the end of the design lab.

ACS and the Office of the Provost will continue to engage with Georgetown alumni throughout the year by continuing alumni webinar series, which started October 7. Stay tuned to the Future(s) website for a schedule of upcoming webinars and links for registration.