Acton University Reflections

It always surprises me that, after a week of incredible sharing, thinking, and reflecting, I’m exhausted. That week was also a changing point in my doctorate from despair to inspiration. The week ended with my learning how to use all four positions on the cello and watching an enlightening talk about embracing uncertainty by Dan North. Topping that week’s experience is going to be difficult, but frankly, I’m not sure my brain is up to it anyway at the moment!

I wanted to share some takeaways from the experience at Acton University.

Overview observations that are applicable for any conference:

  • Their first day was a preset series of topics that any new attendee had to take. At first I was a wee bit miffed, but after that first day, I was incredibly grateful to get the pulse of the week and develop better expectations on what I would be getting out of it. The diverse representation of the attendees made this even more important as those experienced with those areas understood the direction of the week and had a refresher, while newbies like myself was able to shape the remaining experiences.
  • The recorded lectures available for only $1 was incredible. Many of the lectures were ones that I could have listened to a few times to really get everything discussed, which they made available.
  • Very little PowerPoint! People who say PowerPoint is needed to keep the attention of their audience should note that it simply makes the audience robotic. It takes a special presentation with intentional skill to engage an audience.

Overview of how the experience impacted me personally:

  • It was so incredibly open. I saw a lot of differing opinions without any degradation. I learned about Christian anthropology once day and then went to hear about Islam another day. Economics was by far the strongest thread throughout the week as it applies to nearly every topic. The common sense approach of the speakers, as well as insane credentials mixing top end universities with massive experience in the field helped me remove hype and think through cause and effect.
  • My original concepts of poverty are pretty much out the door. Learning how we are enabling poverty was not something I enjoyed, but something that was incredibly valuable. It is worth your 45 minutes to listen to Dr. Matheson-Miller’s lecture on this matter. Also, my understanding of Fair Trade changed drastically. Nobody claimed it was a bad thing, but also noted that it doesn’t actually systemically help poverty either. Dr. Claar’s lecture on Fair Trade vs Free Trade on Day Three is worth the purchase available here.
  • The insights on education was worth the whole experience alone. They unfortunately did not film the lecture (that I could find), but it was disturbing to watch the effect of public school deteriorate from the 1800s through current time. As a higher ed practitioner, my sites have always been set on collegiate level, but suffer the effect of poor childhood education.
  • As my family travels extensively, homeschooling has been increasingly our option for our daughter, and individuals there were incredibly helpful with legal and regulatory resources, as well as good curriculum sources.

Sometimes the inspiration of a conference can be best measured by the number of books that get purchased and shipped home, at least for me! This one resulted in six books, which is probably the highest number so far.

  • Fair Trade? Its Prospects as a Poverty Solution (Victor Claar)
  • Economics in One Lesson (Henry Hazlitt)
  • The Poor will be Glad (Peter Greer & Phil Smith)
  • Beyond Religion (Dalai Lama)
  • Heaven on Earth: A Journey through Shari-a Law (Sadakat Kadri)
  • Islam without Extremes (Mustafa Akyol)

As I mentioned in my previous post about my effort to intentionally silo bust out of my small intense world, I realise how important it is to keep my head out of the sand and maintain context. Oddly, after I wrote in my systems for education thesis about the value of interdisciplinary study and intentionality to not maintain a silo, it took me this long to apply it to myself!

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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.