Welcome to Creative Universities!

This blog is a companion to a new book project called Creative Universities: Reimagining Education for Alternative Futures. In the book, I explore the role of creativity in university programs that focus on understanding and addressing contemporary social, economic and environmental challenges. I develop a critical-creative pedagogy that combines critical analysis of these challenges with arts-and-design based, experiential, whole-person centered forms of teaching that develop not only students’ analytical thinking, but also their imagination, emotions, lateral and practical skills. All of these will be essential if students – as the change makers of today and leaders of tomorrow – are to envision, design and build the novel solutions that are so urgently needed to address the multiple crises our world is facing.

As I embark on this writing journey, which can be a very solitary endeavor, I have created this blog in the hope that like-minded travelers will join me on my adventure, read my thoughts as they are taking shape and provide commentary if they feel so inclined. I would like it to become a space where fellow educators, co-learners and students passionate about transformational teaching can also share their ideas and stimulate reflections and discussions.

I have been teaching in the field of Global Development for the past 15 years, beginning as a Teaching Assistance for Michael Watts at his Introduction to Development and Underdevelopment course back in 1999, when I started my own PhD in Anthropology at UC Berkeley. Ten years later I joined the Centre for Development Studies at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, a small postgraduate program under the welcoming directorship of Yvonne Underhill-Sem. It was here, teaching primarily Kiwi, Pacific and Asian students, that I first heard students talk about their disillusionment with our critical take on international development, which left them with little to no hope to realize their desire to make the world a better place through working in the field. Granted, I knew already that the field was deeply problematic and that many of the students’ desires were build on naive assumptions whose realization had often brought the students to our program in the first place. But as an educator committed to transformational teaching the reaches beyond the classroom, I could not help but feeling that something was amiss.

This continued after I joined Sussex University in the UK in 2014, which has a large undergraduate program as well as several MA courses and a thriving PhD community. Especially as Head of Department for three years, I had many more conversations with students and colleagues, which clarified my thoughts on the importance of educating students around the idea of ‘critical hope’ – a combination of critical analysis of the international development regime and its historical and current inequities and of informed awareness of existing alternatives within and without this system to guide students in imagining and working towards alternative futures.

Creative Universities: Reimagining Education for Alternative Futures, which I will be writing over the next year, is the result of this 20 year journey, showing how I, and many of my colleagues, have put teaching critical hope into practice in the classroom.

Welcome to my blog!

Anke Schwittay

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