F O U N D I N G F E L L O W S a t T H O R E A U C O L L E G E October 2017- June 2018

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The Founding Fellows was a year long residential program which invited six participants to lay the groundwork of Thoreau College. The fellows represented diverse perspectives and life experiences, ranging in age, nationality, background and interests, and brought their unique perspectives to the work of imagining a new model of higher education. The first half of the year was spent on closely reading and contemplating the inspirational thinkers Henry David Thoreau, Rudolf Steiner and L.L. Nunn, and considering the implications of their writing on higher education today. Immersed in communal living, the fellows created a cooperative environment, working through conflicts to develop shared values. Over the course of the year they shared evening meals, worked with a carpenter to refinish the attic, and created a culture of care and respect for their home. Fellows engaged deeply with the local community, teaching at the local high school and elementary school, coaching hockey, tutoring students, assisting at the local radio station and operating a winter greens share. During the final months, the fellows developed plans for the next program and two of the fellows joined the Thoreau College leadership to stay on as staff for Growing Seasons.

When I first started going for walks I would say “I need to go for a walk.” Then one day I thought to myself “I need to go for MY walk”.  I changed my internal language from thinking about the walk as a chore, to an activity that I was eager to do. As my walks became an integral part of my time in Viroqua, strong feelings started to emerge...I came to understand that I was able to hear my soul voice. When I speak about my soul voice, I’m referring to the voice that comes from deep inside of me, the voice that is free of the pain, hurt, and worries of the world. For me, my soul voice is only concerned with me and guiding me to my true path in life - the voice that believes in and understands my true abilities.

Colleen Smereka

For more about Colleen’s experience in the Founding Fellows read her recent article in Real Small Towns magazine!