After I left my first graduate program, in the Belly of the Beast within the Harvard History department, I committed myself to working and teaching in institutions of higher education that were inclusive, welcoming and challenging of traditional norms of quality and of good practice in higher education. I was able to do some of this at a much more welcoming place, the Florence Heller School of Social and Public Policy at Brandeis University. By the time I completed my Ph.D in 1977, I had found my niche and my focus in the College of Public and Community Service (CPCS) at U.Mass.Boston. From then on I spent much of my life helping build our competency based college for urban adults, and deepening my own and others’ understanding of what a truly radical model for public higher education could be.
In brief, for CPCS and for me, radical public higher education embodied four core values embedded with a self-aware, transformative practice. 1) Radical Access within a specialized, adult-focused independent college; 2)Radical Practice among a diverse group of students, faculty and staff based on clear criteria for evaluation of integrated experiential and institution-based learning; 3)Radical critical content, built upon self-aware, interactive critical thinking from all participants drawn from a diverse set of ideas and cultures; 4)Radical community inclusion where all learning and teaching take place equally inside and outside higher education and community based institutions, with non-faculty community participants playing central roles everywhere.
I left CPCS in July 2013, because too much of the practice and spirit of our common effort was being taken away. It was too painful, and too unsatisfying, although I still deeply miss so many of the people whom I met, taught and worked with there. My hope is to finish my book to be titled, “Who Did We Think We Were? Radical Higher Education and the Neoliberal Imperative” as both a tribute to our work and an analysis of why it remains important.
Below I share some of the material generated from this exceptional place and time in higher education.
Final Withorn ICEL–2015 notes for talk and workshop presentation about CPCS to experiential learning educators.
Students 2010 –2010 CPCS graduating student “Reflections”
Memo to Chancellor-Eureka — 2008 Another failed attempt to bring CPCS into the whole university
Survivors of the System — 1999 Story of a 1997 Community Class on ReClaiming Right Welfare Activism at the Dudley Library, Roxbury MA, with Vicky Steinitz, Women’s Review of Books
Who Did We Think We Were –2013 Plans for the Book on CPCS
Class notes — Ways to Analyze 2011 Summary of what CPCS was, its practice and accomplishment and the what was left at the End after “normalization”
The Manual 1979 guide to new CPCS Students excerpt
The Experience 1979 summary of Assessment at CPCS, with Loretta Cedrone