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Frequently Asked Questions
1. What qualities do we look for in applicants?
Are you self-motivated, self-directed, organized, an independent thinker, passionate learner, computer savvy, and committed to dedicating your energy and time toward the wellbeing of our planet and future generations? Are you a leader in your chosen field? Are you a divergent thinker who appreciates nontraditional learning methodologies? If you don’t fit neatly into the above description—don’t worry! Your willingness to work hard, learn, strengthen weak areas and leverage your strengths can make you an ideal learner within our programs.
2. Do we have classes? How often do we meet?
Upon enrolling in a Gaia RDI degree pathway, you will first attend a residential intensive of 8-12 days in California. You will finish your first year with another residential intensive of about the same length. If you are enrolled in a master's degree program, a final residential intensive will be required at the end of your second year. During the rest of your enrollment you will be in your community of residence or abroad—as you choose. You will “meet” monthly with both your peer group and advisor through Skype or phone. You will be expected to communicate regularly via email and post regular installments of your required outputs package (progress reports) on our online e-learning environment.
3. Are there exams?
No, we do not conduct exams. However, you will need to complete and upload an extensive output package (progress reports) approximately every six weeks documenting your process and accomplishments. You will also give a presentation at the second and final residential intensives, showcasing your year’s work. Additionally, in the final capstone year of the BSc and MSc, an external reviewer will evaluate your work to ensure that its quality meets the requirements of GU and IMCA.
4. Do we get grades?
You will be graded, but not in a traditional manner. Each of your output packages (progress reports) will be reviewed and graded in a three-tiered process—first by yourself, next by a peer in your guild—who will only give feedback (no grade), and finally by your primary advisor. Your grade will be calculated as the average between your review and that of your advisor. In the rare case that there is an extreme discrepancy between these two grades, either you or your advisor can challenge it. At the end of your final capstone year an external reviewer will also review your work.
5. Can I work while I am enrolled in Gaia University?
You, like many learners, may to work while enrolled in Gaia University’s degree programs. You may be integrating the degree into work you are already engaged in—or working part-time to make ends meet. We would discourage you from working full-time while pursuing a degree unless this job is also your primary project for your studies. We estimate that you will spend at least 20 hours per week on work associated with your degree.
6. Who should apply for our master's and graduate diploma programs?
We seek regeneration and world change practitioners of substance and developed expertise who are good self-organizing learners and who work with permaculture and ecovillage design thinking or similar. A permaculture design course, an ecovillage design course or equivalent are pre-requisites as is experience at the application of the principles, strategies and techniques of these disciplines.
You will be excited by the prospect of designing your own curricula for your master's program. You do not need to already have a bachelors degree. It is unlikely that people straight out of undergraduate school will have adequate experience or will be working at an appropriately strategic level.
7. What kind of support will I receive?
You will be assigned a primary advisor—your primary contact person with Gaia RDI—who will “meet” with you every four-six weeks by phone, Skype or face to face. This individual will also act as your output reviewer, giving you feedback on your output packages and evaluating your work. In addition, you will have a Skill Flex Advisor(s)—most likely an instructor of your content workshop —with whom you will meet about every quarter for advice and dialogue on your content area.
8. How will a degree from Gaia University affect my earning potential?
Full participation in your Gaia University degree program will increase your skill as a professional and may well translate to increased earning potential. However, we cannot guarantee that it will translate into a career in some areas of mainstream society. The upside is that you are very likely to graduate with greater capability and desire to create your own pioneering work—project, business, etc.—if you have not done so already.
Another benefit of Gaia University programs is that entrepreneurial skills are promoted through our integration of action-learning as well as through specific pathways of regenerative leadership. Where frequently a traditional college degree will give you the accepted credentials but few applicable real-world skills, our program is designed to assist you in acquiring the on-the-ground experience and capabilities you’ll need to thrive as a leader in a multitude of business and not-for-profit settings—particularly those where experience is valued as much or more than a degree on paper. Finally, with our project-oriented approach to learning as well as the output packages (progress reports) you will complete over the course of your year(s), you will graduate with an impressive portfolio showcasing your experience and skills in the projects you have designed and completed yourself—this is very attractive for many potential employers, who want employees who know see that you can take action and follow through on goals.
9. How much time will this take?
We estimate that Associates (students) should plan for their GaiaRDI studies to take about as much time as a half-time job. This time includes advising sessions, meetings with peer guild, project work, and preparation of output packages (progress reports). For this reason, we discourage associates from working full time while enrolled in our programs except when your work is your main project.
10. What do you mean by an e-learning environment?
As a GaiaRDI associate, you will be expected to use our e-learning environment. This is a program that will enable you to create forums and blogs, upload and manage the content of your output packages, and otherwise communicate with your global network of peers and mentors while documenting and disseminating valuable information regarding your project. This means that you must have access to high-speed internet at least once a week, preferably more regularly. As a result, upon graduation you will have a web presence to share with your friends and colleagues as well as potential clients or employers.
11. What do you mean by project-oriented?
While Gaia University is visionary in nature we understand that without action we will not succeed in our efforts to regenerate the planet. As an action-learning institution, we are dedicated to learning through experience rather than pure theory. This does not mean that you will not need to read books or attend workshops led by specialists in your field, but simply that we emphasize personal action over passive learning and believe direct application of knowledge is the best way to deeply learn a subject. Through your period of enrollment with Gaia University, we want to help you to move beyond the stages of wishing and dreaming, and support you in developing skills of organizing and project management. Ultimately, it is our goal to help you learn to manifest your personal and collaborative visions.
For this reason, we require you to design and implement one or more ambitious projects over the course of your enrollment. The projects must be strategic, with the larger aim of earth regeneration—focused on the creation of something new, which will have substantial impact, rather than a struggle against what is not working—i.e. establishment of a Peace Center in your neighborhood is seen as more strategic than running from one protest to another without focus.
12. What is an output package?
An output package is similar to a progress report. Throughout your enrollment, you will be expected to produce output packages of about 20 pages every six weeks or so over the course of the year, depending on your pathway. Each will consist of an outcome—objective documentation of progress; and output—subjective and reflective processing of what you learned through the experience. We recommend that you upload these online gradually rather than at the last minute.
Completion of these outputs packages is extremely important and accomplishes ongoing documentation of measurable progress toward your project specifications, as well as personal growth through conscious reflection and analysis. We are particularly excited about the documentation and dissemination possibilities this system promotes, as world-changers share their research and findings from the field with a global community of their peers.
13. What is a peer guild?
Each associate (student) will be part of a peer guild—a group of three to five associates who you will meet during your first residential intensive, and with whom you will collaborate over the course of your studies. This group will act as your most intimate allies and support network for the duration of your enrollment. You will meet with your guild at least once each month to report on your progress, challenges, and accomplishments—and to share emotional and practical support.
How will this change as we move away from these guilds towards the buddy system and content guilds?
This group will help to hold you accountable to your goals and objectives over the course of your studies with GaiaRDI and may well become a lifelong, global network of support, inspiration and collaboration. We encourage you to devote substantial time to reviewing your peers’ work, as this will greatly assist them and provide you with valuable information for your own projects. This team will also give invaluable support in developing the output packages (progress reports) you’ll be required to complete over the course of your year.
14. How long does it take to get a master's degree?
In the majority of cases, it will take two years. In rare situations, particularly for the “elders” enrolled in our programs who have spent many years at the strategic level—i.e., as an entrepreneur, organizational founder, or project initiator in the areas of environmental or social change—you may be able to complete your masters degree in one year. First, you will need to submit a career review detailing your experience and current work, which will then need to be approved and rated by the GaiaRDI team as sufficient toward a year of masters degree experience. Please note that this decision may be postponed after your first residential intensive.
15. Will credits or the degree transfer to programs in more conventional universities?
Gaia University generally accepts a combination of real-world experience and credits/degrees from conventional universities. However, with the exception of some progressive colleges and universities, many conventionally accredited schools—particularly in the U.S. and Europe—will not accept credits or a degree from Gaia University.
When Gaia University International’s founders chose International Management Centers Association (IMCA) as their accrediting agency, they did so for several reasons. First, IMCA is action-learning based and management oriented—meaning they emphasize on-the-ground action rather than disembodied academics. This was a powerful point in the IMCA’s favor, as Gaia University co-founder Andy Langford had devised the WorkNet Permaculture Diploma program in the UK with an action-learning methodology and saw it as a tremendous tool for deep learning.
Secondly, the IMCA offers accredited quality insurance, meaning multiple levels of evaluation—and a correspondingly high quality of student work tested by real life application. As an accrediting agency that tends to work with mid-sized corporations in the private sector, their system allows the greatest flexibility for program development—as compared to an accreditor within the public sector. This, too, was a high priority so that regional centers and associates (students) could shape their programs and degrees to the needs of their pathways and regions. While it is in some ways unfortunate that we did not find our perfect match within the traditional accreditation system, we feel the trade-offs were well worth it.
16. Is it possible to "design" my own education?
Yes, and in fact you will be expected to do so to a certain extent when pursuing a Gaia RDI degree or diploma. We provide the initial orientation, tools, and peer and mentor support while you choose the project (s), location, and focus of your work—within the parameters of the actual program you will pursue. In order to design and implement your educational pathway successfully, you will need to understand that Gaia RDI’s educational programs are holistic and life-oriented. In other words, there is no true separation between your life and your studies—and learning is encouraged in all areas.
Regardless of the pathway you choose, you will have a great deal of freedom in choosing the focus of your projects and learning goals—though you will have the assistance of your peer group and Advisor in fine-tuning the details of your pathway. Remember that no one knows as well as you do where your strengths and challenges lie. Try to be honest with yourself so as to design projects that you can actually pull off—understanding where you may need to acquire new skills and abilities in order to accomplish your chosen goals.
17. Is Gaia RDI a permaculture university?
Permaculture and ecovillage design are both fields of inquiry that greatly influence the strategy of Gaia University International and Gaia RDI and within the Integrative EcoSocial Design pathway you will be required to acquire a permaculture design certification as a prerequisite for your degree. However, Gaia University seeks to assist world-changers in their efforts toward earth regeneration through projects and focused work in a multitude of fields beyond just permaculture.
18. How does Gaia RDI accreditation work?
Gaia University International, through whom we deliver degrees, receives their accreditation through the International Management Centres Association (IMCA) based out of the UK. The IMCA’s work is supported by a distinguished Court of Honorary Members and action learning projects with more than 60 corporations around the globe. GaiaU degree programs have a high level of quality insurance, with four levels of evaluation—self, peer, internal advisor evaluation, and external evaluation through IMCA representatives.
19. How is Gaia RDI funded?
Gaia University International, our parent organization, does not receive public funds, which allows us to maintain our independence. Student fees cover more than 90% of our costs, with the additional costs covered by private sponsors who are aligned with our vision. A portion of fees from associates (students) in more financially prosperous countries go toward covering costs of associates in less financially advantaged countries—so that our educational system can be used by and support associates from every part of the world.
Compared to other institutions of higher education in the US, our tuition fees are affordable—we can do this because our institutional structure is designed to have the smallest financial and ecological footprint. Beyond the physical infrastructure of the regional headquarters’ chosen venue for residential intensives—frequently within established ecovillages or permaculture sites—we have no physical infrastructure to maintain. The bulk of our costs are comprised of the following: fees for accreditation—which we must pay per associate to IMCA (our accrediting body), modest salaries for staff, and travel expenditures for a small number of core staff who travel internationally.
20. How does Gaia RDI allocate tuition fees?
Part of your tuition goes directly to IMCA to cover accreditation fees—this cost is higher for a masters degree than for a postgraduate diploma—which is reflected in tuition costs. A portion goes toward a small budget for you to pay for specialist advisor time, or other learning support at your discretion. Remaining funds go toward pay for advisors and administrators at GaiaRDI, further development of Gaia University International, and a scholarship fund for associates from developing countries.
21. Where are other Gaia University International regional centers located?
The first independent regional centers were established in Germany and the Southeastern U.S. (Gaia SEUS) in 2007. Independent centers in the Northeast USA, Portland, Oregon, and the US Virgin are currently being established. Gaia University International’s network of associates (students)—both alumni and those currently enrolled—is rapidly growing and encompasses citizens from countries as diverse as Nepal, Mexico, New Zealand, and Canada, among many others.
22. How can I get involved in Gaia University as a Main Advisor?
As more regional centers become established, we will see an increased need for people to serve as Gaia University main advisors. There are several routes toward becoming a GaiaU advisor. A masters degree or its equivalent is required by IMCA—our accrediting body. Advisors need to be registered with IMCA. We also require that you have experience within the GaiaU system.
For example, if your masters was acquired through GaiaU and you have demonstrated capacity for working collaboratively with your peers and constructively with your process advisor throughout your enrollment, you may be qualified to work as an advisor. If your degree is from another university, you can either enroll in our advisors training, or complete a masters degree or postgraduate diploma from any of GaiaU’s programs to lay the foundation for a potential position as an advisor.
23. How do I apply?
If you feel you are a good fit, fill out our application form and send it to the following address. If you have a specific question that has not been answered on our website feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
24. What happens in a typical advising session?
During your monthly sessions with your advisor, you will begin with a check-in where you will answer questions related to technical, organizational, project related aspects of your work. The basic outline follows the action-learning four standard questions: What is going well for you? What is challenging? What are your long-term goals and visions? What are your achievable next steps? These questions are useful tools to investigate the width and depth of our life-long learning process. The session will be recorded or notes will be taken so that you have documentation of your learning process.
25. Do you offer scholarships?
We do not offer scholarships directly. As an organization accredited in the UK, Gaia University associates might not eligible for funds from US based scholarships, and we encourage you to look at these opportunities on a case by case basis. Prescott College has an excellent section listing US and international scholarship programs that might be of interest to you. You might also try your favorite search engine for scholarship opportunities in your location.
26. How do the costs of Gaia RDI compare with Community Colleges and other Universities in California?
We believe our programs are priced appropriately. Please click on these links for a closer look at the costs of UC Berkeley (about $12,460/yr for CA residents or $35,340 for non-CA residents), UC Santa Cruz (about $12,858/yr for CA-residents or $35,737 for non-CA residents), Humboldt State University (about $5,166/yr for CA-residents or $14,094 for non-CA residents), and Cabrillo Community College (about $686/yr for CA-residents or $5,342/yr for non-CA residents).