September 25, 2019

The Guilford Edge Takes Off


By Jhanna Vasser '19
Festivals like Burning Man, Coachella, and Lollapalooza take months, often years, to design. At Guilford, a group of first-year students recently had 12 days to plan the inaugural EdgeFest.

As the College welcomed students to the 2019-20 school year, they were met with a new academic curriculum. Included is a new academic calendar: 3-week/12-week (fall) and 12-week/3-week (spring) semesters, a major part of the Guilford Edge, which fully launched with students’ arrival in August.

“Our new calendar and curriculum are complementary platforms to launch students as full collaborative partners in creating their own educational goals, skills, and knowledge,” says Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Academic Dean Kyle Dell. “We practice and execute on these goals each semester, using the project-based learning inherent in our 3-week courses at the heart of our new curriculum. Only at Guilford does every student have multiple opportunities to be a part of such uncommon learning.”

For first-year students, their intro to life at Guilford is an Initiate course that’s taken during the 3-week term.

“Launching Initiate has been exciting! Simultaneously an introduction to Guilford and embodied learning, this course focuses on experience as much as, if not more than, content in a traditional sense,” says Associate Professor of Art and Associate Academic Dean Kathryn Shields. “Students are exposed to a variety of methodologies because they have four faculty instructors from different disciplines. The intensive experience is designed to promote collaboration, community building, skills development, and problem solving at a fast pace. EdgeFest is a stellar example of the Initiate course’s potential brought to life.”

[Check out a gallery with more photos from the class and the event.]

This fall, about 75 first-year students were enrolled in Initiate: You Are Here Fall 2019, taught by Kyle, Associate Professor of History Damon Akins, Visiting Assistant Professor for Theatre Studies Beth Ritson-Lavender, and Associate Professor of Music Kami Rowan.

The course was divided into multiple sections.

“The sections use a common syllabus that goes beyond a simple classroom experience. It asks students to actively engage in project-based, collaborative learning in a real-world setting,” Kyle says.

Making It Their Own

The student’s syllabus states, “most qualities of EdgeFest aren’t known to your faculty because they are for you to decide,” highlighting the amount of creative freedom the students have to put their signature stamp on the event.

To help students understand how to activate a space and create a place for the Guilford student body, they worked closely with Rob Overman ’08, Director of Greensboro’s Downtown Parks, including LeBauer and Center City parks, and Amy Grossman, Director of the N.C. Folk Festival.

“Students were tasked with all aspects of the festival: programming, financial management, media and marketing, and operational management,” Kyle says. “Just as in real-world professional settings, students were confronted with a challenge to deliver a project on time, under budget, using multiple teams, and achieving multiple measures of success. We supported the goals of the course by providing real-world skills as well as a larger set of academic contexts to position the EdgeFest project.”

Reflecting on Their Success

“On the second day of class they told us we were going to put on EdgeFest. Most of us were like, ‘What will we do? We’ve never done anything like this before,’” says event Co-coordinator Dana Beck ’23. “But (some of us) had experience so I was like, okay, we can do this. And then they told us we had 12 days until showtime, and I was like, oh, man!”

In the end the students’ hard work showed and it all came together — even better than expected.
“The highlight was the amazing turnout,” Dana says. “No one thought it was going to be as good as it was, especially because of the time crunch.” 

“There was this moment — a glorious, wondrous moment. It all just clicked into place, like a pen cap,” says Co-Stage Manager Emmett Edwards ’23. “The stage was set up, and the first band was playing. People sat on the blankets we had placed in front of the stage with no indication they were allowed to sit there, they listened with no indication they should, and they clapped with no indication of how loud.”

“We could not have had a successful experience without tremendous support and partnership from Rob Overman and the Greensboro Parks, Tim Johnson and his staff in OSLE, and Meredeth Summers and her staff in conferences and events, as well as critical faculty-development programs provided by the Mellon Foundation grant,” Kyle says.

“In the end, EdgeFest offered a project not just for our inaugural first-year class under the Edge but signaled the start of new traditions in academics, advising, and community life that reflect the dedication and hard work of our students. I know our next first-year class will have the support and critiques of this year’s class as they build EdgeFest 2020 and start their Guilford journeys.”

Learn more about the Edge during a personalized visit to Guilford. Register today.