Hi, my friend! Thank you for stopping by,
My name is Traian and I am a 34 year-old east-european calling himself a learning architect. I worked for the past twelve years trying to transform higher education in Romania. I was a student activist for more than four years and then I co-founded the Alternative University in Bucharest, where I worked for 8 years.
I love my work and I consider re-inventing universities one important milestone for humanity going forward. Contributing to this gives meaning to my life so I plan to continue on this path for many years to come. Now I feel ready to shift gears and to aspire to a new level of impact. So this project came to be.
Break/Free will be a book for teenagers about universities. Its story will walk them behind the stage of the overwhelming and irresistible reputation that universities have. It will shed fresh light on their upcoming rite of passage into adulthood. My reasonable expectation is to help its teenage readers adjust their university experience while inside the university system.
The unreasonable hope in my heart is that small groups of brave, freedom-loving young people will be encouraged to do the unthinkable: say no to everything an established institution of higher education has to offer and create their own. I will make the case that stepping away from the beaten track can be more more risky, messy and exhausting but in the end, this unconventional route into adulthood can make its walkers more alive and joyful, can free them from the obsolete mental models of the present and it will empower them as adults.
The book will outline a vision for higher education where students assume the role of creators and full owners of their universities and not consumers. Its graduates can better challenge the status quo, can rebel against the broken ways and refresh society. This book will hint at a network of self-organized learning environments that unite into a game-changing, global university. This is my starting premise. I will allow the journey that follows to shape it.
The learning journey
I will gather stories from all continents of the world about individual learning journeys, radical learning architectures, communities, hubs, hackerspaces, rituals and neat tech tools. It will have charming characters going through breathtaking adventures. I will include some of my own stories of the past 12 years in building The Alternative University. I will put them all together into a master narrative that gets personal and subjective. Hollywood will come begging to make a movie :-).
But the journey is more than a documentation for the book. It is a quest for inspiration, connection and my personal transformation, guided by questions like: How do the 7 billion people on Planet Earth live? What is important to them? How do these people get good at living life? What is the best ice cream in town? How can the 23.729 universities in the world help the two billion people under 20 to flourish and transform our world? What else is there and who else is there? What is possible next?
And it leads to …
I believe that the world needs to take a turn from the current direction. There are 2.3 billion people under 20 and 23.729 universities. These universities will not have enough places. Even if they did, their economic model is too expensive for many more people to go. And even if we had resources, we know that their learning model is ineffective; even counterproductive in nurturing the entrepreneurial changemakers that could steer the world in another direction.
I see myself as part of a global tribe of people that played for a long time at the edges of higher education. Long enough to know that something radically better is possible at a big scale: universities that are inexpensive, accessible to many more and effective in nurturing people to flourish and transform their world.
I want to dedicate my next years to that possibility. To upgrade my work to that level, I need to upgrade myself. It is a challenge that requires a deeper level of creativity, a better awareness of the world and an ability to connect with people worldwide. There are things to learn and things to unlearn. I hope that making the journey and writing the book will also enable my transformation:
- from a local worldview to a big picture, global awareness;
- from reading about people I admire to making selfies with them;
- from Romania focused to being globally connected;
- from busy and burned-out to being in flow and taking time for quality work;
- from entrepreneur to learning architect;
- from boring explainer to charming storyteller;
- from telling others to “learn like crazy” to walking the talk big time;
- from a good human being to a better human being.
In the end, my whole life is no more than a drop in the ocean. No journey will change that. But I feel that, in some way, me walking this individual path of mine is part of a bigger collective story that is being born around the world. The ocean is made out of drops. My intuition whispers to me that the world will change thanks to our mindful efforts but in a way that will surprise all of us. And so I focus on bringing my gift to the world wholeheartedly and I trust the process that it will change the world.