Arete at Telluride Convention

by Huiqin Hu, AP'17

Over the weekend of June 16th, Candice Yuxi Wang (AP’16) and I went to Ithaca, New York to represent the Arete Project at the Telluride Association‘s 107th annual convention. Telluride is a nonprofit offering educational programs based on the vision of L.L. Nunn, who also founded Deep Springs College in California, and whose vision is the basis for Arete’s three pillars (labor, academics and self-governance). Telluride offers summer seminars for high school students as well as residential programs for university students at Cornell and the University of Michigan, all free of cost. While the convention is primarily focused on reflecting and planning the past and future work of Telluride, they also invite representatives from other Nunnian institutions to take part, including us, Deep Springs, and the newly founded Outer Coast College in Sitka, Alaska.

The weekend was basically one big self-governance meeting, from morning to night, with meal breaks in between. With over a century of work behind them, Telluride has developed a strong, involved network of members that taught me a lot about what Arete’s alumni self-governance can strive towards with time. By listening in to their decision-making process, and talking to individual people about their experiences, I was reminded of the kind of community that the Nunnian model can create.

Candice gave a presentation to the group with updates on what Arete has been up to recently. She talked about the work of our alumni self-governance committees, including the financial aid committee and outreach/recruitment committee, both of which were started up by my cohort at the end of last summer. In the past year, the financial aid committee has instituted a new pay-what-you-can tuition model, and in recruiting terms, we have pushed towards reaching more low-income students, students of color, and students from public universities, in particular in the states surrounding North Carolina. She also talked about our applications committee, and the changes we made to the application itself to make it more accessible to a diverse group of students. She shared that our Blue Ridge session is beginning again for its fifth year, while the Glacier Bay session is kicking off its inaugural season in southeast Alaska, as the first Arete program to include all genders. Finally, she talked about our plans to celebrate our 5th anniversary with an alumni reunion next summer, and our progress towards becoming a fully-fledged independent nonprofit, no longer operating under a fiscal sponsor.

It was exciting to share all this news, while also admiring the work of the other organizations, and seeing what Arete could be like down the line, as the organization matures with every cohort that makes it their own. They’re really supportive of our work, and I think we can learn from the way Telluride has made its programs accessible and sustaining. It was also interesting for me to think about how gender plays a role in how these organizations operate differently from ours (at least from the Blue Ridge session), although it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly it is. It’s been a year since my summer at Arete, and as I’ve been busy with my sophomore year at Wesleyan, Arete hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind. This weekend was a nice reminder of what a Nunnian education is, and why it was valuable for me. Having a group of people in one room, dedicated to making this thing happen, took me back to how thoughtful the work of self-governance is at its best.

Huiqin Hu attended the Blue Ridge Session in 2017. She is a rising junior at Wesleyan University majoring in the College of Social Studies, studying history, philosophy, political science and economics. She is originally from Ganzhou, China.