All Arete Project students participate in self-governance, one of the three pillars of our educational model alongside labor and academics. Self-governance trains students for leadership and citizenship by asking them to take on real responsibility for their student community and the organization itself. These responsibilities range from nitty-gritty problem solving to broad strategic decision-making. All students are required to be a part of self-governance during the summer program itself, and those who are interested have the opportunity to join one of four standing committees that carry self-governance activities into the academic year.
Self-Governance in the Summer
All summers begin the same way, with students creating the political system that will govern them for the remainder of the program. This system might take on many different forms: it might follow Robert’s Rules of Order, or Quaker consensus, or something wholly original. It might have elected officials. It might have formal or informal committees. In deciding upon process of self-governance, students must evaluate the costs and benefits of different formats. How does each deal with dissent? How does each allow different voices to be heard? How does each provide legitimacy both for majority and minority opinion?
It may take weeks for that process to take its final form. But in the meantime, students nevertheless must begin using that process to make crucial decisions. Often these start small. Who will be assigned to which labor position? Who will write entries for the newsletter? How do we deal with two students who are having a dispute? By the end of the summer, students take on much bigger tasks: designing and planning the capstone field trip, crafting the application for next year’s incoming students, thinking broadly about the organization’s mission and vision.
Self-Governance in the Academic Year
During the academic year, interested graduates of our programs may serve on one of four standing committees. Each standing committee is lead by student co-chairs and consists of both students and staff.
The Applications Committee is responsible for admitting the next cohorts of students. Committee members design and draft the application, thinking in particular about the essay questions. The committee additionally organizes and undertakes application reading, interviews candidates, and makes the final decision about the incoming cohort.
The Outreach and Recruitment Committee is the public-facing wing of student self-governance. The committee manages The Arete Project’s social media feeds, conducts recruitment programs at colleges and universities, handles inquiries from prospective students, and is currently in the process of starting The Arete Project blog.
The Faculty Hiring Committee recruits and hires the Seminar Chair – the faculty member responsible for the Blue Ridge Session’s academic pillar. This includes advertising, evaluating faculty applications, conducting interviews, negotiating hiring contracts, and working with the hiree on course design.
The Financial Aid Committee is responsible for keeping the Blue Ridge Session affordable and accessible to as broad an array of students as possible. The committee sets the strategy for the program’s financial aid policy, interfaces with admitted students on scholarship questions, and conducts fundraising activities.
Self-Governance and our Leadership Structure
The Alumni Advisory Board is responsible for coordinating the standing committees and the alumni base as a whole. The AAB includes delegates from each cohort and each committee, along with the alumni representative to the Board of Directors. The AAB also communicates alumni ideas and preferences to staff, faculty, and the board of directors, ensuring that student voice is foregrounded in all of our institutional decision-making. The AAB is also empowered to form subcommittees; in the past, these committees have planned events, hosted broad conversations about mission and vision, and drafted a sexual misconduct policy.
The Alumni Representative to the Board of Directors ensures that student self-governance holds at the highest levels of The Arete Project’s administrative life. The BoD rep is a full voting member of the board of directors, liaising between the board and the AAB and communicating alumni ideas to the board and staff.
Program Assistants are Arete Project alumni who return as paid staff. Each winter we accept applications from all of our alumni for 1-2 spots in each session. Program assistants are responsible for leading a labor team, helping with orientation, providing logistical support to staff, and serving as crucial peer mentors for students. Program assistants simultaneously use their position to hone their own skills (both in leadership and labor) and pass along those skills to new students.