Critical Engagement at Atlantic College

Ken Corn (Director of Outreach at Atlantic College)

One aspect of working at Atlantic College which I find most motivating is the idea that an AC/UWC education is not just something for two years, but rather for a lifetime.  With this in mind, it was very gratifying to welcome back 8 ex-students to Atlantic College from the years 2004 & 2005, as facilitators for their own self-developed educational outreach programme entitled, Critical Engagement.  In a nutshell, and from the team’s impeccably produced handbook, the idea behind CE is to, “put students at the centre of a forum for open, constructive discussion and collaboration on a range of crucial global and local issues.”  Emerging out of this dynamic forum, it is hoped that students will develop, “lasting transferable skills (which) serve as a foundation for active roles and sustained impact in varied personal, professional and academic settings.”  In other words, Critical Engagement is all about young people both learning to ‘talk the talk’, and more importantly, gaining tools that will enable participants to ‘walk the walk’ as well.

It was clear over the course of this three day programme, that Atlantic College 1st Year students were fully involved with enthusiastically embracing the opportunities presented to them by this inclusion of Critical Engagement into our emerging AC Diploma, as one of a regular series of Mission Initiative Periods that punctuate our new educational calendar at the College.  There were ‘Thematic Workshops’ on Identity, Diversity and Global Justice which were supplemented with complementary film documentaries and ensuing discussions.  There were also what were called, ‘Action Workshops’, where students were able to chose four out of eight offerings, based upon individual facilitators’ expertise and experience.  These workshops offered a wide range of possibilities including, Critical Engagement and Media Production, Critical Engagement and Performance and Critical Engagement and Social Enterprise, amongst others. 

As well received as all these various workshops and events were, perhaps the most telling encounters were the less formal ones, as AC 1st years were able to meet and learn from ex-students of a not-so-distant vintage about what taking AC ideals and values beyond Atlantic College might mean in practice.  It was great to see these young people of 23 and 24 years old enthuse and motivate our current students by presenting them with the potential impact their AC education can have once they have moved on to the next steps of their lives and careers after Atlantic College.  In this manner, it is hoped (expected?) that in due time, our current crop of AC students will be returning as a part of a Critical Engagement team, or indeed with a new initiative that they will be looking to present to and then develop with young people here at the College and potentially beyond our campus walls in the future.  If it is true that an Atlantic College education is for a lifetime, then quality programmes such as Critical Engagement are the proof of our continuing reach and impact as we take our Mission of “making education a force” beyond talk and into the realms to truly walking that walk.

-United World Colleges Student Magazine-

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