We’ve created a new education curriculum, combining leading approaches from education revolutionaries and successful entrepreneurs, as well as crafting entirely novel learning techniques.
Our paradigm-smashing approach is something the world has never seen before, so we understand if it seems a bit confusing at first. We hope that the information below will answer your questions. If it doesn’t, please contact us directly with your questions or comments at email@example.com.
We’ve designed the Geronimo Program to prepare graduates for the real world experiences they face. You will graduate from Geronimo having thoroughly mastered the Seven Survival Skills, so eloquently captured by Dr. Tony Wagner, the founder of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
“The idea that a company’s senior leaders have all the answers and can solve problems by themselves has gone completely by the wayside…The person who’s close to the work has to have strong analytic skills. You have to be rigorous: test your assumptions, don’t take things at face value, don’t go in with preconceived ideas that you’re trying to prove.”
—Ellen Kumata, consultant to Fortune 200 companies
2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
“The biggest problem we have in the company as a whole is finding people capable of exerting leadership across the board…Our mantra is that you lead by influence, rather than authority.”
—Mark Chandler, Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Cisco
3. Agility and Adaptability
“I’ve been here four years, and we’ve done fundamental reorganization every year because of changes in the business…I can guarantee the job I hire someone to do will change or may not exist in the future, so this is why adaptability and learning skills are more important than technical skills.”
—Clay Parker, President of Chemical Management Division of BOC Edwards
4. Initiative and Entrepreneurship
“For our production and crafts staff, even the hourly workers, we need self-directed people…who can find creative solutions to some very tough, challenging problems.”
—Mark Maddox, Human Resources Manager at Unilever Foods North America
5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
“The biggest skill people are missing is the ability to communicate: both written and oral presentations. It’s a huge problem for us.”
—Annmarie Neal, Vice President for Talent Management at Cisco Systems
6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
“There is so much information available that it is almost too much, and if people aren’t prepared to process the information effectively, it almost freezes them in their steps.”
—Mike Summers, Vice President for Global Talent Management at Dell
7. Curiosity and Imagination
“Our old idea is that work is defined by employers and that employees have to do whatever the employer wants…but actually, you would like him to come up with an interpretation that you like—he’s adding something personal—a creative element.”
—Michael Jung, Senior Consultant at McKinsey and Company
Putting the Most Important Things First
What are you seeking? Happiness? Money? Love? Impact? Spirituality? Approval? What do you care most about? And most importantly, why? Geronimo helps you discover what matters to you and what you’ll need to do to get there. We don’t try to hand you a preconceived cookie-cutter notion of success. What matters to us is what’s most important to you.
Geronimo wants to know what matters to you. Only then can you intelligently determine what is necessary to get there. We can help you plot a path and determine how you should be spending your time based on the results you wish to achieve.
We’ve seen motivated individuals learn more in four months on the job than in four years in classrooms. That’s why we expose our students to as much real-world experience as possible. The old way of finding opportunity was to send resumes and cover letters. The new way is to demonstrate who you are and what you can do by telling compelling stories about what you’ve built.
We value real world experience more than textbook knowledge. We advocate getting experience earlier. There is no need to delay one’s dreams. You will learn more and develop faster by taking action now. That is what our graduates do extremely well. Geronimo’s Gap Year Program is designed to kick-start careers and personal fulfillment. It expedites the time frame required for students to begin realizing their full potential and magnifies their impact on the world.
Geronimo does not have professors in the traditional sense. While some of our founders may have PhD’s, that’s not why they’re part of the team. Instead, our faculty personally demonstrate the characteristics of success that we endeavor to share with our students. Our primary focus is on learning from those that have been there and done that, across a wide array of experiences and careers. Our curriculum insists on making the theoretical practical. There is no clear division between in classroom and out of classroom discussions. People are informally talking about ideas all the time, at the coffee shop, during lunch, and on the athletic courts.
After your first job, your GPA, major, and where you went to school will matter much less than the experience that you’ve gained. Your future employers will care far more about the results you can produce, the things you can build, and the reputation you have earned.
Unparalleled Faculty Commitment and Motivation
The faculty at Geronimo are not here to earn a lucrative paycheck. They are here because they love seeing people blossom into their full potential. They are clear on what they love and it shows in their commitment, their energy, their drive, and their unrelenting pursuit of excellence. Money cannot buy people like this. Geronimo’s staff are willing to invest their entire beings, emotionally, mentally, and financially into the success of their students. The faculty evaluates itself on its students’ long term success and wellbeing, both personally and professionally.
Today’s 18-year-old will be retiring in the year 2060. Consider that in 1960, there were no personal computers, cellphones, or internet, the interstate system was just starting, and lava lamps dominated living rooms. Can you imagine what the world will look like 50 years from now? At Geronimo, we educate students for such a highly unpredictable world by turning them into lifelong learners.
Teach a student facts, and his knowledge will be obsolete in five years; teach a student to teach himself, and he can adapt to any change. Knowledge is absolutely vital, but only when it is relevant and up-to-date. Traditional schooling focuses so heavily on facts to that skills like critical thinking, interpolation, extrapolation, and inquiry are often excluded.
Geronimo realizes that a student who has studied and practiced how to identify what he needs to know, where to find the best information, how to efficiently and effectively learn what he needs, and where it fits into his greater understanding, will be able to step into any future that arrives.
Instructing with Personalization
Mass processing of thousands of students through a standardized curriculum needs to go the way of the dinosaur. It is not what our students, employers, or families desire. That’s why we designed Geronimo programs to be customizable for each student.
Furthermore, each student designs and implements his own Jumpstart Project in the third phase of the Gap Year program. This Jumpstart Project is one that harnesses the student’s deepest passions and will provide him with opportunities to train in his chosen career field. There are no pre-set projects, no rubrics to satisfy. The project is 100% the student’s own creation and his own responsibility.
Flipping the Classroom
Any lectures that are ultimately needed to convey specific details often happen in the evenings or on the students’ own schedule, by using videos or recordings. This structure then leaves the time with facilitators and group work open for problem solving, as well as enabling students to move at their own pace. Facilitators also have the opportunity to work one-on-one with students as they practice new skills and implement what they’ve learned, rather than spending time lecturing. This flip is one way in which Geronimo embraces technology to improve the model of higher education.
The Connection Economy (Open Book, Open Note, All the Time)
Successful people all agree: it’s not necessarily what you know, it’s who you know that often matters. At Geronimo, everything is open book, open note, all the time, just like the real world. If you’re not collaborating, you’re doing it wrong.
As entrepreneur Scott Dinsmore states, “There is no faster, more effective way to fill the gap between where you are and where you aspire to be than having the right passionate and supportive people in your corner. There is no bigger life hack. Environment is everything. And it’s 100 percent in our control.”
Geronimo has organized leading voices to teach you the power of networking and designed a customized curriculum to show you how to make it work for you. Like everything else at Geronimo, the “classroom” learning is just the beginning. The real education happens with your assignments to collaborate with others, connect, and make things happen in the real world. Geronimo students design, launch and complete their own projects that require connections to local groups, national and international organizations, and key influencers whose knowledge and expertise can shape the project.
No External Grades or Diplomas
Geronimo Education is not seeking any form of accreditation. We do not offer college credit, degrees, or transfer credit. We do not measure what is most convenient but instead measure what is most valuable. We do not offer grades, GPAs, standardized tests, or degrees. If students need grades or a diploma to prove their worth to society, they clearly have not yet been to Geronimo Education. In lieu of tests, Geronimo relies on personalized feedback from facilitators, mentors, and coaches. Students do not work hard to get a letter or a number. They work hard for their own growth and development.
Intelligent Use of Technology
It no longer makes sense to have professors on the payroll repeat the same lecture three times a day. Given the explosion of digitally-available courses and content, Geronimo has taken the lead to engineer a powerful program that is not only higher impact but also costs less than a typical college program.
In addition to taking advantage of high impact online courses, we also make diligent use of third party training programs. For example, we learn the science of happiness from Harvard researcher Shawn Achor’s commercially available course, The Happiness Advantage. We learn the “surprising truth about what motivates us” from Daniel Pink, bestselling author of Drive and creator of the innovative Drive Workshop. We embrace technology and have spent hundreds of hours reviewing commercially available programs to hand-pick the best.
Technology also allows us to tap into mentors who might otherwise be unavailable due to inconvenient details like geography. Until instant travel is available, communication technologies like video chatting enable meetings with experts and brilliant minds that are thousands of miles away.
Leading by Example
As founders and faculty, we’ve walked the walk before we’re giving you the talk. And we’re still practicing, implementing and refining the skills we ask you to learn. Facilitators, coaches and students are all responsible for guiding others by living the best example we all can.
The environment at Geronimo Education is one of close association with facilitators, as both students and facilitators are required to live on campus. This provides ample access for personalized guidance. Facilitators do not maintain office hours; they are always available.
In many cases, students will be placed in a position to learn a new skill and then teach it to the rest of the class. One assignment may be to teach the class how to make stunning presentations using Prezi. Another assignment may require digesting a complex reading or speech, and breaking it down for other students. Teaching others ensures mastery of the material while refining one’s own communication skills.
All of Geronimo’s graduates are Recession Proof: the economy will not dictate the kind of jobs that they can have. We are so excited about what our students will do in the real world that we literally invest in our graduates’ futures.
- You can work on projects you actually care about
- The economy will not dictate what kind of job you think you can have
- You are not forced into soul-sucking work that causes you to hate your life in your early 20’s
- You can work with people who are a lot smarter than you and actually continue learning and growing
- And most of all, it means you have greater control over what type of lifestyle you ultimately want to create for yourself
We strive to make all of Geronimo’s graduates Recession Proof. We invest in the future economic prosperity of our graduates by arming them with the tools, techniques, and connections proven to result in real world success. We do not charge tuition in the traditional sense. Why not? Because we want to make sure our priorities are identical to yours.
At Geronimo, we take personal ownership over the long-term success of our graduates. We believe so strongly in you and our programs that we’re willing to forgo our own paycheck to ensure your success. If you are unemployed, underemployed, or unhappy with the value you received, your classes are FREE. You are not on the hook for course payments and no creditor will ever call you to collect student loans. That’s refreshing, isn’t it?
On the other hand, if you feel you have benefited from what you have learned at Geronimo, consider that we are a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity that thrives on the generosity of our graduates.
The traditional model of financing higher education requires mortgaging your future income on the speculation that you will land a lucrative career and have the means to repay the student loans over time. There are a few problems with this system:
- The school is not tied to the financial success of the students. If the student fails to be gainfully employed post graduation, they default with no recourse to the school. What if the school was financially dependent on the success of the student? Wouldn’t that make the faculty a lot more interested in making sure their students thrive in the real world?
- In an uncertain economy, taking out a lot of loans when your future income is questionable is not just risky, it’s insane. That is not the way to financial freedom. There is a better way, a way that doesn’t jeopardize your future and enslave you to the next month’s payment. We refuse to let our graduates take boring, mundane positions that under-utilize their talents simply to make ends meet. Living paycheck to paycheck is no way to live at all.
- The old model insists that a college degree is a good financial investment. For those going to the top schools to study medicine, engineering, law, and other professional degrees, it might be. However, for others, it might not be so wise. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 17% of existing student loans have been delinquent for more than 90 days. 1 out of 2 college graduates under 25 are either unemployed or underemployed. Many are forced to return home to live with their parents to cut costs. These are not the statistics of a thriving demographic.
- Billionaire Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and the first outside investor in Facebook, said in a recent interview, “We’ve looked at the math on this, and I estimate that 70 to 80 percent of the colleges in the U.S. are not generating a positive return on investment. Even at the top universities, it may be positive in some sense — but the counterfactual question is, how well would their students have done had they not gone to college? Are they really just selecting for talented people who would have done well anyway? Or are you actually educating them? That’s the kind of question that isn’t analyzed very carefully. My suspicion is that they’re just good at identifying talented people rather than adding value.”
- Investing in student loans is risky business. That is why the government is issuing 93% of all student loans. They are the lender of last resort. When the risk is too high, the burden is pushed to the taxpayers since no private company considers it a smart bet. If professional investors do not consider student loans a good investment, why do so many college students?
Geronimo’s solution to the student loan crisis is an equity investment in each student. Wouldn’t it be nice to be generating income and be free of debt?
This pioneering approach to financing higher education has been described in the following news articles:
- The New York Times: A Way to Pay for College, With Dividends
- The Economist: Selling a Piece of Your Future
- The New York Times: The College Graduate as Collateral
Promoting Freedom and Strength in All Endeavors
Culturally-driven biases can lead to a form of slavery, as these unconscious influences can often direct or even determine our decisions. Geronimo seeks to promote freedom in every way and empower young people to make conscious, free choices in the way they craft their life.
The Three Pillars of Black Mountain
We build and conduct our programs, corporation, and personal lives on three fundamental values: responsibility, risk-taking, and striving. Responsibility means owning your own future, attitude, and results. Risk-taking is a willingness to recognize that not doing something is as much a decision as taking action, and that the “safe” path has a cost, too. Striving is acknowledging that wrestling with something that challenges you is a far more impressive feat than having something come easily.
Students and faculty alike must always be the captains of their own ships, owning all of their decisions and every moment of the future they create. Most importantly, regardless of what happens, you strive to retain control of your attitude and your response. What happens in your life, and how you experience those events, is ultimately up to you.
Responsibility for learning
One of the first responsibilities of a committed learner is to make sure that he or she does not depend solely on the school curriculum and teachers for education. Education is meant to bring the vastness of knowledge to our awareness, and then it’s up to us to harness that knowledge to achieve our personal goals and visions. Not only will you directly experience the process of building your own curriculum from scratch, but you will also be expected to advance the edges of your learning within the curricula of the courses provided. Whether asking questions, investigating extra material, or finding interesting resources, it is your responsibility to identify your own progress and continue to advance. Only you can know what you need to learn, and ultimately only you can ensure that you learn it.
Responsibility for attitude
Hamlet pointed out that “Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” We know that this wise statement is not only absolutely true, but also a cornerstone of successful people’s attitudes. As Harvard’s Shawn Achor explains, by moderating and constantly improving your outlook on events, experiences, and challenges, you can begin to actually shape your reality. You will start to find opportunity where before was only hardship; you will find friends rather than enemies; you will uncover power where you were floundering. It may sound a bit trippy, but trust us—it works! How else do you think Geronimo came to be?
Furthermore, a distinctive element at Geronimo is its empowering and energizing culture. Every member of the community is responsible for contributing to this positive and encouraging environment.
To support awareness of our own reactions and cultivate positive mindsets, you will engage in continual self assessment and group discussions. This individual and communal reflection helps you become aware of what attitudes you currently hold, their impacts (positive or negative), and what steps you can take to improve your outcomes. Part of the weekly meetings with your coach will focus specifically on attitude and your progress toward a particular mindset. Journaling will help you capture what you think and how you respond every day, and probing “thought questions” for specific journaling assignments will help you uncover why you hold any currently destructive or detrimental attitudes.
Responsibility for life
Our graduates leave Geronimo knowing that their future is their own. What they do will be the direct result of their own behaviors, actions, beliefs, and thoughts. This responsibility for life is the very heart of how our graduates will positively impact their community and the world.
People often forget that staying the course is a choice—a choice that comes with its own risks. Success requires risk, as much as learning requires failure. Risk-taking, or the willingness to expose yourself to calculated odds of loss or failure, is essential to true progress and achievement. It does not mean being foolish or dangerous: a risk worth taking provides a benefit worthy of the cost.
At Geronimo, students are frequently exposed to chances for failure. As they advance, our students tackle challenges that are a step beyond anything they have done before; within this reach is always an inherent risk of failure. These opportunities may come in the form of real-world projects for companies or organizations, or they may be internal challenges that impact the local Geronimo community. Either way, there will be repercussions of the students’ successes and failures.
At Geronimo, all we ask is that every student—and every staff member—challenges herself. We don’t care if that happens while working on basic addition or advanced calculus, with trying to touch your toes or doing the splits. Too often, naturally “smart” people are praised in school, while those who struggle with topics are viewed as “slow.” But those struggling are the ones actually achieving, by advancing the frontiers of their own knowledge; the smart ones gliding by without trying make no improvement, because they are not challenging themselves in the slightest. At Geronimo, we will always admire and value students who strive and push themselves to find their leading edges of development. We create opportunities for you to challenge yourself, and provide support and coaching to help you focus on your goals and smash through your previous limitations.
We spend money like it’s our own — because it is. We want education to be affordable to anybody deserving of it, so we’re diligent when spending anything we take in. Geronimo does not receive any funding from government agencies. If our expenses increase, we need to pass that onto students. Since we care about the financial future of our students, we are conservative with our expenditures. Our facilities are three-star, not five-star as some college campuses are these days.
You are what you think
According to Harvard’s Shawn Achor, “Only 25% of your job success is predicted based upon your general intelligence and technical skills. The other 75% of your job success is based on how your perception of the world shapes your future.” Geronimo focuses on that 75%.
Promoting Integral Wellness
Our wellness mantra is “A healthy mind in a healthy body.” All faculty and students participate in a robust integral wellness program. You will work with your personal coach to identify your specific health goals and create your own customized program.
Journalling, Reflection, and Writing
Good writing requires mental clarity, so we practice it often to crystallize our thoughts. Everyone at Geronimo — including faculty — maintains a daily journal to reflect on the day’s lessons, explore ideas, and dive deeper into topics of interest.
Every student needs to produce one interesting blog post per week. The blog post needs to be engaging and relevant. This requires each student to do, think, create, or discover something remarkable during the week. This induces creativity and action. One cannot be stagnant. Blogging requires each student to reflect on what they’ve heard, read, or thought. Maybe you are desperate for good material. Then you notice a deer at the edge of the woods. You track it down, take photos, and then research the proper techniques to stalk wildlife. Bingo! Now you have a blog post.
Students read everyone else’s blogs and the student with the most +1s or Facebook Likes is selected to be featured on the geronimoeducation.org main website. Video logs are suitable in lieu of writing. The use of photos and multimedia is encouraged.
Unique Faculty Roles
We have three different types of faculty at our Geronimo programs: Facilitators, Coaches, and Mentors. Facilitators guide courses and activities on campus. Coaches live on campus and provide personalized guidance on any aspect of the student’s Geronimo experience. Mentors are outside experts who are masters in a particular field; one of the students’ major tasks is to find and enroll a mentor specific to their desired career path.
Geronimo’s faculty can be divided into three groups: (1) Coaches (2) Facilitators and (3) Mentors.
Coaches are dedicated to students’ personal success and provide customized advice, guidance, and encouragement. Each student receives a personal coach upon acceptance into a Geronimo program. This coach will work with the student throughout his time at Geronimo. Coaches guide and advise students on anything from course choice and mentor selection to personal growth and self-discovery. Coaches do not provide field-specific mentoring, as this role is filled by a mentor specifically chosen by the student later in the course. Coaches instead are people who understand the student’s life story, priorities, dreams, strengths, and weaknesses.
Facilitators are classroom and activity facilitators skilled in focusing and guiding conversations to provoke new discoveries. Facilitators do not provide all the answers, but rather draw out considerations from each student.
Each facilitator has a unique background but they all share a common trait: extraordinary success in the real world. Geronimo’s facilitators have a unique ability to get students to question assumptions and ask profound questions. The student-to-facilitator ratio in any given course or activity is approximately 8:1. Facilitators assist with homework, provide personalized suggestions and challenges, and collaborate on the execution of each student’s projects. In lieu of one clear authority figure pontificating, Geronimo has a room of vibrant thinkers and voices, challenging, questioning, giving, taking, and sharing ideas. Einstein famously said, “The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.” Asking intelligent and unexpected questions, rather than searching for a “right” answer, is the bedrock of Geronimo Education.
Mentors are experts in their fields. They may be successful entrepreneurs, published artists, skilled professors, experienced adventurers — the important part is that they have stacks of experience and wisdom regarding the specific area that a student wishes to pursue. Students communicate with mentors at least weekly, either in person or digitally. In particular, mentors provide advice and guidance for the student’s Jumpstart Project (the keystone project within a student’s chosen field). Mentors may collaborate repeatedly with Black Mountain SOLE in one or more of its programs, but the onus is always on the student to find and enroll his mentor. We believe that learning and practicing the skill of locating, contacting, and enlisting the help of a mentor is one of the most valuable experiences we can offer. A student who can consistently find mentors under whom to study will have a huge advantage in any field he pursues.
- The Good MOOC Interview with Katie Cleary from Black Mountain SOLEBy zackjones on August 12, 2013
- The Good MOOC Interview with Katie Cleary from Black Mountain SOLEBy zackjones on August 12, 2013
Black Mountain SOLE
84 Blue Ridge Circle
Black Mountain, NC 28711