Food, Travel, and Starting New Projects


Food, Travel, and Starting New Projects


In about a week the very first Wayfinding Academy fall term will come to a close. Our students have been up to all sorts of exciting things, including attending our first two full length Labs alongside some wonderful community members. In the 2016-2017 year we're offering about a dozen Labs that are each 12 hours long. Lab topics vary, but they are designed to be useful across disciplines so both students and community members can get great benefit from attending. 

Our first Lab this term was Food Culture Explorers taught by Gina Lorubbio of the American Heirloom Project. Participants explored questions such as:

  • What is American food culture and how did it come to be? 

  • Why cook? Why not let corporations feed us?

  • How can you integrate good food into your everyday life?

Participants getting their hands dirty and enjoying good conversation at Food Culture Explorers

Participants getting their hands dirty and enjoying good conversation at Food Culture Explorers

We also offered Travel Hacking for Beginners taught by longtime supporter Stephanie Zito, resident travel expert for the Travel Hacking Cartel, and special guest Sean Keener of BootsnAll. Participants learned how to get miles to travel anywhere in the world for nearly free. By the end of the Lab, everyone will have earned between 25,000-100,000 miles, enough for several free trips! The group met twice already and will reconvene in January to put those miles to use! 

Special guest Sean Keener talking about the importance of traveling

Special guest Sean Keener talking about the importance of traveling

This term also included a three hour mini-Lab with serial non-profit founder, Jefferson Smith, focused on Lessons Learned from Starting Things. Jefferson will be offering a longer Lab in the spring (dates TBA soon!) around community leadership. 

In each Lab, students created projects they can use in their portfolios highlighting what they've learned. In Food Culture Explorers, each student had the opportunity to create a "wisdom vessel" that would serve to capture and pass down an important piece of food culture. 

Wayfinding Academy student Elizabeth Wegmann's wisdom vessel project

Wayfinding Academy student Elizabeth Wegmann's wisdom vessel project

Other Labs in 2017 include Goal Setting and Legacy Work for 2017 and Beyond, How to Use Games to Address Social Justice, How to Fund Your Project: A Crowdfunding Lab, and The Art and Science of Creative Podcasting: From Storytelling to Marketing, plus several more.  We hope to see YOU at one of them. 

To a life on purpose, 
Wayfinding Crew



Living Out Our Core Values: Adventure


Living Out Our Core Values: Adventure


As you may remember from a newsletter we sent last February, one of our core values is Adventure and just as we will encourage students to stretch and explore themselves and the world, we encourage our crew members to do the same.

During the past few weeks our team has been spread across the world having adventures and stretching - Tim has been in France with his wife visiting her family, Bjarke and Gina hosted their wedding in the countryside in Italy, Michelle visited Italy for the wedding and caught part of the Palio in Siena while there, Tina summited Mt. Adams in Washington, and Colin is in Alaska leading outdoor exploration trips for youth. 

During our times of adventure, we still make time to keep striving towards our goal of being ready for our inaugural cohort of students to arrive on August 29th and to host our first annual Wayfinder Weekend at the end of July. We keep in touch a couple times per week via video conferencing and send plenty of emails as well. Here are a few things we have wrapped up this past week that we would like to share with you...

New Scholarship!

Chrissy Washburn established a scholarship for a Wayfinding Academy student in honor and support of her organization, Giraffe Giggles, whose mission is to raise children’s voices so the world will hear them and inspire people to talk to each other with Giraffe kindness. The recipient(s) will be someone who share the Giraffe Giggles values of trust, empathy, equity and inclusion, fun, mutual giving, and kindness. Preference will be given to students who have demonstrated financial need. To be eligible for this scholarship, applications must be submitted by mid-July.

Gratitude for all!

Our friends at SuperThank will be joining us at Wayfinder Weekend at the end of July! They will have a special "gratitude booth" where attendees can share their stories of gratitude and they are helping us create a permanent wall of gratitude in the building that will debut during Wayfinder Weekend. If you don't yet have a ticket to attend Wayfinder Weekend, there is still time to get one here:

We hope you will join us for an upcoming event or tell someone you know about us so we can get to know more people who believe in the goal to turn higher education frontwards.

Cheers to adventure and living life on purpose!

The Wayfinding Academy Crew

P.S. We are inviting an intern to help us grow the movement. If you, or someone you know, might be interested in learning about fundraising, events, organization, and helping to revolutionize higher education with us, check out this posting.


How to Pull Off the Impossible: Three Big Announcements


How to Pull Off the Impossible: Three Big Announcements


In the past three weeks, we 1) enrolled our first students, 2) received official approval from the State of Oregon to grant degrees, and 3) signed the papers for the purchase of our campus building.

At first, these tasks seemed intimidating and far-flung:

  • How will we find a students who will put their trust in us during our first year?
  • How will our tiny, unconventional college survive the same approval process as the behemoth institutions?

  • How will we afford a $1 million dollar building?

As more and more people connected with our cause, rallied with us, offered their expertise, and cheered us on, the impossible became possible.

Our community hashed out logistics, boarded our crew in different cities, and captured powerful moments on camera for our cross-country Commencement Day surprises. They offered expertise for our 140+ page application with the State of Oregon. They discounted architectural and engineering services, garnered neighborhood support, and formed an LLC to purchase our campus home. They act as cheerleaders everyday.

It’s hard to explain the intensity of the challenges and joys that come from being part of a community nudging massive change in higher education, so here it is, in their own words:

What Wayfinders Are Saying

“This has been one of the most beautiful, most important things I have ever been a part of in my life. So grateful / happy / excited / heart-warmed!”  
- Gina Lorubbio, Wayfinding Crew

“*Tearing up* This is amazing. I'm so honored to get to be a part of this!”  
- Ashley Mudra, Dedicated Volunteer who surprised several students for “Commencement Day”

“Can't wait to see what happens with this - this is a lot more than an education, I know Michelle and her amazing team will succeed because of the students they are choosing. Happy to play a part!”  - Wes Wages, documentary filmmaker who captured footage for “Commencement Day”

“This is thoughtful action at its best, educating the mind by way of the heart. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this already very special community.”  - Susannah Hayler, Wayfinding Student, Inaugural Cohort

“This is so FREAKING COOL! I'm so honored to be a part of this school.” 
 - Sean Harry, Luminary who dedicated several Saturdays to “Commencement Day” planning

“Everything that you guys have done has been absolutely breathtaking. You’re all such amazing, world-changing people, and I’m continually inspired by you.”
 - Clara Burros, Wayfinding Student, Inaugural Cohort

Do you want to be part of this crazy/challenging/rewarding endeavor? In one month, we’re putting on a (Wayfinder) weekend of magical moments for you, our community. Join us as we gather this community of Wayfinders in one spot for the first time ever.

We hope to make its amazingness shine as bright as all of you.

Thank you for helping us pull off the impossible,
Wayfinding Academy Crew


State of the Academy - Issue #1

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State of the Academy - Issue #1


Greetings Wayfinding community!

We’ve received feedback that you are enjoying behind-the-scenes glimpses into our process of creating a college from scratch. So, we’re starting a monthly series of progress updates from me, as Founder and President, on the state of the Academy. If there are specific things you’re wondering about, let me know by sending me an email at

We also provide smaller, more regular updates on Facebook and Instagram, so if you’re not yet following along there, please do so you can get the breaking news as it happens (HINT: there is some breaking news on the horizon you won’t want to miss).

In this newsletter, I want to focus on two BIG developments: (1) students have begun enrolling for our inaugural cohort! and (2) the Wayfinding home base campus.

Our Inaugural Cohort of Students!

We recently celebrated “Commencement Day,” dispatching Wayfinding crew across the country to invite students to join our inaugural cohort. Among other things, we delivered caps and gowns to symbolize our quest to turn the higher education system frontwards. You can read and watch the full story here.

Over the past week, these students have been accepting our invitations by paying deposits and making plans to move to Portland by Orientation which begins August 29th. So, one of the things we’ve had our eyes and hearts on through the past 2 years has finally come to pass - we have our first enrolled students! Quite a few of them. And they are INCREDIBLE! We look forward to introducing them to you this fall.

Yes, we are accepting applications for our inaugural cohort a little while longer because we still have a few spots left. If you or someone you know is interested, contact us on our website before July 7th and we’ll get the application process going.

Our Campus!

8010 N. Charleston Ave. in the Portland neighborhood of St. Johns

A little over a year ago our team started touring potential locations around Portland to find a space that fit us well and could enable us to grow from start-up to full size (150 students + staff). We toured 12-15 spaces looking to sign a long term lease. Last fall we came across a delightful building in the St. Johns neighborhood in North Portland and got our sights set on it.

There were a few barriers we would need to overcome to make it work, though: (1) it was for sale, not for lease and (2) it was in a residential area not zoned for college use.

First, myself and another crew member, Colin, spent hours at the City of Portland Bureau of Development Services learning about zoning and occupancy codes and under which conditions we might be able to get a “conditional use” review to change the designation of the building

There were pages and pages of charts and timelines and we met with many people during these early stages. In the end, the City determined that yes, we could apply to change to use of the building from R1 (residential) zoning to Institutional - College use, but they would require us to go through the longest, most extensive, and most expensive Type III Land Use Review process. 

Next, we had to figure out how a start-up non-profit college could get a $1 million bank loan to purchase and renovate a building. So we got some members of our Board and community together to form an LLC to purchase the building and lease it to the Wayfinding Academy. We signed a purchase and sale agreement last December and the LLC - Live Your Life on Purpose - will close on the sale this week (7 months later)!

Through a connection by our amazing real estate agent, Tom Secolo of Doug Bean & Associates, we hired a very cool architecture firm, SUM Design Studio + Architecture, to draw up plans for renovation of the building (built originally in 1937) to update it from its former life as a YWCA and help us navigate the long bureaucratic process with the City to change its zoning.  

On January 19, 2016, we attended a pre-application conference at the Bureau of Development Services where we met representatives from all the agencies we’d be working with once process began: transportation, environmental services, design review, and more.

Last week, on June 6, 2016 (139 days after our pre-application conference when we were last in that room), our Public Hearing was held and no one showed up.

This is good - it means no one wanted to raise a concern or contest the proposed site of our campus, and according to the hearings officer and our case manager, this is a rare occurrence. You can listen to the entire 16 minute hearing here if you wish (yes, they record these and put them online as mp3 files!). To conclude the hearing, he said to us, “I wish you well on your project. I don’t know what you did to create a situation where the room is empty, but I compliment you on that."

What we did was be human and intentional and do what we felt was the right thing to do when making a new place your home: meet your neighbors and talk with them about things that matter to them.

Some people might have seen these as barriers that were not worth working through or that were not able to be overcome. Because of how much we believe in what we’re doing, and because of how connected we are to why this is important, we them as opportunities to stretch and build community. 

We have more new friends and supporters because of the Land Use Review process than we ever would have otherwise met. Not only do they support us with their specific talents as architect, traffic engineer, real estate agent, elementary school principal, local library director, neighborhood association board member, church pastor, or small business loan officer at a bank, they come to Wayfinding events and cheer us on in so many additional ways.

This may seem like it was such a big thing that it was all we were doing for the past 7 months, but, of course, it wasn’t. Not even close.

And if you have been following along for a while now, you might surprised to find out that this was happening in the background of other stories you’ve been seeing like these:

  • AmeriCorps VISTA - we were approved to host an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer who will begin August 29th, the same day our inaugural cohort starts! We’re making an offer to our top choice candidate this week. Stay tuned to meet this person soon!

  • Wayfinder Weekend from July 29th - 31st - we’ve been preparing for our annual gathering of our community of Wayfinders and we’d love if you would join us for our first public event at the Wayfinding campus. Details and tickets are here.

  • Oregon Public House - we’ve been chosen as a Partner Charity with the Oregon Public House (the nation’s first non-profit pub) from July through December. They have a really cool business and charity model where customers get to order off 3 menus: food, drink, and donation, and all the profits from your drinks and meals go to a charity of your choice. So, please hang out with friends and host meetings at the Oregon Public house throughout the next 6 months and choose Wayfinding Academy as your charity.

You can always get the most recent updates by going to the News page on our website as well.

Thank you for being part of this epic story to create a college from scratch and start a movement to revolutionize higher education. We could not do this without the support of the thousands of you who receive this email and cheer us on in person and online. Thank you!

Signing off to a life on purpose,

Michelle Jones
Wayfinding Academy Founder and President


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Commencement Day: Turning Higher Education Frontwards


Commencement Day: Turning Higher Education Frontwards


After countless hours of plotting logistics, handcrafting invitations, and conspiring with supporters of our prospective students, we can now tell you what we’ve been up to these past few weeks.

From June 1st through June 3rd, we dispatched Crew and Luminaries across the country to surprise students with tailored invitations and caps and gowns that represent our quest to flip the backwards higher education system frontwards.

We had a lot of internal debate before deciding to actually do this. Is it too crazy? Can we really pull this off? Should we just send packages instead of showing up in person?

But in the end, we knew we couldn’t do it any other way.

We had to show the world that a small but mighty college can do the seemingly impossible--whether that means coordinating cross-country surprises or turning the entire culture of higher education around..

We had to live our values of being human, seizing adventure, and acting with purpose.

We had to make a statement.

So, we took the biggest symbols of our society’s expectations, the cap and gown, and hand-delivered them to students in Portland, OR; Oklahoma City; San Francisco; Olympia, WA; Seattle; and Florence, AL.

We called the occasion “Commencement Day,” and each student wore the outfit on the first day of their journey, instead of the last, as a token of our commitment to flip higher education frontwards. Over the years, students will add patches to the gowns and later pass them down to future Wayfinders on their own “Commencement Day.”

We put together a video so you can peek into the power of those moments. We’ve laughed and cried and felt so much joy when watching it (which, for me, Gina, has been about 27 times!). We hope you enjoy it, too:

Applications are still open to become a student in the inaugural cohort starting August 29, 2016. We have been overwhelmed by the talent, passion, and intelligence displayed by each applicant so far, and we would be deeply honored to invite more amazing people like them.

Cheers to seizing adventure and challenge over comfort and ease,

Wayfinding Academy Crew


Find Your Fit Day Recap


Find Your Fit Day Recap

On Sunday, May 22nd Luminaries, faculty, crew members, and prospective students all gathered together for a meet and greet event called Find Your Fit Day. 


What’s the Difference Between Wayfinding Academy and Traditional College?


What’s the Difference Between Wayfinding Academy and Traditional College?


We’ve been craving a quick way to answer this question. While we certainly have our elevator pitches, tag lines, and sound bites, the real answer is that the difference is woven into every. single. detail.

Much of the good will be too subtle to detect. It goes deeper than the tip-of-the-iceberg response we can afford to give in short interactions.

It’s how we check out Lab attendees on LinkedIn before they show up so we can surprise and delight them when they arrive.

It’s how we’re devising ways for people to connect with each other at Wayfinder Weekend on a level far beyond the standard exchange of business cards.

It’s how we make sure core curriculum teachers are advising Advocates and Advocates are leading Labs and Lab leaders are on the Board. It’s this cross-pollination that makes all the pieces of Wayfinding whole, and ensures everyone, not just the teachers, knows and cares about the students.

It’s how we have a real-time conversation with each prospective student BEFORE they apply to make sure we’re a good fit.

It’s how we’ve painstakingly revised our vocabulary around ‘admissions.’ Instead of ‘accepting’ and ‘rejecting’ people, we’re conducting a ‘matchmaking process’ to ‘find a good fit’ and then ‘inviting’ students to join us.

It’s how we built said matchmaking process to be of value to each applicant, regardless of whether they end up at Wayfinding Academy.

It’s in the ‘Find Your Fit Day’ happening this very Sunday. We’re bringing potential students together, and instead of grilling them with questions, we’ve given equal space for them to ask questions and get to know us, too.

It’s how we’re taking a part of the college experience that most universities just send out a piece of paper for and taking it a thousand steps further. (We can’t reveal what this is yet, but rest assured, it will be AWESOME!).

And finally, it’s this community of Wayfinders we’ve gathered who are the kind of people that can detect these differences and believe what we believe: giving attention to the small things is going to be what revolutionizes higher education.

Thanks for your unwavering support,
Wayfinding Academy Crew

Have you heard? We are currently recruiting for our first AmeriCorps VISTA through Campus Compact of Oregon! We are excited to bring on this full time crew member to join us starting August 29th (the same day our inaugural cohort of students arrives for Orientation)! Click here for more information and to apply by June 1st.