Parallel University, established in 2007, exists as an umbrella to contextualize and as a platform to promote the recognition of everyday learning through shared experience.

Parallel University’s Core Beliefs:

  •  We each create reality and value with the choices we make and actions we take at each moment.
  • Every institution is granted validation by its participants, and is valuable only in direct proportion to the cumulative assessment of individuals involved with it.
  • Self-definition is inevitable.
  • We are all teaching and learning with every encounter.
  • Fear is dangerous.
  • Reality is cumulative.

Parallel University’s Intentions:

  • To grant the trappings of Institutional Validation.
  • To offer a flexible context for personal learning and teaching initiatives.
  • To promote the inclusion of strangers.
  • To catalyze conscious self-definition.
  • To value happenstance.
  • To expose connections and linkages between experiences.
  • To encourage public fearlessness.
  • To evolve in response to its participants.

Parallel University’s Process:

  • Generative
  • Open source
  • Open ended
  • Provisional
  • Intuitive


A note from one of P.U.’s founding participants:

“Over the course of the past two years I noticed that the role of institutions had grown out of reasonable proportion in my own life, and the quest for institutional validation was obstructing my engagement with the world.  Tracing my own history to find the source of this feeling, I realized that I received training in the perception of the institution as the most powerful arbiter of value and worth from the moment I entered public school.  The education system is likely the earliest and most ubiquitous institution experienced by most of us, at least in the western world.

Depending on validation from an institution can leave us feeling vulnerable if we have no sense of ownership, and experience no role in defining the criteria we are aspiring to meet within the system.  The result for me has been a hesitancy to engage fully with ventures that don’t have an obvious place or function within an institution; or those not predicting a quantifiable out come. In considering these ideas and my own sense of vulnerability, I decided that I might not be alone, that there must be others who delay or undervalue their own contributions because they don’t know what to call them or where they fit.

I thought about what is important to me, and what I might be undervaluing because of this situation.  The experiences I have with others, especially unexpected, and unscripted exchanges with strangers rose immediately to the top of the list. These encounters are valuable to me, with each one I learn another piece of the world, and contribute something of my own experience to another’s.   But where does one put these experiences, and how can we express the value of learning and teaching that happens in the everyday, or the random encounter, especially as each is so specific to a moment?

I looked to my art practice and it became clear that my interest in chance engagements with strangers was already a constant in my practice via story telling about these experiences.  I saw then that these chance encounters not only taught me about the world, but also made visible the many connections between people and seemingly mundane events that shape my world. I realized that the motivation for much of my art was to share the potential of random experience with others.

That is when the idea of Parallel University came.  This is a place I can collect and share what I am learning in the world.  Parallel University also validates my active attempts to catalyze these experiences for others. Parallel University is a structure that enhances rather than obstructs engagement with the world, and encourages us to value each other individually.

The paradox involved is obvious; creating an institution to address the problem of over reliance on them.  But as it turns out this is a logical step.  The reason some of us are intimidated and limited by institutions is because we forget that they exist because we validate them.  So to create a validating institution that is conscious of its dependence on participants is to demonstrate our ability to define value for ourselves.

Once I got this far I realized that I wanted not only to share my own learning through Parallel University, but also open it up as a platform for teaching, learning, and expressing the value of unexpected moments.”

Parallel University is now an evolving institution for casual pedagogy in the random moment.

“[…]persons, and institutions gain their sense only from their location within a much wider nexus of relations of knowledge, power, and the production of subjectivity.”

Paul Rainbow and Nicolas Rose in their introduction to The Essential Focault