Bahai News - Landegg International University passes a milestone
In Switzerland, Landegg International University passes an important
milestone, winning a new level of recognition from the Government
WIENACHT, Switzerland, 14 October 2001 (BWNS) -- Although an African herself,
Njeri Mwagiru was turned off by brochures from top universities in the
United States and Canada that touted special clubs for Africans, Indians
and other major ethnic and racial groups.
"There just seemed to be a lot of separation on those campuses," said the
20-year-old Kenya native, discussing her decision to come instead to Landegg
International University, a Baha’i-inspired institution of higher
learning in the foothills of the Swiss Alps. "It seemed to me that things
were designed so that people of different cultures could stay apart."
"But here at Landegg, the emphasis is on having people of different cultures
get together -- and that is what I was looking for."
Entering her third year in Landegg's Bachelor of Arts program, Ms. Mwagiru
is happy with her choice -- a choice made somewhat venturesome by the fact
that Landegg's degree programs are only five years old.
But she has indeed found the kind of unity amidst diversity that she was
seeking, and Ms. Mwagiru also believes she is receiving a topflight
education, one with a distinctive approach.
"It aims to combine various disciplines of study so that they make more
sense and the education is more applicable to life," said Ms. Mwagiru,
enrolled in a program that brings together the fields of psychology,
human development and education.
"And it has delivered everything in terms of the education I expected,"
she continued. "We have lots of contact with the professors and many
in-depth discussions. The school has a general belief in the uniqueness
of the individual -- and at the same time the unity of all."
Ms. Mwagiru's description of her experience at Landegg quite accurately
matches the university's stated goals, which are to develop and
practice a new "integrative" approach to education that combines modern
scientific thinking with spiritual and ethical values in a way that
meets the needs of an interdependent and global civilization.
"Our curriculum seeks to make sure that the students not only receive the
latest academic and scientific information about what they are studying,
but that they will also be exposed to the various ethical considerations
that pertain to it -- and that they will then learn how to apply it in the
real world," said Hossain Danesh, president of Landegg.
On 20 September 2001, Landegg received an important new level of recognition
for its approach, when it was formally registered by the cantonal and
federal authorities as a private university in Switzerland. To achieve that,
the university had to meet the rigorous criteria set by the government at
both the canton and federal levels.
"One of the most significant implications of Landegg's new status is
that the Swiss Government has recognized the legitimacy of an approach
to education that is global in reach and that has as its basis the idea
of applied spirituality within a framework of integrated studies,"
said Michael Penn, who served as vice rector at Landegg from 1998-2000
and is currently an affiliate professor.
"It is a recognition of the idea that an institution of higher learning can,
in an academically rigorous way, apply principles of ethics to the
interrogation of social problems in the world," said Dr. Penn, who is
professor of psychology at Franklin and Marshall University in Pennsylvania,
Landegg is also winning recognition in other important ways. A high
percentage of its graduate students have gone on to prestigious
doctoral programs at universities like Stanford and Cambridge. And it
has launched a major peace education project in Bosnia and Herzegovina
that is winning high praise from government officials.
A Gradual Evolution
Landegg's evolution into a full-fledged university has been a gradual
process. Located on some 31 acres on a hillside overlooking Lake
Constance in the rustic Swiss village of Wienacht, Landegg
International University was previously known as Landegg Academy, and
it was used primarily as a conference center.
In that role, Landegg was the venue of a number of significant meetings,
including a series of "International Dialogues on the Transition to a
Global Society." The first such Dialogue was held in September 1990 and
included the participation of Federico Mayor, then UNESCO's Director-
General; Karan Singh, a leading Indian author and diplomat; and Bertrand
Schneider, then secretary-general of the Club of Rome.
In addition to such high-level gatherings, Landegg was also host to a
number of international programs, focusing on peace and world order
studies for young people.
Currently comprising some nine buildings, the campus was originally
built as a holiday retreat in the 19th century. The campus was acquired
by a Baha'i family in 1982 and the properties were donated to a newly
established Landegg International Baha'i Foundation, operating under the
aegis of the Baha'i community of Switzerland, which undertook the
renovation of its main buildings and established it as a conference center.
In the mid-1990s, the Foundation decided that Landegg's role as a
center of learning should become formalized, and Landegg's functions
were transferred to an independent board, whose charter states that the
university will be operated as an independent university, directed by
an international governing board. Among the most important
responsibilities of the board is to ensure the academic excellence and
independence of the university.
In September 1997, Landegg formally inaugurated a new program of
graduate studies, offering a Master of Arts Degree in eight areas,
including conflict resolution, psychology, education, and religion. In
1998, Landegg began to offer undergraduate degrees as well and by 2000,
the school began seeking formal recognition as a university.
Over the years, Landegg has opened active scholarly exchange programs
with a number of universities worldwide, including the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, Beijing University in China, the State
University of Sergipe in Brazil, and the University of Wisconsin at
Oshkosh, in the USA.
Currently, Landegg offers undergraduate degrees in four areas:
economics and international development; political science and
international relations; psychology, human development and education;
and the integrative study of religion. Students may also design their
own area of concentration, with the guidance of the academic office,
from among courses offered.
Graduate degrees are offered in six areas: consultation and conflict
resolution, moral education, applied ethics, the integrative study of
religion, leadership and management, and spiritual psychology. A
certificate program in Information Technology has also been launched
The way in which areas of degree concentration combine fields of study
across various disciplines gives but a glimpse of how the school seeks
to provide an integrative approach.
The cornerstone of that integrative approach, Dr. Danesh explained, is
to first study all of the relevant theories and models that currently
exist in a given field. Professors and students themselves are then
encouraged to create a new model, based on the new insights into human
nature and those universal ethical and spiritual principles that are
present in the spiritual and philosophical heritage of humanity, and to
see if such a model can have a practical application.
"For example, if we are studying conflict resolution, we first study
all of the different theories and models of conflict resolution," said
Dr. Danesh. "And we keep them. But we have also developed our own
model, which we call 'conflict-free conflict resolution.'" [CFCR]
The new CFCR model, Dr. Danesh said, does not accept that conflict or
aggression is necessarily an inevitable feature of human nature.
"Rather, our new theory suggests that conflict is a reflection of the
different stages in human development and evolution and that it
reflects the absence of unity," said Dr. Danesh, whose own work in
psychology and spirituality has helped to lay the foundations for the
Dr. Danesh said the theory of conflict-free conflict resolution
indicates that the best way to overcome conflict is by seeking higher
and higher levels of unity.
Based on the CFCR model, Landegg has developed a subsidiary program,
called "Education for Peace," which seeks to help war-torn communities
incorporate peace education into the standard public school curriculum.
Currently, Education for Peace (EFP) operates a pilot project in six
schools in three different communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, reaching
some 6,000 students. Global Campus
Although the Landegg campus is relatively small, with a current capacity
of approximately 100 full-time, on-campus students, its reach is global.
At any given time, only about one third of the school's students are on
campus. The rest study from afar, using an array of distance-learning
technologies but principally email and the World Wide Web.
The global diversity of the student body is another hallmark of the
Landegg experience. For example, the 30- some young people in the
undergraduate program come from 20 different countries. The graduate
student population of approximately 120 students is as diverse.
"We have students from countries as diverse as Mongolia, Russia, the
United States, Venezuela, Canada and China," said Graham Hassall,
associate dean of undergraduate studies. "This is one of the wonderful
things about Landegg, the global nature of our very small campus."
Nyambura Mwagiru, 21, Njeri's sister, said she also felt one of the
best things about Landegg is the global diversity of its student body.
"Just being able to sit down and talk with people from so many
different places is one of the best things about Landegg," said
Nyambura, who, like her sister, is in the psychology, human development
and education program. "We learn from each other, and have time to
reflect and grow."
Nyambura said she was on her way to King's College in London when she
stopped with her sister to visit Landegg. She was so taken with the
atmosphere that she stayed, even though it meant giving up on a degree
from a school that is much better known around the world.
"It was a big decision but I don't believe I made the wrong decision,"
said Nyambura. "It is exciting to be part of something that is growing
and that is so different."
The faculty of Landegg is similarly global in its diversity. Of its
more than 70 professors, many who are affiliated with other colleges
and universities around the world, only about 10 are on campus at a
given time. Nevertheless, the ability to draw on well-respected
academics from more than 20 countries contributes greatly to the
internationalism of the educational process at Landegg.
The school has also had a surprising degree of success in placing its
graduates. Although only about 30 students have so far received
graduate degrees from Landegg, a number have gone on to prestigious
Jenni Menon of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, for example, has been
accepted this year into a doctoral studies in psychology and education
at Stanford University in the USA; Tania Sargent of Zimbabwe is
currently in her second year at the Graduate School of Education at the
University of Pennsylvania in the USA; and Meiko Bond of Japan went on
to do a master's degree in criminology at Cambridge University in the
"Landegg was instrumental in helping me get into my current PhD
program," said Ms. Menon, who received an MA in Moral Education from
Landegg earlier this year. She cited two key factors in Stanford's
acceptance: her experience as one of the coordinators in the pilot
phase of the Education for Peace project in Bosnia and, second, the
"close, caring and thoughtful attention and advice" she received from
her professors at Landegg.
"As a student at Landegg I feel I was simultaneously exposed to a
rigorous theoretical and practical service- oriented type of learning,"
said Ms. Menon. "Of course, many universities promote this
theoretical-practical approach to learning, but a unique aspect of
Landegg is that this approach occurs through an effort to integrate
the scientific and the ethical/moral and spiritual aspects of knowledge
and investigation. I think that this unique integrative approach
sounded appealing to Stanford, indicating to me that [they] are seeking
Ms. Sargent likewise feels her experience at Landegg contributed
greatly to her acceptance as a PhD candidate at the University of
Pennsylvania last year.
"It is quite a hard school to get into," said Ms. Sargent, who finished
her course work at Landegg towards an MA in moral education a year ago.
"And I think one reason I was accepted was some of the academic writing
I had done at Landegg." She wrote a paper entitled "Cultivating the
Chinese Intelligence: Costs and Benefits of Chinese Achievement
Motivation," which she believes was critical in her U Penn application.
"I was still very surprised when I was accepted and given a good
scholarship offer," said Ms. Sargent. "Some people used to ask me, 'Why
are you going to such a new school, don't you need to get real
credentials?' But getting an MA from Landegg obviously doesn't hinder
you from going somewhere else."
Ms. Bond likewise found that some of her friends questioned her
decision to go to Landegg to get a master's degree in conflict
resolution in 1996. "They would say, 'Will it be recognized by an
established university? Will it look good on your CV?,'" said Ms. Bond,
who is currently pursuing a PhD at the University of Manchester. "But I
thought it would be an exciting place to study. And in the end, I did
end up at Cambridge. So now my friends have changed their minds."
©Copyright 2001, Baha'i World News Service
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