Peace Corps philosopher in China: Author Peter Vernezze

Philosophy isn’t generally thought of as a cross-cultural tool, but for Peter Vernezze, who left a position as philosophy professor at a U.S. university to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in China, philosophy is exactly that. 

Over the course of his two years of service in a Sichuan university, Professor Vernezze set up and took notes on philosophical chats among his students. From their discussions emerged a host of unique insights into the philosophical suppositions underpinning the values and concerns of contemporary Chinese students.

In this podcast, Idealist’s Amy Potthast chats with Professor Vernezze about what philosophy is, how philosophical thinking can re-contextualize different cultures, including one’s own, and why Chinese philosophy, in particular, is important. A former Peace Corps China Volunteer, herself, Amy’s own experience with Chinese thought yields a fruitful discussion with Professor Vernezze on what Westerners can learn from China.

Direct download: The_Peace_Corps_philosopher__Author_Peter_Vernezze.m4a
Category:Civic Life -- posted at: 7:42pm UTC

Social enterprise school: The Mycelium School's Matthew Abrams
A unique design for education is underway in Asheville, North Carolina and it takes its model from the vegetative part of a mushroom, mycilia.
Opening in 2013 the Mycelium School aims to cultivate social entrepreneurs and leaders in creating local change by enhancing social and environmental systems through a gap year educational program.
In this episode, Amy Potthast chats with the Mycelium School founder Matthew Abrams about the school’s design and theory, who stands to benefit, and exactly what prospective students might be like.  Along the way, the discussion touches on the history of Asheville and systems thinking. Not to be missed!
Direct download: A_new_kind_of_school__The_Mycelium_Schools_Matthew_Abrams.m4a
Category:Civic Life -- posted at: 11:47pm UTC

The American Way to Change: An Interview with Shirley Sagawa

This podcast features a conversation with Shirley Sagawa author of The American Way to Change: How National Service and Volunteers and Transforming America and the “founding mother of the modern service movement.” During the first Clinton administration, Sagawa drafted the legislation that created AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National Service.

Today, Shirley is a fellow at the Center for American Progress, and co-founder of the sagawa/jospin consulting firm which brings new resources and strategic thinking to solve problems affecting children, families, neighborhoods, and our nation.

In his 1995 book, How a Bill Becomes a Law, Steve Waldman compared national service —  full-time stipended volunteering like AmeriCorps and VISTA — to a Swiss Army Knife, “performing numerous useful functions in one affordable package,” including addressing social needs, bridging diversity, and building participants’ self-confidence.

In today’s show, Shirley revisits the Swiss Army Knife analogy with some timely new insights that she also shares in her new book The American Way to Change.

To find more good things to do, including 12,000+ volunteer opporunties, go to

This show was hosted and produced by Idealist's Amy Potthast with assistance from Tim Johnson, podcast intern.

Direct download: The_American_Way_to_Change__An_Interview_with_Shirley_Sagawa.mp3
Category:Civic Life -- posted at: 5:44pm UTC