About THE AUTHOR- Dan Waite

"The Club" - Antigua c.1983 (Dan on the right)

"The Club" - Antigua c.1983 (Dan on the right)


My passion for experiential and engaged learning is deeply rooted in my own education journey.  I grew up  in what Jamaica Kinkaid dismissed as a "small place" - the tiny island nation of Antigua and Barbuda where my parents (a broadcast engineer and a nurse) served as missionaries. 

While I grew up without the benefit of much formal education (even tested into special education on my first standardized test!), my advantage was that I was curious and I had a lot of space to shape my own experiential education experience. The club I co-formed with four preteen friends at age eleven, afternoons spent with neighbors in our rough-and-tumble neighborhood (in between a brothel, a drug house, and a rastafarian commune), a two-year apprenticeship with a graphic design studio beginning at age fifteen, and a gap-year at eighteen where I traveled the Caribbean and started a small art business - all shaped my learning in ways far more profound than any formal education.

The central ideas about pedagogy and transformative learning that have informed my post-secondary education and research (M.Ed. from Harvard Graduate School of Education in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy and Ph.D. from U.C.L.A. in Social Sciences and Comparative Education) are deeply rooted in my real-world lived experiences and the influence of key mentors and coaches along the way.

Likewise, listing out the job titles I’ve held – Executive Director, Department Chair, etc. might give you a sense of a relatively traditional institutional-based career of 20 years working in study abroad, service-learning, and campus internationalization.  But it doesn’t capture what has been most important to me – which again are the learning communities and tribes of students, friends, and collaborators whose shared adventures in learning continue to profoundly influence my life and calling. 

Few additional details about me… I have a lovely wife whose efforts to help me find my writing voice are essential to this project.  I have three amazingly creative children who serve as my motivation – the groggy late nights of research and writing are because I want them to do more than just struggle through college for the point of getting a diploma like I did – I want to see my kids have a compelling college experience that will propel them into their creative destinies (with as little debt as possible).   I have seven years before my oldest, Mateo, heads to college - so I'm working with that deadline in mind. 

Speaking of “destinies,” you’ll probably note the occasional religious-sounding vocabulary in my writing. I come at this project through the lens of my Christian faith, though I realize that label comes with a whole busload of unwanted baggage, and I have no intention to use this blog to push a theological agenda. At the same time, however, my educational philosophy is integrally connected to my belief that as humans we each have a profound value and a creative purpose for our lives - a belief which I believe is shared across the faith spectrum. My faith drives me to a central commitment to love, mercy, and justice (our family verse is Micah 6:8).  I align myself with those who, like Friere and Illich, believed that the principles of love and community should be at the center of our education projects.

My grandmother Lucille, matriarch of an economically poor (but experience rich) farming family who immigrated to California in the 1920’s, was one of those people who profoundly shaped my worldview.  Grandma taught me that life is too short to spend time worrying about what other people think of you. “Pursue what you are called to do without looking back” was the advice she drilled into me – and I hope I can stay true to that mantra with this blog.  (To be fair grandma was also known for saying, “en boca cerrada no entran moscas,” but I think she would be behind me on this one...)