Learning to think at the limits of the possible, together
The Impossible Project is a learning experience that prepares students to take on grand challenges by teaching them to BEND: Build collective resilience, Enhance creative critical thinking, Nurture collaboration and Discover purpose through dedication to social and planetary good.
The Impossible Project challenges students to fail together from day one and to recognize early that failure is nothing more than a new beginning. By eliminating the pressure of individual success/failure and positing collective success/failure as the central mode, the Impossible Project encourages students become more resilient and more daring.
Unafraid to fail, students participating in the Impossible Project are freed to embrace the kind of creativity and criticality that requires an openness of heart and mind and a tolerance for the kind of cognitive dissonance that can lead to growth. The impossible project clears the way for true creative critical thinking.
The Impossible Project emphasizes true collaboration by offering students the opportunity to build not only flexible, agile and resilient teams, but also the unity of purpose, identity and dedication necessary for longer-term and justice-oriented collaborative work. Collaboration in this model is seen less as a skill to be employed and more as a way of living, working and engaging with the world.
Students who learn to work together in true, meaningful collaboration, who can tap into a well of bold, border-defying and generative creativity, and who are brave enough to fail together will be well-positioned to discover their purpose as members of a global community who are capable of advancing social and planetary good.
Dr. Dalia Antonia Caraballo Muller is Associate Professor of Latin American and Caribbean History at the University at Buffalo. She formerly served as Associate Director of UB’s Caribbean and Latin American Studies Program (2009-2016), Director of UB’s University Honors College (2017-2020) and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education (2017-2020). A graduate of Yale University (BA) and the University of California, Berkeley where she obtained her MA and PhD, Dr. Caraballo Muller dedicates herself to the twin (and intertwined) passions of historical research in her field and educational program development for social and planetary good. The through line that connects her historical work and her work in education is the concept of “impossibility.” She is currently researching African and Afro-descended intellectuals in early 20th century Cuba who thought at the limits of the possible as they staked claims to rights, dignity and equality in a world that denied their full humanity. In the classroom, Dr. Caraballo Muller invites her students to stretch their minds and think at the limits of the possible in order to dream up new futures for our ailing world and planet.
Dr. Caraballo Muller is the author of Cuban Émigrés and Independence in the Nineteenth-Century Gulf World (UNC Press, 2017), fellow of the SUNY Hispanic Leadership Institute, and founder of the Impossible Project.
Impossible Project: Making Computing Anti-racist (course redesign)
Faculty partners: Kenny Joseph and Atri Rudra
Impossible Project: Decolonizing the Brooklyn Museum (workshop)
Faculty partner: Miriam Paeslack
Administrative partner: Kevin Leary
Impossible Project: Solve a Global Problem (course project)
Faculty partner: Dorothy Siaw-Asamoah
Research Collaboration on Gaming and Utopian World Building (K-12 course design)
Faculty partner: Christopher Proctor
I offer a 10 minutes (for panels), 30 minute and 60 minute (interactive) presentations on the Impossible Project (IP) as a mode, philosophy, theory and practice of teaching and learning. Topics included in my talks are: a description of the IP learning philosophy and its origins; an explanation of core IP principles, concepts and learning objectives; assessing transformative education; and, the power of the IP to support diversity, equity and inclusion work.