Welcome to Monna University

I am one of those freak-shows who just loves school.  I adore it.  Even now, halfway through my life, when my friends go off to work, I’m still heading to school as a Counselor.

One of my favourite quotations about school and learning actually comes from my school’s Core Values:

All learning enriches life.

Isn’t that a cool idea?  All learning!

Although I sometimes toy with the idea of completing a Ph.D., the conclusion I’ve come to, for now, is that I don’t need another advanced degree to do my job well or to convince others that I am adequately qualified.

At this point in my life, I just want to learn cool things that interest me.  I’d like to explore these topics in a way that makes sense for a person who works full-time. While DP completes his MFA online, I am attending a university of my own making.

Monna University: The Syllabus

Part A: The Courses

Mondo Beyondo Dream Big1. Dream Lab by Andrea Scher and Jen Lemen
In the spring of 2010, during some dark and scary days in Bangkok, I completed a really cool online course called Mondo Beyondo. The course featured lessons, real life stories, secret missions, audio interviews and hands-on activities designed to help participants take our dreams from wishing to reality. For me, the highlight of the course was developing my Mondo Beyondo list of dreams, both great and small. (At last count, I was at 54 dreams. Yup! I’m a big dreamer!)

The Mondo Beyondo team is offering a new course called Dream Lab beginning on October 4th. The themes for the course are courage, gratitude and tribe. There will be lessons every weekday for five weeks and I can hardly wait to get started. (I know… what a geek!) I do have one very specific dream that I’m working on… let’s see what happens!

(In the interest of full disclosure, if you click on the Mondo Beyondo badge here or on the sidebar and then enrol in a class, I make a little money.  Enough for some of those fancy Spanish olives.  Just wanted you to know!)

  1. simple soulful photography with irene nam
    Irene Nam is a warm person and gifted photographer and writer. Her gorgeous photographs of her twin boys and of her lovely Paris make me happy. HAPPY! She is also a contributor to the photography blog, Shutter Sisters.  I am such a big fan of her work that I asked her if she would take some photos of DP and me in Paris. We met at The Tuileries Gardens for one magical hour of walking, talking and photography. Irene is offering a four-week workshop which includes:
    – Weekly lessons (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) and photo challenges
    – Private discussion board to share thoughts and questions about the weekly lessons
    – Downloadable PDF of every lesson
    – An original photo print signed by Irene
    – Email access to, and live chat with, Irene

    I’ve never really gotten into the habit of taking photographs in Bangkok and I’m hoping that Irene’s course, also beginning on October 4th, will provide me with some inspiration and some photography homework.

    Part B: The Textbooks

  1. The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau
    In his recently published book, Chris encourages people to create the business and life they want by living outside the box.  He encourages people to stop saying things like, “I wish I could quit my job and travel around the world”… and figure out a way to make it happen.  What I really dig about him is that he’s playing by his own rules.

    Chris writes an amazing blog called The Art of Non-Conformity. You can read it here.

  1. The Mindful Couple: How Acceptance and Mindfulness Can Lead You to the Love You Want by Robyn D. Walser, Ph. D and Darrah Westrup, Ph. D

    Dr. Robyn Walser is a trainer for ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.  She facilitated a workshop for Counselors in Bangkok last year and is offering an advanced workshop in Hong Kong next weekend.  Through my school, I have an opportunity to attend this two-day workshop and I’m totally jumping up and down in my seat.  Reading this book is a way to get Robyn’s voice back in my head. (She has a lovely, reassuring, truth-telling voice.)  Her book is also a great read!

    Part C: The Media Texts

A Single Man (2009)

This film tells a compelling story compellingly.

It is also a beautiful movie. It is gorgeous in the same way that “The Hours” and “The Constant Gardener” are gorgeous.  The art direction rocks!

The protagonist, Professor George Falconer (played brilliantly by Colin Firth), is one of the most authentic characters I’ve encountered in film or fiction. I strive to be more like George: fearless, open, and completely in the moment. Ooooh… he’s so lovely.

Part D: The Soundtrack

Rosie Thomas – All the Way From Michigan Not Mars

If you are a fan of sweetly ethereal alternative music and are not familiar with Rosie Thomas, check her out on i-tunes or myspace.

My favourite track from her new album is If This City Never Sleeps and you can listen to it on myspace here.

She always makes my studies sweeter.

What learning is enriching your life right now?


  1. Your attitude toward learning is dead on, and your university sounds awesome. I think I'll enrol by correspondence, or at least audit. I've procured a copy of "Single Man", will order some books, and am looking forward to checking out the music of Rosie Thomas.Now to figure out what my own university would offer…

  2. I think your attitude is completely right. I don't care how geeky it is – I always want to learn. Living in Bangkok of course is a constant learning curve but I've also taken up singing here even though it terrifies me. I shall definitely sign up for the Mondo Beyondo newsletter and try to do one in the new year. Thanks for the tip.

  3. I am taking Spanish and I am hoping to take Guitar lessons or find someone who does violin. I am also taking diving lessons at the end of this month. Never stop learning!

  4. @JeffyI am also curious about what you are learning at Jeffy University.@JennyI agree… it's so good to embrace our inner geeks!@jessie vThanks for loving the list… and brava to you and your wandering educators!@AprilWow! Spanish, guitar/violin and diving. That's a full semester, sister!

  5. Monna! I am reading this almost a year late, but your premise is one that I have been feeling a lot lately. I have even spent fruitless hours scouring the internet for online PhD courses, for some academic inspiration. Because I too love school. And writing academically. And talking with intelligent people about subjects that I find stimulating. I find this to be one of the greatest challenges about living overseas, particularly as a counselor, as our community is small. I, like you, have also thought: what would a PhD add to my life other than a minimal salary increase (which probably would be non existent given the cost of grad schools) and a feather in my hat? I have also thought: I should create my own PhD program and write myself a dissertation and give myself a doctorate when I’m done.
    But, you have made me feel invigorated again. I am going to sign up for Monna University. Can I borrow your syllabus :)???

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