Urban Outfitters' Co-Founder Explains Why He's Building A College Campus Without Tests Or Homework

Earlier this month we reported on the college campus that Urban Outfitters co-founder Scott Belair is helping to build at Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University.

The campus, called the “Mountaintop Project,” has generated a lot of buzz for lacking a traditional curriculum. Instead of attending classes, students will spend an entire semester at the satellite campus coming up with potential solutions to world problems.

We reached out to Belair, who donated $US20 million to Lehigh for the campus, to find out more about why he is building the campus and how it would be run.

He said the idea for the project has been in the works for years.

“Originally, the idea was that it would be a place for innovation,” Belair said. “The idea to turn it into a kind of study abroad program came about when we realised that the existing buildings on the campus could have [living] accommodations.”

Eventually, Belair wants the program — which will be housed in former steel research labs near Lehigh — to be a 24-hour facility with a dining hall, a dormitory and possibly apartments for graduate students.

Innovation, not invention, will be the primary focus of the Mountaintop Project, he said.

“It’s about new ways to do things,” Belair explained. “It’s not about startup companies and finding ways to make money.” While startups may emerge from the program, “that’s not the primary goal,” he added.

Belair, who graduated from Lehigh in 1969 and co-founded Urban Outfitters one year later, admitted that the program “is not for everyone” and that it’s “not by any means meant to replace all other forms of education.”

“This is just another avenue for learning,” he said. It will also give teachers different way to engage with their students.

There are some things that just can’t be done by going to three one-hour classes a week, he said, and “the more people who are pursuing what they want as opposed to being told what to do, the better.”

Here are some pictures from the summer pilot program at the campus:

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