20 students and faculty sit outside near a brick wall
May 25, 2023

To Each Their Own

How the Workshop curriculum drives us not only to rediscover our passion but also to connect our passions
by Austin ’23
A student post from The Workshop 12*

“Set a fuzzy goal.”

This was the advice given to us by Thi Nguyen, a researcher discussing how social structures shape our agency. His message resonated with my perception of the Workshop. Instead of pursuing a concrete grade, I pursued my intuition and through this journey, have found avenues to connect my passions in ways that I wouldn’t have found without the Workshop.

Under the guidance of Ms. Greenberg, our project leader, my group quickly consumed readings on inequalities in housing, gender, health, economics, and even education. We read books such as Evicted, analyzing not only the data around inequality along the way, but different modes of research and presentation, leading discussions in groups and even with grad students from Columbia.

All the while, Ms. Greenberg would begin our day with a simple question, “Have you found any rabbit holes to go down?” Thanks to the twenty new articles flooding our inbox on the daily combined with our built-in readings, the task was an easy one.

Coming from Hong Kong, I’m interested in the independence and development of former British colonies. After being exposed to the depth of inequity in the U.S., I quickly became curious about how policy differences in Singapore and Hong Kong influenced and continue to influence inequality outcomes in comparison to the U.S. Thanks to this pursuit, I’m joining a two-thousand word essay competition aiming to explain why governments impose trade barriers and tax quota’s despite a loss of efficiency stemming from these policies. Apart from my group’s copious discussions, annotations, and notes, I now have another ten-page document devoted to a new set of notes specific to this topic alone. My learning is enhanced by passion.

My learning is enhanced by passion.

On the side, I continue to enjoy my weekly gardening which has increased my love for the outdoors; I’ve begun learning coding with Ms. Greenberg’s encouragement and increased exposure to its potential as a medium of expression; I’ve engaged in our tri-weekly discussions with grad students, alumni, or other professors who have shaped my thinking and even my conception of my future. How did a grad student balance a ‘practical’ pursuit of an engineering degree with a ‘passionate’ pursuit in education, founding a five student school that has grown into two schools with campuses in Canada and China? These discussions help me reimagine my life and it’s possibilities. Along with these immediately applicable learnings is my group’s development of various research proposals centered around aspects of inequality interesting to us. My goal is to explore the impact of educational inequality in Boston.

In hindsight, the Workshop’s plan was a simple and effective one, give student’s the environment to reimagine their learning with discussions and the guidance of teacher’s who ask after “rabbit holes” while flooding them with new content and they have no choice but to bend it into a project that enthrall’s them, consumes their time, and forces them to willingly pursue new topics of interest to enhance their new found passion. Therein lies the beauty of the Workshop, everyone’s experience is meaningful to and unique to themselves.

The "Visualizing Inequality" group includes Austin ’23, Julian ’23, Abby ’23 Victoria ’23, and Michelle ’23.



Each spring term, The Workshop welcomes approximately 20 seniors to this interdisciplinary, project-based course. With an eye toward reimagining what school can be, The Workshop is the senior’s only academic commitment for the entire term. Instead of splitting their time and attention into units of distinct courses and fields of study, they work closely with peers, faculty, and community and global partners on a series of linked, interdisciplinary projects that revolve around a single theme. Within the theme Experiments in Education, students explore areas of personal interest.

During the first few weeks of the term, students are working on one of four faculty-led projects. We feature blog posts by students during this time.

  • Inequality Visualized (led by Ellen Greenberg, instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science)
  • Listening to the Buddhists in Our Backyard (led by Andy Housiaux, instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies; director of the Tang Institute)
  • With Liberty and Health for All: “Humanities for Public Health” (led by Corrie Martin, instructor in English)
  • (Re)creating Kerouac: From Jean-Louis to Jack (led by Gene Hughes, instructor in French)


The Tang Institute at Phillips Academy is a center for teaching, learning, and partnership. To learn more, follow us on Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter, Notes on Learning.

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