Funded by Urban Outfitters’ Scott Belair, the Mountaintop Project is a satellite college campus at Lehigh that is devoid of any traditional courses.
Urban Outfitters co-founder Scott Belair is investing $20 million in his alma mater, Lehigh University, to set up a satellite campus, currently known as the Mountaintop Project, where innovation is prized and traditional college curriculum is thrown out the window.
Belair, who graduated from Lehigh in 1969 and went on to co-found Urban Outfitters a year later, made the endowment to regenerate two former Bethlehem Steel research facilities into a campus where Lehigh students can take a semester ‘abroad’ to gain a different educational experience.
The program has no set class list or lectures, rather students come to discuss and solve problems important to them, and are mentored by faculty members to work on whatever project inspires them. It is a self-directed approach to learning, and according to students who participated in the Mountaintop summer pilot project, it is a mind-opening experience.
Jacob Puzycki ’14, a physics major who examined issues around the educational use of 3D printing for students in developing countries, said:
I can say for sure that this project has changed the way I think about ‘work.’ It was the first time I’ve set the criteria for what success looks like and it built an important bridge between my college experience and the ‘real world.’
Belair believes that the program is not meant to replace traditional education schemes, but complement them. He told Business Insider:
It’s about new ways to do things. It’s not about startup companies and finding ways to make money. This is just another avenue for learning. The more people who are pursuing what they want as opposed to being told what to do, the better.