About Sphere College Project

Our Philosophy

Discover what inspires us

Our Work

Learn why we do what we do

Our Culture

Discover what inspires us

Our Team

Meet the people behind the scenes

Our History

Eight years ago a former college professor  hatched the dream of education for all

Questions & Answers

Commonly asked questions...
and a few answers

Our Philosophy

Sphere College Project is setting out to pioneer a profound new education system – one that primarily utilizes local community resources to support a greater number of adults to advance their station in life, positioning them to drive important and necessary social change.  

We Believe…  

that every individual has gifts and talents and the ability

 to make unique and positive impacts in the community.

in access to higher education for all adults who desire it, 

regardless of circumstances and means.

that higher education is most effective when delivered in an encouraging
and supportive environment with one-on-one mentorship, and personalized curriculum.

that non-competitive, competency-based learning maximizes human potential.

that effective, high-quality education promotes personal and professional enrichment
and results in happy, fulfilled, well-rounded individuals.

that high-quality education for more people is a critical factor for solving
many of the challenges that humanity is currently facing.


Education is a proven marker for both quality-of-life factors as well as for
increased citizen participation in the US.

Therefore, the newest generation of education solutions
will prioritize the needs of the majority, and will:

  • Produce economic growth for a greater number of Americans.
  • Significantly reduce the inequities that currently exist, and cause many people to be dependent on social systems.
  • Drive an entirely new generation of active, participating adults.
  • Dissolve barriers that prevent our nation from being a leader in innovating human-based solutions.
  • Spawn meaningful, sustainable change that is rooted in the value of all life on the planet.

                                                                          This is Sphere College Project…A New World of Learning! 

Our Work

Sphere College Project supports adults to live their best life… 

In January of 2017, Sphere set out to help construction contractors from the African-American community become NC-DOT certified. With the certification, they would have the opportunity to participate in Asheville's booming expansion in ways they were previously not able...

Read more here...

Sphere College Project helps artists and musicians build confidence in their craft and secure venues to showcase their work:

Philadelphia-based fine artist, Virginia Stewart, recently secured placement in two juried shows.
Read more here…
Philadelphia-based musician, Emily Neblock, played concerts in North Carolina and at South Carolina’s 11:11 Emergence Music Festival.
Read more here…

Our Mission, Vision & Purpose

Our Mission

To provide a nurturing, invigorating and inspiring learning environment for adults where they discover their most important goals and gain the competency
to achieve them  

Our Vision

A world of thriving, caring individuals contributing to the flourishing of the planet and all its inhabitants through
inspiring education   

Our Purpose

To make education engaging, and accessible to all adults, regardless of means, 

and to instill a love for lifelong learning and
participation in civic engagement for the betterment of humanity  

Our Culture

Our Values


  • Care
    Giving thoughtful attention to all that we say and do

  • Collaboration
    Working with others to promote cooperation and interconnectedness

  • Diversity
    Seeking out varied perspectives to ensure a comprehensive view and preserve interest and adventure in the creative process

  • Innovation
    Igniting the creative spirit

  • Enjoyment
    Aligning people with the activities that bring them joy

  • Community
    Connecting resources in our community so that everyone can thrive, supporting an environment of inclusion

  • Connection
    Recognizing our shared humanity

  • Personal Development
    Enriching ourselves through learning

  • Openness
    Reflecting on different ideas willingly while cultivating an environment of genuine, heart-centered communication

Our Core Principles


  • In all interactions, but especially those where we are challenged or feel the urge to react, we prioritize and make time for understanding.
  • Every person’s viewpoint is considered important, and we support a culture where people get to be heard.  
  • We view all of our experiences as opportunities for learning.

  • We value all members of our community equally, and seek to include diverse perspectives.

  • We strive to gather information and knowledge before formulating and sharing opinions, and are able to state when we don’t know.

  • Empowering, inspiring, high-quality communication is the key to our success: Through open minds and active listening we achieve successful collaborations.
  • We appreciate all that comes to us, and value the journey as much as we value outcomes.

  • Each person has a responsibility to their own success as well as to that of the organization.
  • We do everything with mindfulness toward enhancing the Sphere community, the local community and the world.

The History of Sphere College Project

When other types of colleges just won't do...

Sphere College Project was founded by Richard Liston in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania in April of 2009 as an educational experiment with a focus  on creating the highest quality learning experience for adults. The design of Sphere’s program is heavily influenced by Black Mountain College, a similar experiment in higher learning that existed from 1933 to 1957 and produced some of the world’s most influential artists.

How we started

In the beginning, a diverse group of twenty individuals ranging in age from 23 to 80 met in two different groups of ten students each for the course entitled “Self and Other.” This course was intended to form Phase I of the students’ studies – to help the students get to know  themselves and others better, and to discover their talents, passions and vocations for enriching the human experience. 

Classes met in various donated locations, including the Colonial Theatre, Wolfgang Books, Steel City Coffeehouse, and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Classic texts, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, Genesis, the Bhagavad Gita, selections from the writings of Galileo, and The Merchant of Venice, to name just a few, were collected by Richard’s former students at Ursinus College and utilized in the courses. Sphere continued in the same manner for the next five years, seeking to become solidified. Some students were constant participators, others came and went. Students accomplished various outcomes as a result of engagement... We briefly hired a teacher for the “Self and Other” course. 

During this early period of Sphere the future of the Project was uncertain, but the goal was too important to abandon. In 2012, a store called Local Sphere was opened on Main Street in Phoenixville, with retail space in front for local artisans, and classroom space for the Sphere College Project. A short time after opening Local Sphere, Richard was compelled to move to Asheville for personal reasons and operations in Phoenixville were put on hold. 

Where we are now

We are excited that the time has arrived to reinvigorate Sphere by establishing the program in Asheville, NC. Sphere is now an IRS tax-exempt entity, and we are demonstrating our value in the community and our ability to quickly produce results by implementing a Minority Contractor Mentorship Program. The program, which begins to help close the economic opportunity gap in Asheville for African-Americans, provides direct mentorship to contractors for the purposes of helping them become NC DOT DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) certified, and assists in skills development so they can stabilize and expand their businesses. As we demonstrate our viability and value and achieve funding, we plan on implementing a broader version of Sphere’s 3-Phase Mentorship Program in many Asheville communities.

After becoming established in Asheville, Sphere plans to begin development in other communities in the US. 

 Sphere in Chronicle Of Higher Education



Our Structure

Sphere College Project is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization

Based in Asheville, North Carolina, Sphere College Project endeavors to create an egalitarian, worker-run organization where mentors,  participants (students), staff, and teachers participate in the steering  of the organization in harmony with Sphere's Board of Directors. 

We  are in the beginning stages of our establishment, and are seeking  interested community members for participation. If you are passionate  about creating a higher education system that works for more members of  our community, we'd like to hear from you! 


We can continue this work with your support! Please donate today …

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