James Sasongko, 2009

MA Organizational Development

"Antioch is evolving. I see this institution as precious for the future of other countries."

It was experiential learning that drew Fulbright Scholar James Sasongko to Antioch Seattle’s MA Programs in Leadership and Change and the Organizational Psychology (now the Organizational Development) program.

This 2003 graduate of Widya Mandala, a Catholic university in Surabaya, Indonesia, was among roughly 60,000 applicants who applied to become Fulbright Scholars from Indonesia. After a selection process that took a full year in 2006, Sasongko became one of only 112 Fulbright Scholars from Indonesia in 2007.

He says he hopes to work on an international level to facilitate change in organizations. A big piece of that, according to Sasongko, involves a focus on organizational politics and transforming those politics into positive, fresh, creative progress.

When you introduce change, people sometimes use conflict in unhealthy ways, he notes.

“Hidden agendas create unhealthy relationships. It’s important to know how to address and shift that into good energy because when we decide to create change, we need a lot of positive energy,” he says.

Sasongko speaks from experience. After he graduated from Widya Mandala, he worked for a year as a consultant for a school where he developed a community education center that offered programs for parents and teachers as well as students.

He also started work at his alma mater, where he became an instructor. In his third year of teaching, he found new opportunities for innovation when he established a quality assurance system at the university with guidelines for assessment with peer review.

Experiential learning, says Sasongko, has become increasingly popular in Indonesia. Corporations there have started to build competency development programs so employees can work toward university degrees. He says the notion of corporate universities is not far behind.

Indonesia, an archipelago with a population of 200 million, does not have a national Social Security system. Health insurance and retirement benefits are based on regional standards and company policies. Those who are not company employees receive no benefits and must rely on their income.

“The only person you can depend on is yourself,” he says. “Yet Indonesian people tend to think if they have knowledge, they can ensure for their senior years. When they reach 55 or 60, they have to retire, but the problem is the country doesn’t provide for retirement.”

Sasongko sees plenty of room to address these problems and he sees himself building programs among nations to do so.

“Antioch graduates should think seriously about working abroad. Their kind of thinking will be needed because progressive people can offer change and innovation,” he says.

He calls his Antioch learning experience practical, not general. His master’s thesis was titled “Organizational Politics: A generative framework toward capacity building.” Its focus is how politics are inevitable in organizational life and can serve as a productive force for organizations. As part of his studies, he worked on systemic integration of The Ambassador Program for the Greater Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

He has kudos for several Antioch Seattle faculty, including Shana Hormann and Karyn Lazarus for their teaching methods.

“Theirs is a very impressive performance to get students to reach their limits,” he says, noting that Jean Singer and Britt Yamamoto inspired him as well by accommodating a diversity of views that served as a basis for an inclusive learning community.

“The way some professors facilitate class is fascinating in how it stimulates students to push the limits of their capacity. The faculty here is very challenging. After several courses, I realize I can do what I never thought I could,” he says.

When Sasongko went to Rhode Island for a meeting with other Fulbright Scholars, many of whom are studying at big-name universities around the U.S., he was surprised to discover how few of his peers found their studies to be experiential.

“Many groaned and said all they did was write papers,” he says and reiterates how pleased he has been with his decision to come to Antioch Seattle.

“At Antioch, it’s not just theory and more theory. We learned to put theory into action,” Sasongko says.

“Antioch is evolving. I see this institution as precious for the future of other countries. The key is how to use that channel in ways that are balanced and compelling. Bring Antioch to the world and bring the world to Antioch for its global values.”

*In 2010, the name of the Organizational Psychology program changed into “Organizational Development.”