Portland Underground Grad School (PUGS) is the product of Douglas Tsoi’s affinity for life long learning and desire to offer in classroom educational experiences at prices that won’t leave someone in debt. When speaking with Douglas you can sense his certainty on the importance of continuing to educate ourselves in order to progress. His passion for learning is contagious. Douglas is always running an experiment or two that will result in new insights.
In many ways PUGS is more experimental than traditional and that’s what inspired me to learn about it. After talking with Douglas about his philosophy in business, it makes perfect sense that PUGS operates the way it creatively does. For example, the specific classes offered are decided via an online voting process. Students and potentials can vote on what they would most like to learn about with topics ranging from The Science of Cancer to Imrpov and Deep Life Skills. In an age where we do almost everything online, Douglas feels strongly about the community and connections that are formed through in person learning environments. While not completely opposed to online courses, he is confident the classroom experiences offered through PUGS are more enriching than MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course). Douglas compares it to sitting down with a friend for dinner as opposed to emailing back and forth.
As an entrepreneur Douglas emphasizes the importance of running experiments to see what will stick. The idea is don’t commit too much time, money, or resources out of the gate but instead use just enough to test viability and gauge interest. This mode of operating will sound familiar to those who have read The Lean Startup. Douglas’ next experiment will be taking PUGS on tour in a van across the country to see where else it fits. He already has the perfect name, “Pop Up Grad School”. Listen to our conversation and hear more about it.