Connect 360: The Eagle Experience, the experiential learning initiative at Texas A&M University-Texarkana, recently recognized three students for their scholarly achievements at the first-ever experiential learning showcase at the university.
“The Eagle Experience refers to the experience students have from the moment they walk on campus to when they graduate. Connect 360 puts experiential learning at the heart of the university, said Dr. Sara Lawrence, director of the Quality Enhancement Plan and assistant professor of educational psychology at A&M-Texarkana. “Experiential learning activities include internships, field work, service learning projects, undergraduate research and study-abroad opportunities. Courses incorporating these experiential learning activities can apply for experiential learning designation showing the course meets principles of the National Society of Experiential Education.”
Sydney Steed of Texarkana, Texas, received first place for her first-grade student teaching display on conjunctions for her Classroom and Behavior Management course. Leira Moore of Redwater, Texas, won second place for her ALT Magazine Graphic Design display for her Mass Communication Independent Study. Esther Pippins of Texarkana, Texas, received third place for her Adult Education display for her Graduate Capstone Teacher/Training Symposium.
Faculty were also recognized for their work in experiential learning on behalf of students.
Experiential Learning Cadre members are faculty trained to work with colleagues interested in integrating experiential learning in their coursework using National Society for Experiential Education principles. These faculty members are Dr. Gaynell Green, associate professor of adult and higher education; Dr. Md Kalam, associate professor of chemistry; and Selena Jefferies, clinical faculty in accounting.
“Their commitment for experiential learning has been critical to the success of the first year of the Connect 360 initiative,” said Dr. Lawrence.
Faculty who were the first to designate courses as experiential learning courses this spring were also recognized as Connect 360: Early Adopters. Included are Dr. Kevin Ells, associate professor of mass communication; Dr. Corrine Hinton, assistant professor of English; Dr. Sandra Labby, assistant professor of education; Debora Shidemantle, director of teacher preparation; and Dr. Angela Sikorski, associate professor of psychology.
“Our early adopters really paved the way for the rest of the faculty interested in applying NSEE principles in their courses,” Dr. Lawrence said, adding that the experiential learning designation on courses is significant as employers want to hire graduates with more than a degree.
“Employers want graduates to show what they know and what they can do,” Dr. Lawrence said. “An experiential learning course does this by requiring students to apply knowledge and problem solve in their academic discipline in authentic work situations. Further, experiential learning courses require students gain experience in work skills not specifically addressed in the classroom.”
The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports employers are looking for graduates who can work as part of a team, show strong written and verbal communication skills, possess problem-solving skills and have a strong work ethic, Dr. Lawrence said. These skills are inherently developed within the structure of an experiential learning course.