The Office of Experiential Education newsletter features a monthly spotlight on an ExEd program or student participant. 

ExEd Spotlight: FNR Summer Practicum

August 2022 Newsletter Spotlight

After two summers of no travel or limited travel, Purdue students were ready to spend their summer participating in experiential education! A long-established Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) Summer Practicum tradition was no exception to this. FNR students have been retreating to the woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for more than 80 summers, gaining knowledge and practical field experience that no traditional classroom setting can match. A few days after their sophomore year ends, aquatic sciences, forestry, and wildlife students head to Iron River, Michigan to spend 5 weeks living together and learning about land measurement and surveying; inventory of forest, wildlife, aquatic resources; and integrated resource management.

According to Laura Fehling, natural resources lab coordinator and collections curator, who also serves as the summer practicum director, students can participate in a variety of hands-on activities that are directly connected to their majors. Fehling said “Aquatic sciences students spend a lot of time sampling fish and invertebrates out on the water. The forestry students spend their time in the woods doing field measurements and learning about forest management practices. And the wildlife students capture, identify, and track all sorts of wildlife.” Fehling went on to say, “All students get a really immersive experience with doing field work and data collection; it’s totally hands on.”

Participating in Summer Practicum is an impactful experience for students as they think about their future careers. Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Habitat Management, Elizabeth Flaherty went on to say “Summer practicum is life- and career-changing for students. The opportunity to be immersed in fieldwork experiences with classmates who share similar career interests provides students with a strong career confirmation experience. It’s a valuable experience for some students to learn that while they are interested in a career in natural resources, a job with more lab or office work is preferable. They also become a cohesive cohort for their remaining courses, which helps support their success as they move through the more challenging upper division courses with colleagues and friends.”

Past practicum students serve as TAs for the program, which adds an additional layer of experiential education to the program. TA Mikaela Agresta said “I enjoyed Practicum so much I decided I wanted to come back to help the class below me enjoy their time in the UP of Michigan. This experience has pushed me to entertain the idea of attending graduate school and pursuing my education further.”

Students have great memories of the program as well. Senior wildlife major Gretchen Weliever, a TA for the program and past practicum student said “Camp is the highlight of wildlife, aquatics, and forestry majors’ school experience. The people who go to camp with you are the people you see in the remainder of your college classes, and even your professional career. I couldn't have imagined a better opportunity to make friends and gain hands on experience for my future goals.”

ExEd Spotlight: HTM 331 Selling and Sales

April 2022 Newsletter Spotlight

Marriott Hall was buzzing with activity on April 7 as the HTM 331 Selling and Sales class was set up to sell their newly designed products. These products are part of an experiential education class project led by Stephen Leitch, clinical assistant professor and assistant director of the Center for Hospitality and Retail Industries Business Analytics (CHRIBA). This project encompasses the entire semester and provides students with real life experience in sales. Students partner with a local business to create a product. The local business fronts the expenses to create the product, and the students are responsible for selling the agreed upon number of products. The stakes are high for the students—missing their sales goal means the students do not pass the class. Leitch works with students to determine product options. When describing the project, he said “We want them to figure out what their passion is in terms of a product. Do you like food? Do you like travel? Do you like coffee? We want them to find something they enjoy.”

Students use their sales skills in a variety of ways, from contacting businesses, to negotiating a product and a price, and then convincing the business to support the product. During the semester, the students develop the product and all the things that go into that such as product design, determining margins, promotional materials, and licensing if they design a Purdue licensed product.

As is typical in experiential education, reflection is a big component of HTM 331. Students reflect throughout the semester as they develop their products. They reflect on whether they have met the objectives and goals they set with the business, and if they have not met the goal, where they need to adjust their promotion and tactics. During the last week of class, they give a presentation to the business owner and the rest of the class about how the project went. Leitch said, “it raises the bar a little bit, because they’re not just presenting to me; they’re presenting to the business owner. So they are quite nervous about that. They have to say if they hit their goal or not, and why they didn’t hit the goal.”

Each year, products vary based on students’ interests. This year, students created Purdue hats, specialty burgers, candles, and coffee drinks. One group sold coffee cup sleeves as $5 drink vouchers. The purchaser could write a note to a health care worker on the sleeve, and those sleeves/vouchers will be used to treat a local nurse to a free cup of coffee during Nurses Week.

The long-term impacts of this project are numerous. Many of the owners or managers of the participating businesses are graduates of the HTM program and are very welcoming to the HTM students. Leitch said “the businesses get a lot out of it. They get a lot of exposure. They get staff out of it. We have students go work for these companies, because they have done this project. They’re good mentors for the students.” 

ExEd Spotlight: Boilers go to DC

March 2022 Newsletter Spotlight

Boilers Go to DC (BGDC) is a course-based experiential education program offered by the Center for C-SPAN Scholarship & Engagement (CCSE) and the Brian Lamb School of Communication. Students spend two weeks living and studying in Washington DC with classroom time split between The Washington Center where the students will be housed, and the C-SPAN studios. This study-away course is an immersive experience in the historic interconnections of political communication, government, news media, non-profits and other influential organizations with daily field trips to important sites around the District. During the course, students have the opportunity to meet and interact with Washington decision makers and communicators, and Purdue Alumni, including lead course instructor, C-SPAN Founder Brian Lamb.

The program has been offered for 7 years, and like most study-away programs had to get creative with the type of experience offered during 2021. Instead of traveling to DC in 2021, the course was flipped to a virtual format and rebranded as Exploring Career Paths in Washington, DC. Students heard from and engaged with subject experts in a wide variety of fields. According to Andrea Langrish, Managing Director of the CCSE and BGDC co-instructor, the students loved the program, so much so that she and Brian Lamb are considering offering the campus-based version of the program as its own course in the future.

Langrish is excited to take students to DC once again this May and has added an exciting major update to the program. With the help of the Purdue Alumni of Washington DC organization, Langrish has added a brand-new mentorship component to this year’s BGDC course. Students will be matched with DC-based Purdue Alumni to learn more about career paths in a variety of fields and will learn about living and working in DC. Students and their mentors will meet at least 3 times prior to traveling to DC and will meet in person during the course at an alumni event to be held at the National Press Club located just steps from the White House. According to Langrish, BGDC is the first and only study away program to partner with Purdue alumni for a mentorship program as a part of the course experience. “The design of the course with this new alumni mentorship program reflects the CCSE’s commitment to giving our Boilermakers a meaningful learning experience and allows our alumni to give back to the next group of students.”

Speaking of reflection, it is an important component to the BGDC experience. Langrish wants students to create something that is authentic. Students engage in reflection by creating a multimedia project about their experience. Examples of these projects include reflection videos, podcasts, and journals.  Additionally, according the Langrish, “the requirement is that they participate in every single conversation with every single person…they have to have a question ready every time we meet with someone. So let’s say they’re talking to a senator; every student has to ask that senator a question. Then that night, as part of their reflection, they’ll send us a question they asked and provide what the senator said and their own perspective on what was said. What are they thinking, what are they learning from the meetings.”

BGDC has had a significant impact on participating students. Alumna Makenna Fitzgerald said, "My DC Maymester with CCSE is the number one experience that impacted my time at Purdue. The connections, education and overall growth I received during those two weeks helped shape the professional I am today. Before going, I was a freshman that had recently switched into political science and communication with no idea what I was doing. The immersive experience Brian Lamb and Connie Doebele offered was hands down the best way to really dive into the world of politics for a newbie like me." CCSE Student Community Co-Founder Andie Slomka had this to say about her 2019 experience, “It was one of the most impactful experiences for me in college.”

ExEd Spotlight: HK444 Balance Rehabilitation in Older Adults

February 2022 Newsletter Spotlight

More than a decade ago, Shirley Rietdyk, professor of Health and Kinesiology, and Jeffrey Haddad, associate professor of Health and Kinesiology, saw a need in the community that they knew their students could solve. Rietdyk stated “Dr. Haddad and I were completing a balance intervention study where undergraduate students conducted balance training in the community. We found that the students’ enthusiasm and motivation were higher than we had observed with previous research projects. The students bonded with the older adult participants over the course of the training. Dr. Haddad and I wanted to maintain these positive outcomes from the balance intervention study, so we developed the course.”

The Balance Rehabilitation in Older Adults program (HK444) is a service-learning course where students learn interventions to increase balance and mobility and then put those skills to work with the residents at University Place. As part of their coursework, students design an exercise plan specific to each of their clients and then meet weekly with the client to practice the routines. HK444 is a part of the important work occurring in the Center on Aging and the Life Course (CALC). The Center’s mission is to promote aging-related research and education at Purdue University and connects well with the work occurring in the course. Rietdyk stated “The expected outcomes of the class include learning and experience for the students and improved balance for the older adults. But we also see the students and older adult participants work cooperatively in a way that encourages intergenerational understanding and bonding.”

Like many experiential education programs, the Balance program had to quickly pivot in March 2020. The program is now operating via telehealth which has resulted in some strong benefits. First, telehealth has allowed the program to be accessible to clients beyond University Place. Second, students have had to be creative in developing exercises for clients using household objects rather than exercise equipment available at University Place or other similar facilities. Third, students have had to improve the clarity of their instructions since they cannot directly show clients as they would do if they were in person.

Reflection is an important part of the program. Students reflect on their skills and their clients’ progress throughout the semester to ensure the goals for the client are met. Students speak highly of the program and how it prepares them for their future careers. A past HK444 student stated “I thought the course was incredibly beneficial, because it was the first course that allowed me the freedom to create an individualized exercise plan, as well as work one-on-one with participants, which no other course had provided the opportunity to do.” Ashwini Kulkarni, teaching assistant for HK444 stated "Most students apply for physical therapy, occupational therapy or DPT programs.  Students feel like they are way ahead of other DPT first year students. They have already done many of the things you would do in the first year of DPT school.”

ExEd Spotlight: Sabria Croom

January 2022 Newsletter Spotlight

Growing up on the south side of Chicago, Sabria Croom was unsure of all the career options available to her. Now a senior majoring in Accounting in the Krannert School of Management, the experiential education opportunities Croom had while attending Purdue has helped her to find her passion. She began her experiential education journey during her sophomore year when she started tutoring student athletes. As a former student athlete herself, she wanted to give back to other student athletes.  She was also involved with the BoilerMENTOR program, which then led her to get involved with the ACE Campus Food Pantry. She started as a volunteer with the pantry and went on to become the student director. In this leadership role, Croom stated she “makes sure other student directors are ok in their roles, getting information out to folks on campus, how we might be able to improve the pantry, and really, just do whatever is needed.” 

In additional to her co-curricular experiential education opportunities, Croom completed 3 internships. Her first internship, with AGB Investigative Services, allowed her to learn about different areas of the company and other career skills. “They would take us places on field trips to learn more about the other areas. They helped us with our LinkedIn pages and resumes.” she said. Croom returned to AGB for a second internship and this time worked solely in the finance department. Summer 2021, Croom completed a 3rd internship, this time with Deloitte, a major firm providing a broad array of financial and auditing services. At Deloitte, she was introduced to the auditing profession, which is what she has decided to pursue as her career.

Her experiential education opportunities have helped her to learn more about her field. “You’ll never stop learning. Even once you finish college, there’s always going to be something more you’re going to learn.” she said. When asked about her future plans, she indicated they are shifting now. “I had wanted to become a CFO of a hospital, but now I’m going into auditing, and I didn’t even know that was an option when I was in high school.” She added “I want to give back to my community in Chicago. I didn’t learn anything about financials in high school. No one really knew how to save or invest. Maybe I can create a class for Chicago Public Schools, so I can let other students know what’s out there!” Croom is glad she chose to get involved on campus and participate in experiential education, “I’m glad I did it. No one knows what to expect their college experience to be. Everything I’ve accomplished and how I’ve grown, sometimes I have to sit back and say ‘you did that!’ When I reflect on it, I have done a lot of things during my time at Purdue."

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