Outlook Magazine - Fall 2020


All hands on Every bachelor’s, master’s program has an experiential learning component


ince its inception in 1891, UW-Stout has stressed the value of learning by doing — students incorporating classroom lessons in labs and in the field. That mission was formalized in 2007 when UW-Stout became Wisconsin’s Polytechnic University. UW-Stout has taken another concrete step toward its commitment to applied learning. Already known for its nearly 99% employment and continuing education rate of recent graduates, UW-Stout now is 100% committed to experiential learning. To ensure the 100% commitment, a comprehensive review of the definition and requirements of experiential learning was conducted, and some program adjustments were made. By fall 2019, the assurance all undergraduate programs have at least one required component was achieved. “By the time a student graduates, they will have had these applied learning experiences that integrate program skills, including general education. This well-rounded approach sets them up to succeed,” said interim Provost Glendalí Rodriguez, who oversaw the project as chair of the Experiential Learning Committee. “Our goal remains to engage students in high- impact learning.” The applied experiences include co-ops, internships, field experiences, service learning, student-teaching, study abroad, research, practicums and capstone courses. They must include faculty involvement and supervision, application of theory and evaluation. The 100% experiential initiative started with Charles W. Sorensen, the late former chancellor, and was a Focus 2015 priority. Rodriguez began working on documenting full compliance in 2016. The Provost’s Office uses registration software to track annual program compliance. Most programs already were on board, but the project has completed and formalized the effort. Audrey Roberts, a sophomore in health, wellness and fitness completed her experiential learning through a field experience. She worked at a personal training company, including virtually during the pandemic to meet one of her program requirements of 160-hour and a 320-hour field experiences.

“It doesn’t get more hands-on than getting out in the real world,” Roberts said. “I would much rather learn hands-on rather than just trying to memorize something. Hands-on really embeds with me.” The university’s 23 programs in the Graduate School also have an experiential aspect, as research or practicums are key components. The majority of graduate students are also working professionals and integrate experiential learning throughout their work and degree pursuit. UW-Stout’s push to require an experiential component guarantees students that they will experience polytechnic-style learning. “It’s an expectation. It’s important that we continue to prioritize our mission,” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez briefly discussed spring 2020 efforts to maintain experiential learning during the transition to 100% alternative delivery, as a result of COVID-19, at the June UW System Board of Regents Education Committee meeting. “Our goal remains to engage students in high-impact learning.”

Students work with a skeleton model in a health, wellness and fitness class.


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