On Wednesday, November 20, a group of student leaders from across campus was called together to discuss the topic of experiential learning. The meeting was essentially the opportunity for the President’s Task Force on Experiential Learning to gather feedback from students in response to the proposed experiential learning graduation requirement.
A consultant, Vincent Ilustre, brought in by Frostburg State University to provide an assessment of current experiential learning activities taking place, facilitated the meeting. According to Ilustre, “I was highly involved with implementing an experiential learning requirement at Tulane University, and now part of my job is going around and assisting other college campuses with incorporating similar initiatives.”
One thing that quickly became obvious from the facilitated discussion is that many FSU students do not understand just what qualifies as experiential learning. Many students in the meeting cited belonging to social organizations or attending social activities as a form of experiential learning.
At one point the facilitator, prompted for a discussion about experiential learning in the academic sector, and while students acknowledged its importance and existence, the conversation quickly was turned back around to involvement in student organizations and social activities across campus.
Once the student’s definition of experiential learning was settled, a topic that kept reoccurring was the percentage of students involved in experiential learning on campus. Again, the focus of the discussion shifted to the number of students involved in student and social organizations.
Michelle Giambruno, a representative from the Student Government Association, said, “I would say around 10 or 12 percent of students are involved on campus.” After the suggestion, 10 percent was decided upon collectively by the group as the percentage of students who are involved.
From there the conversations shifted away from how to get students involved in experiential learning to how to get students involved in student life. Frank Taylor, a representative from the president’s leadership circle, stated, “I think it would be great if we could get 100 percent of students involved on campus. Just think how much more we could accomplish.”
The facilitator continued to prompt questions to get a feel for what students believe experiential learning qualifies as; however, the group of students was set into the belief that participating in social organizations qualifies.
Ironically, the aspects of the organizations that could fit the model of experiential learning, such as significant community service projects or service learning projects, were not discussed by the group in favor of the social activities often planned by said organizations.
Another aspect of experiential learning that seemed to be absent from student discussions was the necessity to reflect on the experience. Even during the discussion of experiential learning in the academic sector, students evaded discussing the value of reflecting upon the experience.
Overall, the meeting gave a clear view of what student’s view experiential learning as, and unfortunately, the view does not accurately reflect the university’s recent branding campaign push on the topic.