Faculty Senate passes new requirement for graduation

Britni Williams

Incoming freshmen starting in fall 2012 will have another requirement to fulfill before they graduate.

Faculty Senate reconsidered the Experiential Learning Requirement that didn’t pass last October. The ELR passed 18-15 at Monday’s senate meeting.

The ELR is designed to bridge the gap between academics and real-world careers and involve hands-on experience in a student’s chosen field.

“Ideally, we’ll have courses that are certified as ELR just like (there) are writing intensive and diversity (courses),” said Ralph Lorenz, associate dean of the College of the Arts.

Some existing programs already have requirements for experience-based learning. Lorenz said the ELR would require all incoming freshmen to have at least one qualifying experience in order to graduate.

Brett Fodor, Undergraduate Student Government director of academic affairs, said USG has also passed the ELR.

“When you are competing for jobs with people that you have never met … one thing that really sets you apart is that experience,” Fodor said. “The theory that you get in classrooms is wonderful, but if there is no application to that theory, you really go into the work force, or the possible work force, with a disadvantage.”

Examples of Experiential Learning Activities

Here are some examples of activities that could qualify for the ELR if the departments choose to include them:

• Internships

• Original writing projects

• Design portfolios

• Recitals

• Discipline-specific exhibits

• Apprenticeships

• Clinical research

• Entrepreneurships

• Fellowships

• Study abroad/away programs

• Residency experience

• Student teaching

• Tutoring

• Volunteer work in area of study

• Lab-based research

• Creative projects

• Major dance performance

• Original choreography

• Student direction

• Oral interpretation

• Original poetry

• Runway show

• Musical compositions

• Playwriting

• Costume designing

• Fieldwork

• Coaching

• Lab experience

• Independent study

• Work study related to course of study

• Community•based research

Source: Faculty Senate information packet

Faculty Senator at large George Garrison said experiential learning represents an important advancement in the education of students.

“It’s a new way of looking at what they’re (students) going to need in the future. Things change through time, and this is one of the things that has changed.”

LuEtt Hanson, associate dean of the College of Communication and Information, said she was in favor of the requirement.

“We know that very many students on campus already did some kind of experiential learning in the course of fulfilling their major requirements,” Hanson said. “It’s not really effective if it’s not a requirement. Making something a requirement is Kent State’s way of saying ‘this I believe.’”

According to information presented to the senate, students will be able to fulfill the ELR in different ways, including qualifying classes, community service projects, internships and undergraduate research projects.

Faculty Senator Pamela Grimm, who was opposed to the ELR, said, “I find it ironic that at a time when our president, President Lefton, is railing against increasing bureaucratic requirements from the state, we want to add another layer of bureaucratic requirements that will add work to our advisers, that will require new processes in place and new people that will engage in those processes.”

The opposition in senate voiced concerns about possible costs to students in order to fulfill this requirement. They were also concerned that by adding another requirement to the curriculum for incoming freshmen, student retention rates may drop. Others opposed the requirement because they felt several schools and colleges already incorporate some form of experiential learning within their programs.

Lorenz said he hopes there will be no extra cost to students.

Fodor said he believes the greatest cost to students will be the sacrificing of time to fulfill the requirement.

Despite that possible sacrifice, Fodor said he thinks the university is moving in the right direction.

Garrison, who was in favor of the ELR, said, “(There are) so many students that are graduating that have no idea why they’re taking certain things, and I hear them talk about their education. They have no real relevance to what the hell they’re doing in the real world.”

Each department, school or college will decide which classes, if any, will be considered experiential, Lorenz said.

Alicia Crowe, associate professor of teaching, learning and curriculum studies, helped work on the proposal. She said she believes internships and practicum, among other things, will qualify for the ELR.

“I’m excited to see where this goes in the future,” Crowe said.

Contact Britni Williams at [email protected].