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Adventures in Learning: A QEP for Enhancing Experiential Learning

This QEP would lead to the development of a comprehensive experiential education curriculum that complements and deepens traditional classroom learning, establishes meaningful connections between curricular and co-curricular experiences, increases awareness of the relevance and value of a liberal arts education for today's world, encourages purposeful planning for post-baccalaureate living, and cultivates habits of civic engagement.

The curriculum would integrate diverse programming trajectories into a cohesive whole, offering students multiple, high-quality opportunities to expand, apply, and augment traditional classroom experiences through hands-on, real world adventures in learning. Current programs that might benefit from inclusion in and potential expansion within a coherent and creative experiential education curriculum include academic service learning; study abroad; field-based courses; undergraduate research; vocational discernment and exploration programs, including internships, shadowing, and career development initiatives; the Wellspring residential living-learning community; and civic engagement programming such as occurs under the auspices of 1 Campus, 1 Community and Campus Ministry Team.

A QEP for enhancing experiential education would be a timely response to the development/growth over the past decade of significant experientially-rich learning initiatives at Millsaps, including the Faith & Work Initiative's service- learning, internship, and vocational discernment programs, the Yucatan biocultural reserve and the study abroad program, the medical mentoring program, the Wellspring residential living-learning program, and the 1 Campus 1 Community civic engagement program. These diverse programs all emphasize the importance of community-engaged learning for a liberally educated person in today's complex, global society. A QEP that aims to create a coherent vision and plan for experiential learning at Millsaps would enhance each of these programs by encouraging and creating a framework for sharing and collaboration on issues such as faculty and course development, community-based learning and scholarship, and the cultivation and assessment of critical thinking and reflection outside the classroom. By bringing diverse programs together under the umbrella of experiential education or learning, we would be naming what is already taking place at Millsaps while also opening up new paths of communication, coordination, and collaboration. For example, programs that currently have low-threshold learning expectations (e.g., Wellspring,1C1C, and certain internships and McNair trips) would benefit from deeper kinship with the academic program, while other programs (e.g., certain field-based courses and study abroad programs) might be enhanced by community-engaged learning practices. If an experiential education requirement were to become part of the Core curriculum, an experiential learning curriculum would provide an invaluable framework of conceptual coherence and practical organization. NOTE: This QEP affirms that current programs could maintain their distinctive character and functional autonomy as desired, but new partnerships and configurations would also be possible.

This QEP could be accomplished with existing resources, but it could also grow as new resources become available. For example, the development of additional living-learning communities on the Wellspring model but with different themes (e.g., human rights, social enterprise, community-based health initiatives, arts education, etc.) would require modest faculty participation and staff support but would rely primarily on student initiative and leadership. Situating such an effort within the context of a coherent and collaborative experiential learning curriculum would offer the organizational framework, academic grounding, and quality-control mechanisms necessary to develop and sustain a high quality living-learning program. 

Collaboration with others interested in thinking about a QEP along these lines would be most welcome!

Contact person:  Darby Ray

For a PDF of the proposal, click here.

Comments and Discussion