Recent Adelphi graduates reap the benefits of experiential learning.
As knowledge moves online and becomes increasingly accessible, students are looking for rich college experiences that will set them apart and advance their careers. In short, they want to learn by doing, which is known in educational parlance as experiential learning.
We are not talking about mere unpaid internships where corporations take advantage of free labor (as has been asserted in recent lawsuits). Rather, experiential learning encompasses an array of high-impact, hands-on practices ranging from study abroad to community service projects to collaborative assignments. Gayle D. Insler, Ph.D., Adelphi provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, says that such experiences typically improve student retention and graduation rates and, most importantly, enhance students’ professional opportunities.
Meet four Adelphi alumni who illustrate the power of experiential learning in its many forms.
Reaz Khan ’13 fashioned his Adelphi education as a springboard into the world. He was selected for Adelphi’s Levermore Global Scholars Program, which fosters civic engagement and global learning through a variety of experiential programs.
In less than four years, Mr. Khan, who completed a major in International Studies with a minor in Latin American Studies and a concentration in Spanish, traveled to Turkey, South Korea, India and Pakistan.
While logging all those miles, he preferred staying in hostels and “traveling like a nomad.” He says the experience immersed him in the culture of the place he was visiting. His travels also informed his senior thesis on South Asia and its Diasporas.
In the summer of 2011, Mr. Khan was selected to intern at the International Center of Photography in New York as part of Adelphi’s Community Fellows Program. Through the program, launched in 2010, Adelphi has provided funding for undergraduates to pursue paid summer internships at local nonprofits.
A summer 2012 visit to the Interfaith Youth Core in Philadelphia inspired Mr. Khan to create an interfaith service program at Adelphi. Last spring, he was named a Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact for his leadership in and commitment to addressing challenges facing communities through-out the country.
Janae Cummings ’13 channeled her leadership skills to fuel change in neglected communities.
In 2011 and 2012, as part of a course she developed with Adelphi Professor Devin Thornburg, Ph.D., she led a group of classmates to New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward to address the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“They didn’t have adequate and accessible grocery stores and food to eat,” she says. “The storm just made things worse for the people of New Orleans who were already struggling to survive.”
Over two years, she and 15 fellow students helped the area’s residents grow their own food. The students assisted in harvesting vegetables, cleaned up yards and helped maintain neighborhoods. In daily workshops, the students shared their individual experiences.
“My [peers] really appreciated the experience and the model they created,” Ms. Cummings says. She is especially proud of the fact that each student she led had a different academic background.
Dr. Thornburg believes Ms. Cummings’ experiences in New Orleans will become even more valuable as she continues her studies. She is hoping to attend Brooklyn Law School in 2014.
Hilda Perez ’11, a former Levermore Global Scholars student who is now in graduate school, has already seen how her Adelphi experiences have enriched her career and postgraduate study.
Deepening her language skills at Adelphi enabled Ms. Perez to excel in her family’s business. Today she’s fluent in English, Spanish, French and Italian. A mere two years after graduation, Ms. Perez had worked her way up to become the acting vice president of her family’s business—Salud Para Todos, Inc.—which focuses on health and wellness.
Ms. Perez’s Adelphi experiences taught her the value of hard work. As a sophomore, she traveled to Costa Rica as part of Adelphi’s alternative spring break program. While she was there, she and her fellow Adelphi students built bunk beds for families, conducted drawing workshops for local children and helped build a road within the community. In an essay written shortly after the trip, Ms. Perez and Alysha Rashid ’11 reflected on the difficult work and extraordinary camaraderie among the students.
As a member of Adelphi’s first group of Community Fellows in summer 2010, Ms. Perez interned at the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York and Western New York, where she helped the organization with its mission of granting wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. Her language skills helped her with many aspects of the position, including interviewing families and arranging travel.
In 2010, Ms. Perez also took part in the first U.S. Summit for Global Citizen Diplomacy. “Since I hope to pursue a nonprofit career, this is the perfect way to get introduced to the inner workings of the sector,” she said at the time.
Ms. Perez is now getting back to that career plan by pursuing a Master of Social Entrepreneurship degree at Hult International Business School in San Francisco, which, according to the Hult website, is “a practical program focused on how to apply business skills to important global social problems.”
“Experiential learning is a necessity,” Ms. Perez says.
It’s a philosophy that Emmanuel Hector ’10 would likely agree with. He, too, has sought high-impact, hands-on learning experiences in pursuing his career goals. And, just last spring, he landed his dream job as a specialist at the U.S. Department of State. “This is the work I am passionate about…working for policy change,” Mr. Hector says. But it didn’t come without a plan.
Born in Haiti, Mr. Hector was a Gates Millennium Scholar while at Adelphi. In his sophomore year, he participated in the Semester at Sea program, which gave him the opportunity to circumnavigate the globe and, in the process, travel in 11 countries.
Following the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2009, Mr. Hector worked with his church, the American Red Cross and the New York Disaster Interfaith Services to enable members of the Haitian community in Brooklyn to find family members, send survival items and cope with immigration and mental health issues.
After Adelphi, he attended graduate school at Columbia University, studying climate science, and began working with the U.N. World Food Programme and the Natural Resources Defense Council throughout 2011–2012 for his practicum requirements.
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