Twenty-three students and recent graduates representing 12 NAC&U member institutions traveled to Washington, DC from January 19 – 21, 2016 to share how integrative learning has enhanced their undergraduate education while preparing them for careers and lives as contributing, global citizens.
Nine students served as panelists at three events – a Congressional Briefing, National Press Club Briefing and at the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Annual Meeting. The other students presented their posters at the Congressional Briefing and National Press Club Briefing. Student panelists from Belmont University, Drury University and the University of Evansville at the Congressional Briefing also met individually with staffers from their Senators’ and Congresspersons’ offices.
Several themes emerged as the students talked about their experiences. For many, the opportunity to use their individual knowledge and skills while working on interdisciplinary teams was a key factor in preparing them for a workforce in which one must collaborate with people who come from different backgrounds. In addition, the team projects were not ‘class assignments’ but rather real-world projects and research with potential implications to change the way others think, live, and work. As the panelists detailed their experiences, they reflected on how a liberal arts background prepared them for the research and projects they undertook.
Congressional Briefing panelist Evan Melgren, a recent Drury graduate who worked as part of a team to build a solar-powered home, said, “Industries need people to ask ‘why’ as much as they need people to ask ‘how.’”
Students throughout the week demonstrated the self-confidence that develops when students are empowered to apply their skills and interests to projects and internships. In fact, University of La Verne student Victoria Walker shared her journey from student to self-aware professional in her poster illustrating the courses and experiences that have given her self-confidence along with knowledge, skills and community engagement. Belmont University student Samantha Hubner also touched on self-confidence when she discussed her initial hesitancy in applying for an internship with the State Department after conducting undergraduate research in China.
“If I can do research in China, why can’t I work in DC?” said Hubner, who secured the State Department internship.
Manhattan College student Dylan Gray, a physics major with a philosophy minor who spoke about his internship at CERN in Switzerland, elicited a laugh from the audience when he said, “Liberal arts helps physics majors talk with people about things other than physics.”
Panelists at the National Press Club also identified factors that attracted them to the colleges they chose. In addition to a liberal arts curriculum that educated them on a variety of subjects, the students also pointed to the relatively small size that enabled them to get to know their professors. Jack Ryan, a North Central College math and theatre double major who combined those interests into an undergraduate research project, said that his faculty mentor was essential to his research. Brian Rosiek, a senior at Nazareth College and panelist at the AAC&U Annual Meeting, forged a relationship early in his college career with Nazareth’s President Daan Braveman who provided guidance to help Rosiek with his post-graduate plans.
“I’m so grateful to these students for sharing their personal experiences because it helps others to fully understand the impact of integrative learning,” said Nancy Hensel, president, NAC&U. “We have 25 members across the nation, all providing different environments and experiences, but our common thread – a commitment to student learning through liberal arts, professional studies, and civic engagement – is what leads to our students’ success.”
NAC&U thanks the following students, graduates and their institutions for the participation and support of NAC&U events in Washington, DC:
Taylor Brown, Widener University
Ndobolo Bukasa, Widener University
Nicole Crossey, Widener University
Emily Cutler, Manhattan College
Nicole Gilette, Widener University
Dylan Gray, Manhattan College
Daniela Gutierrez de la Garza, Wagner College
Thomas Herrera, Widener University
Christopher Hoey, Manhattan College
Samantha Hubner, Belmont University
Chris Jackson, St. Edward’s University
Justin Lang, Belmont University
Peter May, University of Evansville
Evan Melgren, Drury University
Victoria Ochoa, St. Edward’s University
Cheyenne Rohmann, St. Edward’s University
Brian Rosiek, Nazareth College
Jack Ryan, North Central College
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