November 8, 2022

Expanding Hands-On Learning Opportunities

Center for Experiential Learning

One of the defining strengths of Schoolcraft College is the hands-on learning opportunities provided to students – especially those in occupational programs. Now the College is expanding those opportunities to more students through the brand-new Center for Experiential Learning (CEL).

The Center for Experiential Learning is not so much a physical location as much as it is a way to deliver impactful learning. Dr. Michele Kelly, Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, defines it as “learning by doing,” using the concept of baking a cake as an illustrative example.

people standing around Freedom House banner
Students will have service-based opportunities through the Center for Experiential Learning

“We tend to understand baking a cake more comprehensively when we actually bake a cake instead of watching a baking show or reading a recipe,” she said. “We understand baking a cake even better once we taste our creation and reflect on why it’s good – or not so good!

“Our occupational programs are full of hands-on experiences where student learn by doing – think of CPR and ambulance practice, practicing with welding equipment, driving on our driving facility or brewing beer and submitting it for contests.”

Now, for areas of study like Humanities or Communications, students and faculty may access and engage in learn-by-doing opportunities through the CEL.

Bridging the gap

In broad terms, Schoolcraft College tends to serve two types of students. One group is students in the occupational programs who gain education and training to enter the workforce quickly to begin their careers. The other group is students in the Liberal Arts and Sciences programs. These students tend to start here to earn credits to transfer to a four-year college or university to complete a bachelor’s degree.

In fact, transferring to a four-year school is the one of the most popular “majors” at Schoolcraft College. Dr. Kelly said the CEL will help give those students access to the kind of high impact co-academic opportunities that will make their resumes and applications competitive to elite universities. It also will prepare them for the kind of project-based learning they may encounter in junior- and senior-level coursework.

“Students who earn degrees at Schoolcraft in our occupational programs intend to go directly into industry,” Dr. Kelly said. “If you study Nursing, you probably want to work as a nurse. If you study Culinary Arts, you want to get to work as a chef. If you join our Fire Academy, you probably want to get to it fighting fires.

“Also, perhaps you might go back to school to earn an advanced degree or maybe return for a career change. However, students who want to study economics, political science, chemistry, math and so forth often need further study before working. Many jobs we need in society require a bachelor’s degree or more.

“The CEL will benefit transfer students because their path to work is longer, and they need concentrated resources to be competitive transfer students. Whether transferring or going directly into employment after obtaining certification at Schoolcraft, all our students deserve access to high-impact learning opportunities, and the CEL is open for everyone!”

Bringing opportunities and services under one umbrella

Another key component of the CEL is that it will be the access point for:

  • Schoolcraft Honors Scholars
  • Service Learning Endorsement
  • SC International Institute Global Endorsement
  • STEAMz conference (eventually)
  • Existing liberal arts or science-based undergraduate research, fellowships, internships, and or scholarships

“Schoolcraft College has a legacy of high-impact programming including the award-winning Honors Scholars, Service Learning, International Institute and more,” Dr. Kelly said. “These are all examples of signature programming that are embedded in and run tightly parallel to the classroom. The Center for Experiential Learning consolidates these resources under a single access hub; it is an organized framework for our best stuff!”

Bringing all of this “best stuff” into a single unit isn’t a new idea.

“The reason we can do it now is through the generous outreach from the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Transfer Bridges program and their extension of a multi-million-dollar Mellon grant,” Dr. Kelly said. “We joined Grand Rapids Community College and Henry Ford College as partners with U of M. The University of Michigan is right to notice the value of transfer students from community colleges – especially those who come from Schoolcraft College – because of the extra opportunities students enjoy here.

“We joined this grant by proposing the Center for Experiential Learning as a one-stop shop for existing signature programs and with new features that will benefit students.”

The CEL also will introduce new programs that include the following:

  • Social Impact Scholars
  • Humanities in Action Network
  • New liberal arts or science-based undergraduate research, fellowships, internships and scholarships

“Since we won this grant in March 2022, Schoolcraft College students have had access to some awesome opportunities with the University of Michigan,” Dr. Kelly said. “For example, Schoolcraft students were awarded Engelhardt Social Justice Fellowships ($5,000 stipends), GLACE* fellowships (fully funded summer humanities research), and MoMentum workshops ($500 fully funded).

“The vision is for Schoolcraft College students to have funded access to life-changing opportunities like this along with many others, and for students and faculty to trust the Center for Experiential Learning as the access point.”

* GLACE stands for Great Lakes Arts, Cultures, and Environments. It is an interdisciplinary humanities program held in Northern Michigan during the summer half-term. University of Michigan faculty and other instructors teach three interconnected, two-credit courses: one in English, one in English/Anthropology, and one in English/American Culture. Successful students are awarded 6 credit hours total from the University of Michigan.

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