At Alvernia, experiential learning, which turns the whole world into a classroom, gives students the hands-on experience and skills employers demand. The university's broad mix of learn-by-doing opportunities includes internships, field work, work/study, study abroad programs as well as service-learning, a hybrid of experiential learning and community service. “Our “learn by doing” philosophy blends professional skills development with opportunities for community service,” says Provost Shirley Williams. “That helps students discover — and pursue — their passion while providing meaningful opportunities to make a positive difference in the lives of others.” Williams says Alvernia’s faculty members understand that students learn best when lessons come alive through out-of the-classroom experiences and that real-world learning helps students develop capabilities that enable them to thrive in the uncertain circumstances of life.
Service-learning fosters a deeper understanding of subject matter than classroom learning alone and aligns with Alvernia's Franciscan tradition of "knowledge joined with love." Teamed with the university's community partners — more than 50 in all — students use what they learn in real workplaces while serving their neighbors.
"Students get hands-on experience and connections for internships and jobs. Community partners get the help they need. It’s a win/win," says Jodi Radosh, Ph.D., associate director of the Holleran Center for Community Engagement, who oversees Alvernia's service-learning curriculum.
Professor Radosh, also an associate professor of English and communication, should know. Her students hone their writing and reporting skills at area TV stations and PR firms, and have landed internships and jobs at national media outlets including CNN and ESPN, as well as local and national corporations and public service institutions.
The university promotes its approach to real world learning through a new program called “Get Real” that helps prospective students understand the opportunities and benefits afforded to them through outside the classroom learning options. “Real world learning is a powerful way for students to get all they can from their Alvernia experience,” said Brad Drexler, Alvernia’s vice president for marketing and communications. “Experiential learning opportunities allow students to translate theory-based concepts from the classroom into practice and offer the chance to “reality-check” possible careers before students complete their degree.”
Each year, more than 1,300 Alvernia students participate in some type of experiential-learning initiative. From presenting at national conferences and leading student organizations, to using state of the art laser equipment and treating patients, Alvernia students have their sleeves rolled up as they engage in hands-on learning programs that give them a taste of the real world. They are experiences that provide them with skills that are tested, and proven, in actual work environments.
And experts see experiential and service-learning as more vital than ever.
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