This story is featured in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU offers students a path to the real world through experiential learning opportunities.
The circular lobby inside Cottrell Hall is what Dr. Stephanie Crofton, vice president for experiential learning and career development, calls the nexus of experiential learning.
“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
This is home to the Offices of Study Abroad, Career Development, Internship Services, Fellowship and Awards, Research and Creative Works, the Entrepreneurship Center, the Professional Sales Center, Student Success and more. They’re easy to find behind transparent glass instead of conventional walls, beckoning students to walk in and connect.
With more than 20 years of experience as a professor and mentor, that’s where Dr. Crofton and her team come in. She oversees each of these offices and programs that help students pave the path to the professional world.
Below, she discusses how the entire campus works to ensure students amass a lifetime of experiences in four short, impactful years.
Q. What does “experiential learning” mean at HPU?
A. Learning by doing. At HPU, this is woven into our culture.
It starts with the offices housed in Cottrell Hall, but there are many experiential learning opportunities across campus. Professors don’t simply lecture; they get students involved in hands-on experiences. Student Life activities provide leadership, cultural and religious life events. There are service learning courses, community volunteer opportunities, students traveling to attend professional development conferences and the list goes on. With every class at HPU, we ask ourselves, “What experiential learning concept can we provide to ensure students own this concept?”
We offer students a path to the real world, and we bring a lot of the real world into our classroom. Academic schools have advisory boards consisting of industry professionals such as alumni working in the field. Niche career fairs for majors like business, communication and education bring top companies directly to campus. It all illustrates our commitment to experiential learning.
Q. What outcomes is experiential learning producing for graduates?
A. The data speaks for itself: 95 percent of our graduates are employed or enrolled in graduate school within six months of graduation.
Experiential learning takes students through the process of discovery. It helps them understand who they are and who they want to be. Do you want to study in Italy, where specialized design certifications are offered? We’ve helped students do that. Did you think you’d never be able to go to graduate school, but through an undergraduate research project, discover that you had the pote
ntial? Many students here have. Do you want to work at Apple Computer when you graduate but don’t know how to get there? Our career team can connect you with alumni already working there.
It also gives them permission to fail and be disappointed. Did you intern in a field you thought you would like but didn’t? Great! Now you know to take a step in another direction.
By the way, it isn’t administrators who say experiential learning is important — it’s employers! We’re merely the bridge between where you are now and where you want to be after graduation.
Q.What do students gain from these experiences?
A. Tons. But these two elements stand out — mentorship and soft skills.
Experiential learning is rooted in mentorship. Many students may not step out and say, “I need a mentor.” But at HPU, we make sure every student receives mentorship. If you complete an internship, you’re getting mentored on the job. If you complete a research project, an HPU faculty member is guiding you. Our career advisors show you how to put together your resume and help you develop answers to tough questions during interviews. Our success coaches help you find a major that fits your career goals and join organizations that match your interests and talents. Meanwhile, most mentors and their students build an established relationship. So not only have you accomplished a goal with their help, but you’ve made a lifelong connection.
Students also gain what the business world calls “soft skills.” Employers want to hire people who can effectively communicate their ideas, work well in teams, manage relationships with a wide variety of people, manage their energy and solve problems for the company or the client. Experiential learning gives students opportunities to develop those skills. At an internship, you’ll work with different types of people in different departments. When you study abroad, you’ll navigate language and cultural barriers.
We help students show the value of these experiences and how they translate to the professional world. We help them connect the dots.
Q. What is unique about experiential learning at High Point University?
A. HPU has embraced a growth mindset as a core value. We recognize that an individual’s intelligence, talents and skills can always grow and improve.
We show students that they shouldn’t be intimidated by life’s obstacles. We teach them to see opportunities instead of problems. And this is reinforced most effectively through experiences.
In my former economics class, we implemented “discovery learning” in a research-based problem. Instead of telling students what a theory predicts about supply versus demand, we let them discover what happens to a product when supply or demand increases or decreases in real time. Students built an app for iPhones and iPads on which they bought, sold and traded with each other using mock currency. They learned by doing and discussed existing theories afterward. The graduates who built the app are either working for major companies or have launched their own businesses.
The Professional Sales Club and the Entrepreneurship Center are also hallmark examples. They attract students from all majors. Communication majors need to know how to sell their ideas and their stories. Scientists often want to launch start-up companies. These umbrellas bring a diverse group of students together to connect, create and collaborate. They foster a growth mindset because they teach students that anything is possible and any problem can be solved.
View this story and more in the Fall 2017 edition of the HPU Magazine: