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Experiential Learning at UD

February 2020 EL Lab

By Jamie Morris

I am Jamie Morris, a junior at the University of Dayton (UD) studying communication management with a minor in marketing and sociology. I am the Communications Program Assistant for the Office of Experiential Learning (OEL) and I also work as an Assistant Associate at the Hangar, a branch of the Center of Student Involvement.

Each month, the OEL hosts Experiential Learning (EL) Labs, which are workshops designed to encourage students to develop narratives about their EL experiences using reflective prompts and concept mapping activities. During the labs, students think about the experiences they’ve had, where they currently are in life, and how learning in one area applies to other areas. These labs empower students to create unique stories about the important role EL has played in their educational journey at UD.

On February 7, I participated in my first EL Lab, which taught me a lot about myself and the ways past experiences have shaped my future goals, sometimes without me even noticing. Throughout the two hour lab, we discussed the EL activities we’ve been involved in at UD and what these experiences have meant for us. We also shared food and drinks which is always a nice icebreaker! Each student then drew their own “learning journey roadmap” using markers and paper. These roadmaps gave us an opportunity to illustrate our creative EL journey and visually connect our various learning experiences. feb-2020-el-lab-roadmap

After we drew our roadmaps, we went around the room and explained them to each other. Personally, this was my favorite part of the lab. It was really interesting to see how even a single event or experience can impact and change one’s future.

My personal learning journey started with my choice to attend UD, then moved into the different clubs I joined and the feelings I had throughout that process. Through my involvement in student organizations, I learned a lot about myself and realized I wanted to go a different direction than I had previously imagined for myself before college. I engaged in a lot of EL while going through the process of choosing a major. I knew that I had a passion for helping others and wanted to use that in some way. I considered psychology, criminal justice, education, and business. I took a few classes in those subjects and realized that that might not be the right fit for me. I discovered a communication major which sounded great, because communication skills are useful for almost everything, and I felt I wouldn’t be trapped in a single industry. The only issue with choosing this major was the daunting required public speaking class. I held off on declaring my communication major because of my fear of taking public speaking. I always knew deep down that I needed to just bite the bullet and declare the major and take the class. Eventually, I realized that it is not always a bad thing to be pushed out of your comfort zone, and I declared the major and registered for the class. After the first speech, I thought to myself, “This really is not that bad and honestly, I’m pretty good at it.”

After figuring out my major, things started to flow well and the marketing and sociology minor fits well with my coursework and future. Declaring a communication major was one of the best decisions of my life because if not for that, I would not have participated in the communication study abroad program in Prague. Saying goodbye to my family and getting on the plane to Europe was a similar feeling to walking into my first day of public speaking. I was scared but excited and knew at the end of the day, it would benefit me. Studying abroad was probably one of the best experiences of my life; I really found myself and who I wanted to be. I met some amazing friends along the way and if it wasn’t for this experience, I would not have realized what I want to do for my future and career. Although this is still up in the air on what specific department or industry I want to work in, I learned how the events leading up to that particular moment of my life really shaped what and how I learned.

One participant in the lab, Mike Chase, had a very interesting roadmap which highlighted the time he spent at NASA, his internship with a theatre company in London, and his decision to major in computer science. What stood out to me was, had Mike never participated in these experiences, he would never be where he is today. Another participant in the Lab, Becca LeBouef, drew a roadmap that showed how EL experiences have allowed her to learn about different cultures and meet different people that she would not have met otherwise. The EL experiences she’s had at UD have helped her figure out what she wants to do post-graduation.

Drawing out these roadmaps and visually connecting our experiences gave the EL lab participants a really interesting and different way to look at life. Through sharing our roadmaps, we all learned something new about one another. Ultimately, I believe that the power of experiential learning is unlike anything that can be taught in a classroom because it has the power to teach you a lot about yourself and others.

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