Learning from experiences

Last Updated 13 September, 2016

The relationship between graduates’ college experiences and their post-college work engagement and wellbeing has been measured by a recent Gallup and Purdue University index. This index includes descriptions of what have been dubbed the “Big Six”: six experiences that strongly correlate with whether or not college graduates feel prepared to succeed in their future careers and lives.

The Big Six are split up in two categories—faculty support and experiential learning. To measure experiential learning, graduates are asked if they worked on a long term project, had a job or internship where they applied what they were learning or were involved in extracurricular activities or organizations. Of the 30,000 students surveyed in the 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report, only six percent indicated they had received all three kinds of experiential learning. The study found that those 1800 individuals are 2.4 times more likely to be engaged at work and 1.3 times more likely to thrive in all areas of wellbeing.

Based on these results, the study recommended that institutions of higher education improve their graduates’ potential for success by providing students “with more opportunities for deep learning experiences and real-life applications of classroom learning.” NNU is already doing just that. Experiential learning is built into the degree programs and campus life. We believe giving our students learning opportunities outside of the classroom helps them develop—not just as potential employees but also as citizens of the world.

Internships and cross-cultural experiences are graduation requirements for many students. Opportunities for additional experiential learning abound. From clubs where students invest money on behalf of the university to service learning trips to Peru, we are dedicated to giving students opportunities for meaningful experiential learning where they can develop their worldview and gain a professional edge. But don’t just take our word for it. Our students’ success speaks for itself.

Graphic design major Ella Koonce (’15) had not just one but three jobs her senior year. An internship with Scentsy Headquarters, designing for Ira & Lucy Vintage Rentals & Styling, and freelance work with multiple clients rounded out Ella’s resume. This was in addition to preparing all year for her senior design show and being involved with the Student Government Association (SGA) and NNU Art Club. “It [the graphic design program] really allowed me to grow in my creative mind and in my life, and I’ve had so many opportunities.” These opportunities opened the door for Ella’s current position as a Junior Creative at Drake Cooper, an advertising agency in Boise.

Marketing major Alex Reich (’16) found an internship with the NNU Office of Marketing through his advisor and business department chair, Dr. Konya Weber. “The internship at NNU really provided me with a sense of direction in my career.” Alex discovered a talent for writing that also led him to a position as a staff writer for the student newspaper and a second internship at Peppershock Media. “Before I began the internship I wasn't sure what I wanted to do after graduation, but after learning from and working alongside the fantastic people in NNU's marketing office I realized that my strengths and interests all fit together nicely in marketing, particularly content creation.” All of these experiences convinced Alex to pursue freelance marketing content development post-graduation—Peppershock remains one of his occasional clients.

Computer science major Devon Ellis (’15) found some unique experiential opportunities through not what but whom he knew. “Freshman year I sat next to John Donaldson [’13] in class ... and when I expressed interest in Information Security, he commented, ‘very interesting,’” Devon remembers. Two years later, John contacted Devon about an internship opportunity at John’s current employer, Lawrence Livermore National Lab. “It was without a doubt the best summer of my life. I learned so much,” said Devon. On campus, he participated in drama, sang with Crusader Choir, and worked on programming a semester-long senior project. Last fall Devon started at Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, to earn a master’s in computer science with an emphasis in information assurance.

Photo caption: Ella Koonce works at the Drake Cooper office in Boise, Idaho. Hear more from Ella at nnu.edu/art. Hear more from Devon at nnu.edu/math.