In what she described as “a world where the glass is half full,” Susan Kress, Director of SMU’s Engaged Learning, spoke with The Daily Campus about the “higher order learning” that more and more students are seeking — and now finding — at the university.
Engaged Learning is both a grant and mentor opportunity for any SMU student with an idea they would like to take out into the community – be it on SMU’s campus, in the Dallas area or even overseas.
“What we’re trying to do is embed across the undergraduate community that they not only learn in the classroom, but they also learn outside the classroom,” Kress said. “It’s taking the lessons of the classroom and putting them into a practical situation.”
To allow this, students apply for up to $2000 of grant money through Engaged Learning “to achieve whatever they want to do,” so long as it benefits their academic path.
“We’re managing right now seventy students and their projects…Sixty new projects and ten hold-overs [continued from last year],” Kress said.
The Engaged Learning initiative provides far more than simply monetary support. With the acceptance of an application and commitment to a project comes a mentor that will guide the student throughout their project, as well as workshops through the process to aid the student in a collaborative group setting.
“The student often walks away from this intensive experience…with a relationship with [their mentor] that they didn’t have before,” Kress said.
Of the students who do projects through Engaged Learning, Kress said sixty percent continue onto grad school or post-graduate employment resulting directly from their Engaged Learning work.
Unique to most other university recognition programs, a student’s Engaged Learning project is included on their transcript, which Kress explained “is a way for the student to demonstrate that the University values [their] accomplishment” and to catch the eye of possible employers or recruiters.
The Engaged Learning Expo, which will take place Thursday, is an opportunity for students to see first-hand “how Engaged Learning happens.”
“We are showcasing the community partners, we’re showcasing how it happens on campus, we’re showcasing the seventy students,” Kress said.
Two faculty members will also be recognized with the Excellence in Mentoring Award, as nominated by the graduating seniors of
“The expo is for everybody,” Kress said. “It’s worth stopping by and seeing SMU and its commitment to student learning not only in the classroom, but also outside the classroom.”