SMU launches out-of-classroom initiative
Published: Thursday, February 9, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 17:11
Engaged Learning, a SMU initiative in the making for the past year, launched in January.
The initiative focuses on students being able to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it in the community.
"We recognize there are students doing research, service and internships that are really touching others lives, but the university hasn't had a vehicle to celebrate the students," Engaged Learning Director Susan Kress said.
The initiative oversees the Unbridled Learning Project, which allows students to receive funding and support for ideas they have developed.
The Unbridled Learning Project allows students to propose an idea they would like to initiate and impact the community.
If selected, students must complete the project within a year and meet a set list of requirements.
Three students have participated in the Unbridled Learning Project with projects such as teaching dance in Zambia, teaching photography to girls in the Dallas area, and building a database to benefit veterans.
The Unbridled Learning Project should not to be confused with Big Ideas or other programs on campus that help students initiate ideas in the community, but a student can benefit from both if they participate in this project.
Students who are already on projects, such as Big Ideas and the Maguire Center of Ethics, are welcome to apply to make it an Unbridled Learning Project.
An Unbridled Learning Project provides students with a variety of benefits that would not have been available before the initiative started.
Students can receive funds up to $2,000 for their project and have his or her project listed on their transcript.
An SMU transcript only lists a student's personal information, GPA, courses taken and whether they graduated with distinction.
"My project was a photography workshop for high school girls which promoted natural beauty inside and out, including the natural beauty around them in their everyday lives," Colby Kruger, marketing major, said.
She had been waiting to do her photography project for two years but had not been able to get funding. "It is a wonderful opportunity to make your dreams a reality... if anyone has a great idea for a project I encourage them to do it," Kruger said. "The SMU Unbridled Learning grant made it all possible for me."
Upon acceptance, the student must complete the project by end of fall semester. They will present their work the following spring.
As long as the student meets all of the requirements on their project, their work will be published by Central University Libraries over the summer.
The participants are invited back for a celebration in the fall ,celebrating their publication and introducing the new project participants.
Lindsay Abigail, a dance performance major, completed the project on teaching orphans in Zambia dance for a week.
Abigail's project evolved while she was working with the students in Zambia.
"I was equipping them with different skills like how to have a creative outlet, how to express yourself," Abigail said.
Engaged Learning Director Susan Kress, who previously served as director of education abroad, was a driving force in the rebranding and expansion of the SMU Abroad program.
She has now taken on the task of Engaged Learning. "I inherited a lot of great ideas but had to work with a small hard-working focus group to take these great ideas and turn it into a plan," Kress said.
The initiative hopes that in the future, all SMU students choose to participate in Engaged Learning.
An Engaged Learning student panel, made up of representatives from a variety of lead organizations on campus, ensures it is working in the best interest of the students.
Engaged Learning has also been focusing on building partnerships between SMU and the local community.
Next fall, the initiative will be hosting a networking event called "Get Engaged" that will be open to the whole SMU community and allow students and faculty to meet a variety of community partners.
The initiative's Engaged Learning Day on Monday will have events around campus consisting of workshops on applying for an Unbridled Learning Project, presentations by the students who completed projects and an awareness event at the flagpole.
To find out more about applying for an Unbridled Learning Project or about the day's activities, go to www.smu.edu/engagedlearning.