Grace College students participating in applied learning experiences this summer are thriving in environments where they get a chance to practice real, experiential-based work and interaction. Applied learning initiatives aim to take the principles taught in the classroom out into the real world where otherwise solely academic concepts are put to practical use.
This summer almost 40 students are participating in the applied learning program and are active not only in their own communities, but also across the country in some cases. One such group is comprised of the 20 students who are in Orlando, Fla., this summer. They are currently participating in a life-building initiative called “The Orlando Project” where 220 college students total are learning skills inleadership, discipleship, individual and community study, worship, and evangelism while simultaneously working a full-time job at local venues such as Universal Studios.
Out of the students participating in the project, 10 are earning credit through the program. These are Bethany Harshfield, Jessica Davis, Jocelyn Bassett, Ben Gifford, Nathan Patton, Chris Merrick, Joy Itiola, Jordan Fox, Isaac Herman and Colson Herman.“After spending time with [the] Grace College students in Orlando, I looked at my wife and stated, ‘Our students are on fire for the Lord and how He will work in their lives to witness to those that do not know Him,’” says Randy Polston, Director of Applied Learning at Grace, who just returned from a visit to Orlando. Several students have approached him expressing their enthusiasm for this particular applied learning experience, noting that it has changed their perspectives on their careers and relationships. “The Orlando Project is a great example of an applied learning experience,” says Polston.
Another Grace student, Mackenzie Aldrich, is involved in a similar skills-building experiencing at LifeWorks Counseling in Fort Wayne, Ind. where she is earning credit as an intern. “My work experience at LifeWorks Counseling and Consulting has helped me tremendously in my career path. I have [had] more hands-on experience then I would in a classroom setting because I am actually in the field,” she says. Aldrich sees her summer applied learning endeavors as a chance not only to get an inside perspective on her major, but to get a taste of the real world. “My favorite part about this is that I get to experience what it is like being a professional,” says Aldrich. “If I had a chance to pursue more applied learning experience I would definitely do it again and I advise others to do it as well!”Grace’s shift toward a curriculum that champions the integration of classroom knowledge and practical skills is one of many recent changes that the school has adopted. Students who are a part of the applied learning program continually attest that it has prepared them for the job market with experiential-based learning that they might have otherwise not encountered.