Although experiential learning has always been embedded into NSU’s curriculum, it will now be a requirement for all incoming freshmen. Freshmen must complete six units of Experiential Education and Learning (ExEL) throughout their four years at NSU in order to graduate.
Teri Williams, director for experiential education, was hired to spearhead ExEL, which goes into effect this fall semester. Williams also developed the Experiential Education and Learning Advisory Council (EELAC), which works closely with the ExEL office to identify which ventures qualify as experiential learning.
“[ExEL] is really about exploring when you come in as a freshman. What is it you really want to do? What are your passions? What are your skills? And then how can you marry those things to create something amazing for yourself,” Williams explained.
Alejandrina Matias, assistant director for experiential learning and a former academic adviser, explained, “As faculty and administrators, they [EELAC] are the gatekeepers of what gets designated as experiential.” If a student has an idea for an internship, for example, EELAC confirms that that internship will be an impactful experience the student can learn from and analyze.
Students’ required UNIV 1000 course will count as one unit of ExEL, as will their required Senior Capstone project or course. Students can choose from five pillars of experiential learning to complete their remaining four units: Experiential Coursework, Faculty-Mentored Research, Travel Exploration/Study Abroad, Community Engagement/Service and Professional Growth/Internships.
While there are no new courses offered specifically for ExEL credits, there are many existing courses that have been approved for ExEL credit because of the nature of the coursework, such as several theater, marine biology, accounting and psychology courses.
To help navigate what may seem like a confusing requirement, Matias explained that students will have assigned ExEL advisers that work together with their academic advisers to guide students through the program and units, as well as check on their overall health, happiness and immersion at NSU.
Students may also visit the ExEL office, located in Rosenthal 104, with any questions about the program.
Matias said, “Students can always come to us, although they have their ExEL advisers. They can always walk into this office and inquire about an idea … I’ll be bringing my experience and knowledge from working with EELAC … and three years in academic advising, understanding the curriculums, the graduation requirements and the academic systems behind everything. We want to make it easy for students; make it inviting.”
While ExEL units are only required for incoming freshmen and those that follow, ExEL opportunities are available to every NSU student.
“Everything is there, every student can participate in these experiences … juniors, seniors come into our office. We will connect you. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be the requirement but we will absolutely help,” Matias said.
Williams explained the importance of viewing ExEL as an opportunity for students, rather than a requirement.
“Experiential education is really about becoming world-ready … students are getting skills that will go beyond the workplace and make them more critical thinkers, make them more engaged citizens and help them to see the connection to the greater world,” Williams said.
For more information on the ExEL program, visit nova.edu/exEL.