High-Impact Educational Experiences

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

 At the University of Kentucky, we are focusing more intently than ever on student success.

We know that student success is defined by more than admission to the University, and we know that when our students graduate, they face extraordinary churn in the job market. It is our responsibility to integrate creative, high-impact educational practices across the curriculum and the student life experience, to help our students well beyond their time at the University.

I'll highlight three examples of these high-impact educational practices that we have designed at UK. This point in the semester is a perfect time for students to get involved in one of these programs.

First: Education Abroad. On September 14th, UK Education Abroad and Exchanges (UKEA) hosted its annual Fall Fair. This event gave students the opportunity to explore the multitude of program options available, including courses, internships, research opportunities, and international exchanges abroad. The fair featured UK Core Abroad programs—a selection of programs offered that allow students to fulfill UK Core requirements while studying internationally, which helps our students participate in these experiences without delaying time to graduation. 

UKEA offers a wide array of experiences, including studying, interning, research, teaching, and service abroad, that provide students with invaluable experience for the workforce. Programs range from a few weeks to an entire semester. Some courses are led by UK faculty, while others are offered by partnering universities. UKEA expects students to start planning as early as their freshman year to study abroad, so that they can best fit the experience into their four-year timeline. UKEA's online Major Advising Pages list suitable programs for nearly every major. More information can be found here.

Studying abroad is a way for students to maximize their degree, by learning new perspectives, raising cultural awareness, and applying the skills they have learned on-campus to a new, diverse environment. These opportunities for rich learning and growth characterize what we call high-impact educational experiences.

Another high-impact experience that prepares students for the workforce and beyond is an internship with an organization in the public or private sector.

In the spring of 2018, UK will begin offering a new opportunity for students to gain real-world experience at the United States capital. Students will have the opportunity to partner across academic and administrative units, by interning with the federal government.

Accepted students will retain their full-time status by taking credit bearing courses taught by a UK faculty member on-site. At the same time, they will gain professional internship experience offered in partnership with Kentucky’s Congressional delegation. 

Fridays each week will be an opportunity for students to obtain a variety of experiences in different areas—such as job-shadowing, networking, and more. This professional development series will offer students an opportunity to connect with alumni in the DC area.

This internship program will give students firsthand work and educational experience on Capitol Hill, which will be a standout addition to their resumes after graduation. More information can be found here.

However, students do not need to leave Lexington to find high-impact experiences offered through UK. Undergraduates at UK are participating in groundbreaking research on our campus every day.

Undergraduate research provides students with the skills to think independently, critically evaluate information, and use their creativity to explore within their disciplines. Research is a highly sought-after skill in industry; it will set UK students out against others post-graduation.

The Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence serves as an invaluable resource for students interested in research. A quick visit to one of their information sessions can help students determine how to begin their own research projects.

For the past two years, the Chellgren Center has sent record high numbers of students to the National Conference for Undergraduate Research (NCUR), a conference that UK hosted on our campus in 2014. NCUR gives undergraduates the chance to showcase their research on a national stage; they gain networking and public speaking skills, all the while expanding their worldview by learning about other intellectuals’ research.

NCUR will take place at the University of Central Oklahoma next year. Abstract submissions opened last week. Students currently participating in undergraduate research should consider applying here.

Education abroad, internships, and undergraduate research are just a few ways that we are helping students engage in rich, high-impact educational experiences. All of them are developed with one central question in mind: how can we create the best possible environment for student success? That question will continue to guide us in everything we do.

Timothy S. Tracy