Experiential & Engaged Learning

Play the Social Justice Immerision Trip Videoby Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney '10

McKendree students know that learning isn’t just about sitting in a classroom. It’s something that inspires you, takes you to new places, gives flight to your interests and talents, and moves you beyond what you thought you could achieve.

When you start your journey at McKendree, you may find yourself conducting your own research projects in the field or seeing your work utilized by real-world professionals. Our skilled faculty are experts at creating an authentic learning experience that not only prepares you for your future career, but also helps shape who you are as a person. Whether it’s landing that internship that changes the course of your future or discovering your true passion while trying something new, one-of-a-kind opportunities await you when you become a Bearcat!


Learning beyond the Classroom

No matter which major you choose, McKendree degree programs have a strong reputation for engaging students in ways that contribute to a truly meaningful college experience. Take a look at some of the most recent learning opportunities our students have experienced beyond the classroom.

Research in the Field

Michele SchutzenhoferFor students in the Sciences at McKendree, innovative classes also provide real-world experience through scholarly research opportunities. Associate professor of biology, Dr. Mickey Schutzenhofer brings the world of plant-pollinator communities to her ecology students through her own field research site. As a result, students learn like professional scientists do: by pursuing the answers their own research questions in the field.

It might seem like a rare opportunity to work alongside a professor doing research, but for Dr. Schutzenhofer’s students, it’s just part of class. After collecting data at the field research site, they test their hypotheses and develop their work into a complete scientific research paper by the end of the course.

“It allows students to experience the entire process of science using an authentic research experiment, but under the context of their own questions,” Dr. Schutzenhofer said.  “This type of inquiry-based instruction has been repeatedly called for, especially in science education.”

For her students, the experience is a one-of-a-kind way to grow as professional researchers in the Sciences. It not only opens the door for them to present their work at academic conferences, but it also gives them the tools for pursuing graduate school in the future. Dr. Schutzenhofer’s passion for taking her students beyond the classroom is characteristic of McKendree’s ability to inspire and engage students in meaningful ways.

Quotation Graphic“One of my strongest attributes is my enthusiasm, not just for Biology, but for teaching and getting students engaged with the material,” she said.

“I am eager to share my curiosity about life through the eyes of a scientist, and I bring that excitement to my courses,” she added.

It’s that endless enthusiasm that motivates our faculty to keep pushing the boundary of the traditional classroom. We invite you to come see where your next learning experience will take you at McKendree.

Leading a School Band

In the fall of 2016, McKendree’s Music Education majors got the chance to do what many professionals in their field haven’t accomplished yet: create a school band from scratch. The unique opportunity resulted in the first-ever band program at St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Troy, Illinois.

Once a week, McKendree students step outside the university classroom and into their own room as band directors at St. Paul’s. In addition to teaching small group lessons to the elementary and middle school students there, they plan the music, curriculum, and concert program for the band. The partnership introduces music appreciation and performance to children who might otherwise not experience it, while giving McKendree students the chance to work as professional band directors before even graduating.

“What I love about this experience is that students grow as teachers and pedagogues even before they enter formal student teaching placement,” said Dr. Jennifer Moder-Bell, associate professor of music education. “What we do at St. Paul’s is incorporated into their Music Education courses, so there is learning and growth taking place throughout the week.”

Brandon Hokeness ’17One of the students who first began the program, Brandon Hokeness ’17 says the opportunity to start and lead an actual band is an experience that can’t be replicated in class. At St. Paul’s, Brandon led an instrument try-out night, taught beginning sectionals, and ran a full ensemble, each of which will be important components of his career as a music educator.

“The entire situation of working at St. Paul’s is a win-win,” he said. “It’s truly been an amazing learning opportunity for everybody, and it also doesn’t hurt that it’s a lot of fun and a rewarding experience.”

Writing for Non-Profits

One of McKendree’s newest degree programs, Professional Writing and Rhetoric, is challenging students to put their communication skills to use doing something they find personally meaningful. In particular, the class Civic Engagement gives students the opportunity to work directly with a local non-profit organization of their choice to create marketing material for publication and use.

Anna Belmonte ’19 first started working with MindsEye Radio in Belleville, Illinois, during her Civic Engagement class. The organization broadcasts readings from a variety of publications for the blind and visually impaired. After providing her writing services to MindsEye during class, Anna was invited to stay on as a public relations intern over the summer. One of the highlights of her experience was writing a grant for the organization that resulted in a $3,000 donation. Such unique resume-building experiences, she says, are the result of courses that emphasize applying classroom concepts to actual organizations within the community.

Similarly, Jaycee Kusko ‘19 believes that her Professional Writing and Rhetoric classes helped her earn an internship this summer with Augustana College’s residential life program. Her work with the Chakota Therapeutic Riding Center in Germantown, Illinois, was a major point of interest during her interview, and she knows it was a direct result of her hands-on coursework. As she learned, the opportunity to gain real on-the-job experience for class is highly attractive to employers, and her ability to personalize her work helped her to become truly invested in it.

Quotation Graphic“One thing I love about the Professional Writing and Rhetoric program is that I was able to do projects within the classes that related directly to my professional goals and personal interests,” she said.

“I struggle creating documents and projects just for a grade. Through the Civic Engagement class, I was able to work with real people and use their feedback to help me improve as a writer and designer, as well as create a project they would be proud to use,” she added.


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