October 7, 2013

TRUSTEE VIEWPOINT: Learning Outside of the Classroom

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The opportunities available to students at Cornell are numerous. First-year and transfer students, in particular, who have not done so already so, should try to join a club, organization or assist a professor in doing research. There are hundreds of ways to get involved on campus. Participating in such opportunities can enhance your experience at Cornell and simultaneously permit you to give back to the Cornell community. Perhaps, most importantly, such opportunities can enable students to grow in ways that augment learning within the traditional classroom setting.

Cornell University is a large school and joining a club or participating in extra-curricular activities allows you to create a smaller, more intimate community for yourself. Further, every experience outside of the classroom enhances our journey at Cornell. Each new activity you get involved in provides an opportunity to explore emerging interests and meet new friends, whether, for example, it involves a club sport, a pre-professional organization, a Greek fraternity or sorority, student government, writing for the Cornell Daily Sun or conducting research in a lab.

During my time at Cornell, I have been fortunate enough to participate in a number of activities in addition to taking classes. Through these opportunities, I have met new friends, and explored new interests. Through my past work on the Student Assembly, I have learned a lot about many different cultural organizations that I may have never interacted with otherwise. With every new person I met through these interactions, I have grown as a person, while still trying to navigate my way through school.

That being said, there are also unique opportunities within the classroom to reap many of the same benefits found outside the classroom. This past summer, as I was creating my fall schedule, I read about a class that I never knew existed: EDUC 2200: Community Learning and Service Partnership (or CLASP). Students enroll in the course and commit to taking two classes, one in the fall and one in the spring semester. During that year, Cornell employees and students work together, through learning partnerships. The Cornell students provide learning assistance and tutoring to Cornell staff.

In the program, the Cornell employee sets learning goals and the student assists that staff member in reaching those goals. The goals range from improving math skills to GED preparation to learning new computer skills to strengthening reading or writing abilities.  Many of Cornell’s departments have agreed to allow employees to participate in this program for as many as three hours each week. The staff member’s participation is kept confidential and the employee decides whether to share this experience with co-workers.

The semester has just begun, but the CLASP experience has already made students feel like they can make a difference within their community. Likewise, the participating employees feel more connected to the students they work with. I share this story as an example of the possibilities available to all students at Cornell outside of the conventional class setting.

I urge you to seek opportunities that will provide new learning experiences, whether it is through a program such as CLASP or a club of your choosing. Consider searching the student organization roster or course catalogue or speaking with friends and professors for recommendations.

As always, please feel free to contact me at rhg68@cornell.edu if you have any questions or comments.

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