The Experiential Learning Scholars program at Middle Tennessee State University was honored recently with a top award for higher education credit programs.
MTSU received the Outstanding Credit Program Award from the Association for Continuing Higher Education South “in recognition of the excellent nature and results” of the Experiential Learning Scholars, or EXL, program.
MTSU launched the program in spring 2006 as a pilot project in conjunction with a universitywide improvement plan. EXL courses provide students with opportunities for hands-on experience in their fields of study, valuable networking with professionals and an opportunity to explore career paths through real-world activities.
The EXL Scholars program formalizes and organizes several existing experiential learning activities into a comprehensive program of study.
“We are fortunate to have such an exceptional team of faculty, staff and community partners who are providing a top quality educational experience for our students,” said EXL Director Carol Swayze, who accepted the award April 22 at a luncheon in Sandestin, Fla.
“This honor is truly a reflection on the quality of work performed by the founding committee and speaks to the dedication of MTSU to student success.”
Dr. Jill Austin, a professor of management and marketing at MTSU, chaired the committee that launched EXL and served as program director for five years.
“I am very pleased to learn that the EXL program is being recognized outside of the university for its contribution to student learning,” Austin said. “The program was developed by many faculty, staff, students and community members in hopes that students will be more engaged in the learning process and will have an enriched learning experience at MTSU.
“This award is an indicator that EXL is making an impact beyond our campus and community.”
MTSU had 54 EXL faculty members at end of the program’s first year, and participation has grown considerably since. In the 2012-13 academic year, the EXL program includes 27 departments, 191 faculty members, 470 course sections and 7,263 participating students.
To date, almost 30,500 MTSU students have taken EXL courses, and almost 1,100 students have completed all the requirements to graduate with the distinction of EXL Scholar.
“This award is a direct result of the leadership of Dr. Jill Austin and the EXL QEP Committee made up of MTSU administrators and faculty and the current direction of Carol Swayze,” said Dr. Dianna Rust, associate dean of the University College at MTSU.
“The Experiential Learning Scholars program outcomes have been significant in student contribution to the community in terms of service, internships and practicums as well as in student satisfaction and learning outcomes.”
The EXL Scholar designation is awarded only to students who have completed a minimum of 16 credit hours of EXL coursework and other service-learning requirements. Students who complete the requirements are awarded EXL Scholar cords and are recognized at commencement. The EXL Scholar notation also appears on the students’ transcripts.
“The program continues to grow each semester as more students discover the value of experiential learning and the EXL Scholar designation,” Swayze said.
For more information about the program, visit www.mtsu.edu/exl/index.php.
— Jimmy Hart (firstname.lastname@example.org)