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Center for Experiential Learning

What’s This Experiential Learning Stuff All About, Anyway?

Keuka students and faculty discuss why we’re the national leader in experiential, hands-on learning.

You may have heard us say Keuka College is the national leader in experiential, hands-on learning—and it’s quite possible you’ve wondered “so what,” “why should I care,” or “what the heck does that actually mean?”

We’ve put this guide together to answer some of those questions. Yeah, we know it’s a bit long, but look: we have lots to be proud of. Don’t worry though—we’ve tried to keep it somewhat entertaining.

Inside This Guide:

What Is Experiential Learning, Anyway?

Learn Something by Actually Doing It.

Think back a few years to before you had your license. If you don’t have your license yet, let’s pretend you do for a second. The metaphor works a lot better that way.

You—like every licensed driver in the world—prepared for your road test by spending several painstaking hours aimlessly wandering around town, gasping parent in tow.

It may have taken more than one try—it does for a lot of people—but eventually, you passed the test and earned your license. Why? Not because you read every book on the planet about driving, but because you had driving experience. Sure, you picked up some tips, tricks, and theories along the way, but ultimately, you passed because you had experience.

You just can’t master the art & science of driving unless you actually drive.

And that’s our view of the world here at Keuka. Except, it’s not just our view of the world about driving—it’s our view of the world about everything. From English, to accounting, to management, criminal justice, social work, and beyond.

In academia, we call this “experiential learning,” and at Keuka College, the office that coordinates all of this “learning by doing” is the award-winning Center for Experiential Learning.

The Most Unique Internship Program in the World

Hello. My Name Is Field Period.

In 1942, a Keuka College graduate and administrator named Edith Estey created Field Period, and it’s been the cornerstone of the College ever since.

Keuka biology alumna Camille Fontaine ’06 shares advice with new students about Field Period.

What is Field Period? It’s a 140-hour internship every Keuka student has to do each year. That means you’ll have at least 560 hours of real-world experience by the time you graduate. Field Periods usually relate to your major, but they don’t have to.

In fact, Field Period is a great way to help figure out what to do after college.

Example: You come to college thinking you’d like to become a teacher. At other schools, you’d complete the first two years of training and then go into a classroom.

That’s great, but what happens if you realize you don’t actually like teaching? At a lot of other schools, you’d need to start again from square one.

Melissa Cappelluti '09 presents a field period project she worked on to fellow organizational communication majors. The organizational communication faculty host a field period presentation day for their students each year.

Anh Nguyen ('15) discussing her management Field Period in Hanoi, Vietnam with her peers.

Lauren Esposito ('15) Organizational Communication major, in Durban Beach, South Africa receiving a thrilling ride from a native.

At Keuka College, this doesn’t happen. If you come in as an education major, you’ll get in front of a classroom your freshman year.

If you like it—great. You can fine-tune your other Field Periods and internships (like student teaching) from there. But, if you decide you don’t like it, you can switch to a different program and still graduate on time.

Keep in mind this doesn’t just apply to those majoring in education. It applies to all of our majors.

You can do your Field Period wherever you’d like—at your family business, at something in your hometown, or somewhere on the other side of the globe (some students even go to warm, tropical places like the Dominican Republic).

And please, don’t let the idea of a 140-hour internship overwhelm you. The Center for Experiential Learning helps each Keuka student find Field Period opportunities, and arrange for housing and accommodations if necessary.

Keuka faculty talk about the value of the reflective journal, a required component of the field period experience.

Most Keuka students do Field Period over winter break, which lasts from the middle of December to the beginning of February—plenty of time to do Field Period. If you’d like to kick back and relax over the winter, you can always do your Field Period during the summer or, in some cases, during the academic year.

If you’re interested in learning more about Field Period, visit our Field Period & Internships page. You can also find out where Keuka students have done their Field Periods and see what students and alumni say about it.

Outside of Class Learning

Sometimes We Ditch the Classroom

Just because the Center for Experiential Learning is the heart of Keuka’s hands-on learning model, that doesn’t mean it’s the only place you’ll find experiential learning.

Professor of History and Pulitzer Prize Nominee Sander Diamond lectures a group of students and onlookers under the portico of the portico of the Pantheon in Rome, Italy. Dr. Diamond leads a group field period to historical sites overseas every January.

Professor of History and Pulitzer Prize Nominee Sander Diamond lectures a group of students and onlookers under the portico of the Pantheon in Rome, Italy.

Doug Richards, professor of english and philosophy, takes PHL 215: Environmental Ethics students across campus for an outdoor lecture.

Doug Richards, professor of English and philosophy, takes PHL 215: Environmental Ethics students across campus for an outdoor lecture.

The truth is: all of Keuka’s faculty are experiential learning experts, and they integrate experiential, hands-on learning into the classroom any chance they can. But sometimes our professors ditch classrooms altogether.

It’s a regular occurrence at Keuka College for professors to take their classes on field trips, hold class outside by the lake, lead group trips to the other side of the world, bring student research to conferences, or encourage their students to join some of the country’s best and brightest at national symposia.

Additionally, you’ll find many courses in the College’s catalog focus purely on real-world techniques. One such course is BUS 410: Entrepreneurship, a course in which students work together to manage their own for-profit microbusiness.

Outside of class learning is extremely exciting.

Jobs, Careers, and Making Money

So Your Parents Never Need to Say, “Get a Job Already, Would You?!”

Take comfort in knowing if you come to Keuka College, you’ll never end up living on your parents’ couch. In other words, we’ll help you find gainful employment.

Student Employment

Each year, work study supervisors nominate students who are described as "cream of the crop" student employees for the Student Employee of the Year award. Pictured above is Laura Williams '09, the 2008-2009 Student Employee of the Year

Each year, work study supervisors nominate "cream of the crop" student employees for the Student Employee of the Year award. Laura Williams '09 is the 2008-09 award winner.

Most of our current students find that student employment is a great way to make a few extra bucks. Many of the offices on campus wouldn’t be able to do what they do without the help of their student employees.

Like Field Period, the student employment program will give you the opportunity to take what you’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to the “real world.” Regardless of your academic program or interests, you should be able to find a campus job you’ll enjoy.

All of our work-study supervisors are trained to integrate learning and work. You’ll encounter this from the very beginning when you have to search for a campus job using Keuka College Career Connections (our own version of an online job search site), submit a résumé, and go through a regular interview process.

That means you can practice your résumé writing and interview skills your first day here.

You may also like to know about our Student Employee of the Year program, something special we’ve put together to acknowledge and thank our students.

Career Services

Students network with alumni during the a Backpack to Briefcase alumni networking event.

Students network with alumni during a Backpack to Briefcase alumni networking event. Backpack to Briefcase is a series of events to help students achieve their career goals.

Speaking of résumé writing and interview skills, our Career Services staff is here to help students and alumni (aka: we won’t leave you hanging when you graduate) write stellar résumés, master job interviews, get into graduate school, and generally help you earn a living (aka: not live on your parents’ couch).

Career Services can also help you choose your major, network with alumni, develop career plans, and discover what types of jobs best fit your personality type.

Keuka is so strong at career identification, exploration, and placement, that a recent survey of the last six graduating classes revealed an average of 97% of recent alumni are either working or in graduate school.

If you’d like a little taste of what Career Services has to offer, you can check out their résumé and cover letter guide, graduate school guide, job search guide, or interview guide.

Community Service

Give a Little Bit…

Keuka students and staff take a break during a hard day's work on the set of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in Geneva, N.Y.

Keuka students and staff take a break during a hard day's work on the set of an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition episode. More than 20 members of the college community helped to complete the project in nearby Geneva, N.Y.

For more than 100 years, giving back has been one of the main objectives of Keuka College. In fact, our community service program is so strong, it’s been recognized by The White House for the past three years.

Because we think community service is such a great source of experiential learning for our students, we spend countless amounts of time and money each year on developing new community service opportunities and integrating community service into our curriculum.

What kind of community service projects do Keuka students participate in, you ask? Everything from helping developmentally-delayed students in our local area to working on projects for ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Habitat for Humanity. We’ve also had large groups of students help with 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts.

And not just the President is a fan of our community service programs. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching—one of the is-all, end-all authorities when it comes to college rankings and classifications—has classified us as a community engagement school, thanks to the way our community outreach and partnerships are tied-in to our curriculum.

(Hint: Community service projects can be used to fulfill a Field Period credit too. Once you’re here, stop in the Center and ask how this can be done.)

The TeamWorks! Experience

Other Schools Help You Fly Figuratively. We’ll Help You Fly Literally.

Remember earlier when we were talking about how sometimes, our professors will ditch the classroom altogether? Occasionally, the best place to hold class is right in Keuka’s own backyard on the TeamWorks! Birkett Mills/Keuka College Challenge Experience.

What does this mean in plain English? That Keuka College is one of the very few colleges and universities in the country that has its own private ropes course. With more than 25 different in-air and on-the-ground challenge elements, we use our TeamWorks! program to almost instantly enhance leadership skills, promote cooperation and teamwork, build trust, encourage bonding, and more.

The TeamWorks! program also offers various work-study jobs and extracurricular opportunities to help maintain the course, facilitate activities, and create customized challenge experiences.

Co-Curricular Transcripts

Of Course We Have Something to Tie This All Together



A group of girls from the College's dance team practice their routine. The dance team is just one of many extracurricular activites that can be recorded on your co-curricular transcript. Click the photo above to see the dance team perform at 2007's Midnight Madness pep rally.

A group of women from the College's dance team practice their routine. The dance team is just one of many extracurricular activites that can be recorded on your co-curricular transcript.

Aside from everything we’ve just mentioned, there’s also yet another place Keuka students gain valuable experience: extracurricular activities. As officers and members of our thriving clubs and organizations, students learn valuable life and business skills, whether they’re contributing to the student newspaper, playing a game of paintball, or exploring an interest in psychology.

Unified childhood education major Sean Scott ’10 gives a solo vocal performance at the Keuka College Chorale’s 2008 concert in the Norton Chapel.

At Keuka, we think all of this hard work needs to be recognized, and that’s why we’ve created the Co-Curricular Transcript.

The co-curricular transcript is a way to officially document all of your extra-curricular involvements. As an addendum to your official college transcript, it documents all the skills you’ve picked up outside of the classroom, be it from a community service project, involvement in a club, etc.

By the time you’re ready to graduate, you’ll have worked with our career and co-curricular counselors enough times that you’ll be able to showcase these skills during a job interview, when applying to graduate school, or whenever the occasion to sell yourself arises.

Experiential Fellowships

How Does Free or Partially Free School Sound to You?


Jen Bush '11, 2007 Experiential Learner of the Year fellow.

Jen Bush '11, 2007 Experiential Learner of the Year fellow. You can read Jen's profile to learn more about her.

At Keuka College, we not only practice what we preach—we reward it, too. Each year, we award full and partial fellowships (something very similar to a scholarship) to high school students who excel at learning by doing.

If you’d like to be considered for either our Experiential Learner of the Year or Experiential Learner of the Month fellowship awards, you can find out more here. You’ll need to have your guidance counselor or principal nominate you though, so be sure to look into it sooner rather than later.

What to Do Next

Now that you know more about experiential learning at Keuka College, we hope you’ll take the time to browse through our Web site; there’s even more information contained inside.

If you have a question, one of the College’s admissions counselors can help. You can also learn more about Field Period and our unique hands-on approach to learning by requesting information.