Thomas Edison, the prolific American inventor and businessman, was not only known for his famous inventions (the phonograph, the motion picture camera and the light bulb), but also for his many inspiring adages that reflected his curiosity, determination, and willingness to experiment widely (often without expectation of immediate positive outcomes).
Here are some quotations from Edison which express these values:
“Surprises and reverses can serve as an incentive for great accomplishment. There are no rules here, we’re just trying to accomplish something.”
“I readily absorb ideas from every source, frequently starting where the last person left off.”
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. Accordingly, a genius is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.”
Indeed, Edison was fond of the concept of experiential learning and embodied the spirit of someone willing to apply his emergent skills and expertise toward multiple creative enterprises. He didn’t wait for perfect conditions, he just launched into his work (often for 18 hours a day with a few cat naps).
Luckily, unlike some of Edison’s more complex inventions, experiential learning is actually a simple idea that savvy UMBC students can benefit from even as early as their freshman year. The main point of experiential learning is to apply what you have learned in the classroom in “real world” settings. Simple enough- - right?
Sometimes students wait until their junior and senior years to pursue more formal versions of experiential learning (via internships and co-op). In actuality, forward-thinking students can begin applying what they know and what they can do much, much earlier.
Here is an example and some ideas:
Let’s say you are a freshman English major and love to write. Someday, you hope to write for a living but are not exactly sure how and in what specific career field.
Starting TODAY – you could:
• Contact fellow students at The Retriever Weekly – UMBC’s student newspaper--and ask about becoming a reporter and writing articles and getting published. With actual writing examples in your start-up portfolio and your resume reflecting “writing for real audiences” in your freshman year, you would be off to a good start!
• Create and contribute original writing though a submission to Bartleby– UMBC’s Creative Arts Journal. Perhaps along with making a submission, you might also check out some of the staff positions available for students with interests in writing and the arts. Once again, experience writing, editing and publishing is right here on campus – within reach and available for students with initiative (like you).
• Consider becoming a blogger for the UMBC “USDemocrazy” blog that produces pithy and witty commentary on public affairs for the high school set. That is not only experiential learning, but one of the most fun jobs on campus.
• Practice writing for the web by signing up to be the Webmaster for a major campus organization or find a campus job that includes website writing.
• Serve in one of a dozen school-and community-based settings where you can strengthen the writing and reading skills of a young person. You would also deepen your understanding of educational achievement gaps and your own sense of self through a variety of written reflective activities (e.g., journaling, goal and expectation-setting). For more details, visit the Shriver Center website.
Finding ways to apply “classroom knowledge” in real world ways, UMBC students develop characteristics and skills which future employers and graduate schools absolutely love! Here are just a few examples of what you gain by completing experiential learning activities:
• You’ll prove you can take initiative.
• You’ll prove that you can successfully apply for positions and get hired to do things.
• You’ll work with others to help an organization serve its customers or constituents.
• You’ll establish working relationships with colleagues and supervisors.
• You’ll produce examples of work, skills and outcomes that can be presented with pride on resumes, cover letters, applications and described in interviews. (Congratulations!)
Getting involved and taking action within the experiential learning arena helps students to build career momentum and provides you with immediate feedback on your short and long term career goals and objectives. Part-time jobs, volunteering, job-shadowing, and other creative ways to explore majors and careers “experientially” are all recommended and can be discussed further with your academic advisor or a career counselor in the Career Services Center.
EXTRA-CREDIT DISCUSSION QUESTION:
What experiential learning opportunities are you planning to take advantage of this Spring & Summer?