Men in Lab

From students in City Tech’s hospitality management program running an entire dining experience, to Guttman Community College students traveling to Ecuador with faculty to study deforestation efforts in the Itapoa Reserve, experiential learning opportunities (ELO) are an important and growing part of a CUNY education. Across every college and borough, students are engaging in high impact learning activities that enhance their academic experience and put them in contact with New York City communities and professionals in their disciplines—ranging from hands-on internships and cutting-edge scientific research initiatives, to large-scale community service projects and course assignments that take students out of the classroom and into museums, theatres, and the natural environment, just to name a few examples.

Driven by a legislative provision in Governor Cuomo’s 2015 Executive Budget, CUNY is working to integrate more of these activities into the university’s curricular and extracurricular offerings. Last year, a task force of college presidents, faculty members, students, and administrators with backgrounds in experiential learning worked to create a plan for expanding the scope, quality, and tracking of ELO. A Plan for Experiential Learning reflects this year-long, university-wide inquiry into the broad spectrum of current offerings and the possibilities for improvement. It highlights exemplary models and best practices, describes different approaches and processes at the various CUNY colleges, and charts a course for building upon existing innovation and infrastructure to better serve students, the city, and the state.

View A Plan for Experiential Learning to learn more about how CUNY will increase ELO availability for students, create more inroads for faculty engagement, and strengthen ties with industry sectors.

Defining ELO at CUNY

At CUNY, experiential and applied learning opportunities should be a transformational component of the undergraduate experience. Educational research indicates that high-impact practices that take ideas and concepts beyond the classroom can increase rates of student retention and student engagement, and can be beneficial in shaping their longer-term personal development as critical and creative thinkers. These practices, known at CUNY as Experiential Learning Opportunities (ELO), take many different forms, all of which allow “learners to have direct experience and focused reflection in order to increase knowledge, develop skills, clarify values, and develop individual capacity to contribute to their communities.”(Association for Experiential Education)

Below are CUNY’s categorical definitions of ELO, which are necessarily broad, given the distinct priorities and strengths of its various colleges and the wide spectrum of students they serve.

Academic programs integrating classroom learning and productive work experience in a field related to a student’s academic and career goals. Formal internships provide students with learning experiences integrating theory and practice. As an academic program, it serves as a partnership among students, education institutions, and employers. Includes remuneration.

Academic programs integrating classroom learning and productive work experience in a field related to a student’s academic and career goals. Formal internships provide students with learning experiences integrating theory and practice. As an academic program, it serves as a partnership among students, education institutions, and employers. Does not include remuneration.

An independent internship is a form of ELO that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Independent internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths, give employers the opportunity to guide, and evaluate talent. Includes remuneration. Could be college- or university-sponsored.

An independent internship is a form of ELO that integrates knowledge and theory learned in the classroom with practical application and skills development in a professional setting. Independent internships give students the opportunity to gain valuable applied experience and make connections in professional fields they are considering for career paths, give employers the opportunity to guide, and evaluate talent. Does not include remuneration. Could be college- or university-sponsored.

Formally recognized as an academic program integrating classroom learning and productive paid work experiences in a field related to a student’s academic and career goals. Co-op provides students with progressive learning experiences integrating theory and practice and serves as a partnership among students, educational institutions, and employers. This type of education is directly tied to a career and is always paid.

Ongoing and sustained volunteerism, service learning, and/or community service performed by students to enrich the learning experience and strengthen communities. This may include structured projects (days of service), smaller group projects, fund-raising events, or individual volunteerism, which is acknowledged by the campus.

Practicum describes instruction in a supervised clinical/medical, social work or school (student teacher) setting where students have an opportunity to apply the theoretical knowledge they have acquired.

Mentored, self-directed work that enables students to make an original, intellectual, or creative contribution to the discipline by exploring an issue of interest to them and communicating the results to others. The projects have inquiry, design, investigation, discovery and application.

Productive work experience that serves the campus community by supporting the academic success of other students, the governance of campus life and student affairs through leadership, or campus operations through specialized skills acquired through formal training and in a paraprofessional capacity.

A teaching and learning focus on educating students as citizens. Classes or programs include meaningful civic education and activities for social good. Classes and projects have components of reflection and engagement.

Experiential learning opportunities for matriculated students while abroad, including internships, cooperative education, service learning/community service, clinical preparation/practicum, research/field study, campus- or university-based work and/or leadership, and civic engagement opportunities.