University of Vermont

Office of Experiential Learning Update - May 2014

First place in OEL photo contest by Zack Maisch
First place in OEL photo contest by Zack Maisch

On May 6th about 20 of our community partners for the 2013-14 academic year gathered with several faculty and Interim Dean Jon Erickson to celebrate experiential learning in the Rubenstein School. The highlight of our 2nd Annual Community Partner Reception was hearing from our partners about their sense of pride in being involved with the broad scope of experiential learning happening in the Rubenstein School. With 30 Service Learning classes, and 900+ engaged students, folks appreciated being part of something big and impactful.

Carey Hengstenberg, of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Waste Management Division, summed it up well in thanking her faculty partner, Professor Breck Bowden, “for the opportunity to participate.” She remarked, “I am looking forward to reviewing the reports and the flashy landfill calculator [the students created]! It was easy and enjoyable to work with both you and Joan [the course TA]. Your course was very well organized and I was impressed by the level of understanding about the issues the students developed in such a short period of time. I hope we can do this again next year.” Their project, looking at the risks and opportunities associated with 58 closed landfills in Vermont, was just one of some 59 different service learning projects happening this spring.

Additionally, this spring saw 15+ students participating in credit bearing internship and/or research experiences; with 25 more signed up for summer internships. But perhaps most notable is that in our 3rd year of the summer Rubenstein School Perennial Internship Program the program grew from 6 placements last summer to 22 placements for summer 2014! A huge kudos to Anna Smiles-Becker for her tireless work coordinating the placements and to Jon Erickson for his successful fundraising to match, dollar for dollar, the stipends for these 22 outstanding students.

Finally, we’d like to celebrate the winners of the Annual Rubenstein Experiential Learning Photo Contest—congrats to:

Zack Maisch, a senior Wildlife Biology Major, for his entry “Nature at its core” depicting an Osprey with a large fish he caught and a disapproving Pileated Woodpecker watching him devour it. “Throughout my experience as a RSENR student I’ve been lucky enough to have some amazing opportunities to travel all over… to explore nature at its core,” writes Zach, “and hope that my wildlife photography will help to inspire those after me to do the same!"

Kyle Nolting, a senior Environmental Studies Major, for his entry “You need to BELIZE it to BELIEVE it” a striking shot of the carcass of a puma in the tropical rainforest Belize. This and other tracking data of the elusive jaguar collected on his trip are helping to foster a growing interest in efforts to conserve this countries apex predator. Of this experience Kyle reflects: “This was one of those moments that clicked for me, where I told myself ‘this is why I study the environment and this is why I go to UVM."

Brooke Tashjian, a senior Wildlife Biology Major, for her entry: “Expect the unexpected” featuring Kimi, the Namibian baboon, who gave Brooke “something to protect, [while] Rubenstein provided me with the knowledge to do so."