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Mercyhurst guarantees hands-on learning

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Long before it became popular, hospitality students at Mercyhurst University were preparing meals at Lake View Country Club, intelligence studies students were tweeting reports of local criminal activity for the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, forensics students were uncovering human remains from suspected crime scenes and political science students were conducting public opinion polls – this was hands-on learning at its best and Mercyhurst was among the frontrunners.

Now, Mercyhurst is taking that longstanding commitment to its students one step further. With the kickoff of a new initiative – “Get the Experience. Guaranteed.” – Mercyhurst guarantees that every student in every major will receive real-world, outside-the-classroom experience as part of their degree. Providing this “deeper learning” – a combination of fundamental knowledge and practical skills –  is intended to give Mercyhurst students the edge they need to succeed.

The goal of the new guarantee is to take what many universities have in the past made voluntary and incorporate it into the curriculum of all 57 undergraduate majors, 26 associate degree and 10 graduate degree programs. So even in disciplines that may appear to have less obvious experiential opportunities, the guarantee applies. A religious studies major, for instance, could move outside the classroom to gather data for a study on “Religion and Violence” in today’s world; an English major could assist a local nonprofit agency with professional writing projects; and a psychology major could produce original research and present the findings at a national conference.

All of these hands-on or applied learning opportunities, which Mercyhurst calls capstone experiences, have been designed by university professors and are an intrinsic part of every discipline at Mercyhurst’s Erie, North East and Corry campuses. The guarantee is effective for every incoming student, including those who started this past fall.

If for any reason a student does not have a capstone experience incorporated into their academic program by the end of their senior year, the university will provide one free of charge to be taken during the January term or pre-summer term.

“Mercyhurst recognizes that prospective students and their parents are increasingly concerned about getting a return on their tuition investment,” said Mercyhurst President Thomas J. Gamble, Ph.D. “We believe that providing our students with practical, professional experience will better equip them to secure jobs in today’s highly competitive market, make progress in their careers or continue their education after graduation.”

As part of this commitment, Mercyhurst aims to increase internship opportunities – often the primary way for students to gain professional experience, and more essential than ever in today’s economy. Employers are no longer impressed simply with a good GPA; they want to see relevant experience and demonstrated skills as well.

Gamble said employers are looking for leaders, problem-solvers, strong communicators, thinkers and hard workers. That’s why engaged learning isn’t just a token phenomenon. It’s become a national movement and, once again, Mercyhurst is taking charge by saying: “Get the Experience. Guaranteed.”