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Experiential education produces exponential benefits

by Karmen Dowling | December 22, 2010

Experiential education produces exponential benefits
Sylvia Broschinski helps build a Habitat for Humanity home in New Orleans during Western’s Alternative Spring Break program in 2010.

“I experienced the power of community - of people coming together no matter what race, genger or religion and helping each other rebuild after a disaster.”

This is a lesson fourth-year Engineering/Business student Sylvia Broschinski says she learned and can apply right here at home, thanks to the RBC Foundation.

In September 2009, RBC Foundation donated $2 million to Western in support of the Community Service Learning program facilitated through Western, Richard Ivey School of Business and Huron University College. Broschinski was one of 24 students in 2010 who received financial assistance through the RBC gift to allow them to participate in Western’s Alternative Spring Break program.

“I had the opportunity to experience a new culture and take part in building a community,” says Broschinski, who travelled to New Orleans to build homes with Habitat for Humanity. “Everyone was so willing to learn new skills on the construction site as well as cheer on each other. I am a civil engineering student and plan to focus on environmental engineering and design against natural phenomena. My time in New Orleans was directly applicable to my area of study.”

After graduation, Broschinski hopes to travel to areas of the world prone to natural disasters and be part of building and infrastructure design to withstand nature’s forces.

Broschinski grew up on a farm in Princeton, Ontario with her four siblings. At a young age she set her sights on attending university and started working on a nearby farm at the age of 12 to save money for her education. She is grateful the RBC donation allows students, who would otherwise not be able to take part in experiential education, to step outside the classroom and into the world.

“Service learning is an unforgettable hands-on education and a very effective teacher. The community benefits from the service and students benefit from the learning received. RBC and Western have recognized this value and I encourage them to continue supporting inspired students who want to experience what the world has to offer.”

Stephanie Hayne, Experiential Education Coordinator in Western’s Student Success Centre, says students are looking for ways to make meaning of their academic knowledge in a ‘real world’ capacity. Community Service Learning allows students to connect classroom learning to community needs.

In 2009-2010, the RBC gift also provided 11 students with International Community Service Learning Course Based Bursaries. Hayne notes the impact of RBC’s gift will expand

in years to come, allowing Western’s Community Service Learning program to:

  • Expand across all faculties
  • Establish a Community Partner grant program that will provide funding to community agencies in London who partner on these projects with faculty and students
  • Increase numbers of students engaged inside and outside the classroom
  • Provide assistance for students in financial need who wantto participate in international Community Service Learning

Hayne adds that Community Service Learning builds a bridge between the University and the community, and can lead to many collaborations, including community-based research.

This article appeared in the Winter 2010 edition of Impact Western
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