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K-State Today

January 19, 2024

Community visit spotlight: Applied learning experiences prepare students for the future

Submitted by Adelaide Easter

K-State and Iola community members gather at Allen Community College to brainstorm key components of student engagement. This event, part of the Allen County community visit, highlighted how higher education institutions can better prepare students in their future careers through applied learning experiences.

Teachers and students find that getting out of the classroom allows students to better understand concepts they are learning. While traditional classroom settings are essential for building the foundation of knowledge, applied learning is what truly prepares students for the future. 

During the recent Allen County regional community visit, Kansas State University partnered with Allen Community College, or ACC, for a discussion to highlight how applied learning experiences prepare students with critical thinking abilities and practical skills. The event also led to discussions of future ideas for collaboration.  

 At the event, Nancy Ford, ACC internship coordinator and digital media technology director, described how she saw an opportunity for her marketing students to practice applied learning when a new local elementary school was being constructed. Students created and implemented branding strategies for the fundraising events. Through this work, Iola Elementary School raised more than $32,000. Opportunities such as these provide students with real-life training to prepare them for a career after college, Ford said. 

Ryan Bilderback, ACC leadership studies instructor, said that student engagement experiences were integral to higher education. 

"Being able to take the learning outside of the classroom and apply it to a tangible, hands-on opportunity only adds value to the overall educational experience," Bilderback said. "Our vision statement at Allen includes 'supporting students to become productive members of a global community.' We cannot effectively do that without student engagement."  

Bilderback also sees the importance of community involvement within student engagement. 

"Working toward making these experiences meaningful and impactful for both parties involved will create a positive experience for both the community and student," Bilderback said.   

Kait Long, Staley School of Leadership director of advancement and administration, was a featured speaker at the event. She described how applied learning experiences foster the development of important skills and positive attitudes toward a student's area of work and the community. 

"Students should see the value in what they are doing, and communities should see the value in the student," Long said.  

Jenna Wallace, K-State junior in agricultural economics and global food systems leadership, spoke at the event about opportunities she has found through the Food Security Scholars and the International Service Teams programs in the Staley School of Leadership.  
"To me, applied learning is experiential and often interdisciplinary," Wallace said. "These types of applications allow students to build on and demonstrate their knowledge while gaining necessary context and skills for their future careers." 

Food Security Scholars is a student-led organization working to fight the cycle of food insecurity and hunger in our communities and International Service Teams is a program that allows students to exercise leadership and serve abroad.  

The regional community visit allowed for further discussion as to how higher educational institutions can work together to offer applied learning experiences. 
"There is a lot of strong, engaged learning happening at both K-State and Allen County," Long said. "We hope to continue discussions around collaboration to provide applied learning opportunities for all students."  

Explore K-State's regional community visits and engagement partnerships through our StoryMap or find complete information about regional community visits. K-State faculty, staff or students who are interested or currently immersed in university-community engagement work can contact the Office of Engagement for opportunities to begin or grow scholarly work. 
This article was written by Adelaide Easter, junior in agricultural economics and global food systems leadership with minors in leadership and international agriculture. Easter serves as the intern and Connected 'Cat for K-State's regional community visits. 

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