At Keuka College, experiential learning is a core focus and the 140-hour annual Field Period internship is one of the primary arenas where hands-on learning comes into play.
Each year, one freshman and one upperclassman earns Experiential Learner of the Year honors for demonstrating initiative, development of a broad and varied portfolio of work, and personal reflection on the skills learned during the Field Period experience.
The six nominees for 2012 were nominated by academic advisers, created a portfolio of work in essays, photographs and other media, and were honored at a luncheon April 27. During the May 5 Honors Convocation ceremony, the winners were named: freshman Lelia Torres of Stockton and sophomore Sarah Marquart of Auburn.
Torres’s first-time Field Period experience was quite a coup, as she was the first freshman from any college or university to land a Field Period internship with the Chautauqua County Office of Probation (CCOP).
In Torres’ own words, she learned more than just procedures and rules of probation, she gleaned knowledge of the roles of related court systems, police and the district attorney. She also discovered a preference for work with adults, rather than juveniles.
The criminal justice major attended a number of court sessions; assisted officers in home, agency, office, and jail visits; participated in pre-sentencing investigations; and helped collect DNA. CCOP Officer Lisa Van Vlack, who supervised Torres on the job, praised Torres for her willingness to complete tasks that many people find uncomfortable, including collecting and testing urine samples and visiting homes in deplorable condition.
Nominated by Tim Bower, visiting assistant professor of sociology, Torres was praised for taking advantage of hands-on learning opportunities such as Field Period to enrich her understanding of academic content, and serving as a model student in adopting and adapting to an experiential method of learning.
At the Seward House Museum in Marquart’s hometown of Auburn, the sophomore English major used her January Field Period to rewrite the entire museum tour to reflect the voice of Fanny Seward, youngest daughter of William Seward, who served as secretary of state under President Lincoln.
Marquart found eight years of diary entries kept by Fanny from 1858-1865 documenting life growing up in Auburn, her father’s political career, Fanny’s beliefs and values, and her observations on everything from the Civil War, to the evils of slavery, and the assassination attempt on her father’s life. Marquart used the diaries as the basis of a new tour of the Seward House, one which would interest children as well as adults.
Rather than reciting details about artifacts in various rooms, Marquart said she “chose to use each room as a backdrop for what Fanny was writing about at the time in her diary.”
According to Jennie Joiner, assistant professor of English, who nominated Marquart for the honor, Marquart created an inventive and interesting way of meeting a need for the museum. It would appear others agree, since Marquart was also invited to share her experiences in a fifth grade classroom at Penn Yan Elementary School and informed that the Shakesperience Theatre Company in Syracuse wants to turn her rewritten tour into an off-Broadway play.
While Marquart gained skills in artifact preservation, organization and museum curating, she said she never expected her work “to result in opportunities on the stage, in the classroom, and in the museum itself.”