News Releases

Lander experiential learning program cited as best in the nation

September 27, 2010

Dr. Colbert and Dr. McKenzie

Dr. James Colbert, left, assistant professor of chemistry and director of Lander University's Experience Your Education program (EYE), and Dr. Danny McKenzie, vice president for Academic Affairs, discuss the national award EYE has received as the 2010 Experiential Education Program of the Year.

A program that Lander University introduced less than two years ago to help students apply their classroom learning to real world settings has won a national award.

The National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE) has selected Lander's Experience Your Education program (EYE) as the Experiential Education Program of the Year. An organization of educators, businesses and community leaders, NSEE serves as a national resource center for the development and improvement of such experiential learning.

Dr. James Colbert, assistant professor of biochemistry and the director of Lander's program, said the award is a tremendous accomplishment for the university. "A lot of faculty, staff, students and community members had input into EYE. It was a joint effort that produced a very carefully designed program to place students in authentic settings where they can apply their classroom learning."

University president Daniel Ball said, "Winning a national award as the best of anything is prestigious. It is even more gratifying to win an award for the EYE program which demonstrates Lander's commitment to preparing our students to enter the workforce."

Experiential learning has been a key component of academics at Lander for many years. Students are given opportunities for internships, co-ops, service learning, course embedded projects and study abroad experiences.

Danny McKenzie, Lander's provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, and one of the architects of the EYE program, pointed to a recent study as showing the success of the university's experiential learning opportunities. The 2010 National Survey of Student Engagement reports that graduating seniors participated in "educationally enriching activities" at Lander at a significantly higher level than peer institutions, many of which have larger student enrollments.

According to McKenzie, the survey indicates that 70 percent of Lander seniors completed practicums, internships, co-ops, clinicals or other field experiences. That compares to a rate of 45 percent at peer institutions.

Colbert said EYE is designed to engage more students in those activities while evaluating their performance based on standards set by the faculty and which reflect the needs of employers.

The blueprint for Experience Your Education was developed in 2005 as the quality enhancement plan requirement for Lander's 10-year reaccreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges. The plan was presented to the association in 2007 and the first activities were implemented in the spring of 2009, the year after Colbert was appointed director.

Since the program was introduced, 18 faculty members have obtained approval for 28 individual EYE courses and activities. The program is now tracking data related to the 402 students who have completed over 650 courses and activities.

In December of 2009, Golden EYE awards were presented to 10 students who had earned 120 EYE credits. In May of this year, 34 students earned the award.

Colbert said the program differentiates Lander students enrolled in it from classmates who are not, and that it is an impressive addition to their resumes. Some graduates who completed EYE internships have accepted jobs after graduation at the companies where they interned.

In notifying Colbert that EYE had won the award, Molly Hayes Sauder, an NSEE board member and awards co-chair, said, "The information in your nomination was very impressive and we were very excited to choose your program as this year's winner."

The award will be presented at NSEE's annual conference in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 8. Colbert and McKenzie will make a presentation describing the program and its outcomes at a workshop during the conference. Three Lander faculty members will also attend to participate in a panel discussion on their experiences with EYE.