Experiential Learning & Regional Service
(Led by Mark Okrant and Thad Guldbrandsen)
The university motto, Ut Prosim “That I May Serve,” underscores the values upon which the Plymouth State University mission is built.
Learning and community service go hand-in-hand. That is a core value at Plymouth State University, where student learning is active, experiential, and grounded in real-world concerns. Experiential learning is a prominent part of our curriculum in many fields, such as Adventure Education, Tourism Management and Policy, Health and Human Performance, and Environmental Science and Policy. Our teacher education program prepares teachers for implementing engaged learning for K-12 students across New Hampshire and beyond. Courses apply student learning to real-world situations, and our student body is involved in a wide range of activities, including community service programs. Learning at PSU is not limited to the classroom.
One example of the way that PSU integrates learning, research, and service is our interdisciplinary Community Research Experience course. Acting as a “problem-solving think tank” and a “consulting firm,” students working under faculty direction take on jobs on behalf of off-campus “clients.” Student teams have consulted on behalf of farmers, businesses, and community organizations. This semester, students are working on behalf of: The BALSAMS to conduct a “rural impact assessment” of a proposed North Country Film Festival, the Coos Community Benefits Alliance to better understand issues concerned with building major public infrastructure projects in rural communities, the Remick Museum to create educational content based on the Museum’s forest management plan, and businesses in the town of Henniker, who want to better understand their opportunities for ecotourism.
This single example of experiential learning and regional service highlights the way we integrate teaching, service, and learning in ways that provide innovative outcomes for our students and off-campus partners.
Overview of the Seminar:
Co-taught by Mark Okrant and Thaddeus Guldbrandsen, Community Research Experience is a hands-on learning opportunity for advanced undergraduate and graduate students to take on real community development projects on behalf of off-campus partners. Students from different majors across Plymouth State University’s campus take on interdisciplinary projects on the topics of tourism development, environmental sustainability, community development, cultural heritage, and more. Building on their classroom learning at PSU, students in the Community Research Experience class receive focused training in applied research, team-based problem solving, and professional communications. Each week, students meet in seminar that operates as a quasi-consulting firm and think tank, while student teams work in collaboration with off-campus “clients” (nonprofit organizations, community groups, government agencies, private companies, etc.) to conduct research, craft educational materials, or address a problem of regional concern.