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Re-Thinking the Classroom-Only University

With the current economy, students graduating from college must have some work experience under their belts. Some universities, like Northeastern, are incorporating internships or volunteering as part of the curriculum.

Photo of Mira Rao
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In this economy, a student is at a serious disadvantage if they are graduating from college with no work experience.  Some universities have a "field study" option or certain programs may have work experience components.  However, this is usually considered of secondary importance to classroom education and grades.  

Some universities are incorporating work experience as a mandatory part of the curriculum.  

Take Northeastern University's model of " Experiential Learning". Most students take 5 years to graduate, and are required to spend several semesters in an internship or volunteer job.  They are encouraged to collaborate on projects with other students and to jumpstart companies and pilot projects.

This is a great example of the future of education.  It is critical in this global competitive environment to incorporate concrete skills and tangible experience with traditional classroom- and book-based education.


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Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Excellent point! I think it is crucial. I learnt recently that we have an internship course in our department but most of the faculty did not know about it. I was told that only few students take it. I mentioned it to some students and none knew about it.
I think that this highlights the point you made which is even when such programs exist (even in a more developed stage as in my department), it's often not very highly seen - both by students and faculty.
There is therefore some work to do about mindset and communication.
You also make an interesting point about graduating in 5 years. I heard many students talking about the time needed to graduate and they tend to take the fast track. I know that the cost of studies is a big issue, but is there a way to develop these programs so that students can get some financial help. Moreover, it could be that the extra year of studies allowed those who "took the time" to volunteer, participate in extra curricular activities and do internships, will end up with better jobs, or even just finding a job. I tend to think it's the case but I have no data to back up this claim.

Photo of Mira Rao

You make some really great points! In my undergraduate study, my program incorporated a mandatory 6-month field study where I gained incredibly valuable experience. But that was just a tiny program within the university (and has since been cut due to budget issues). I think it's laudable that some universities are putting experience at the forefront of the students' education.