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Experiential Learning with VT Chemistry

Preparing graduates for a purpose-driven career and life

The goal of the experiential learning initiative within the Chemistry Department at Virginia Tech is to have every chemistry major participate in a degree-embedded, career-bridge, experiential learning opportunity in one or more of the following areas: undergraduate research, internships, and/or service-learning.  These opportunities will provide students with the ability to apply their learning in authentic, real-world contexts to bridge the transition from undergraduate education to plans after graduation inclusive of career, professional school, and/or graduate school.  

Learning Objectives

  • Translate learning skills (i.e. problem-solving) from an academic environment to a professional setting.
  • Conduct themselves in the experiential learning setting in a professional manner.
  • Develop a professional identity, and reflect on their identity development as an individual and as a representative of Virginia Tech. 
  • Apply academic learning in authentic contexts related to their career plans.

Undergraduate Research
Provides students with authentic research experiences.

Internships
Provide students with direct experience in a work setting.

Service Learning
Experiences beneficial for both students and community.

Partnering offices

Many offices and individuals at Virginia Tech are engaged in the support of student experiential learning.

Undergraduate Research

Learning Objectives for Undergraduate Research

  • Gain experience with the research process
  • Enhance disciplinary knowledge
  • Discover new interests
  • Develop relationships with faculty mentors
  • Develop transferable skills outside the classroom
  • Gain valuable hands-on experience applying learned knowledge to answer real-world questions
  • Prepare for graduate school
  • Explore future career paths

Essential Components for Undergraduate Research

  • A clear purpose and intentional learning outcomes for the student
  • An immersive, transformational experience that will serve as a bridge between the student’s academic experience and future employment in the professional world
  • Involves student agency as opposed to an experience that is mainly orchestrated by a faculty or staff member through a course or other program
  • A supervisor and/or faculty member that the student is accountable to and who can serve as a resource and mentor for the student during the experience
  • A prolonged experience spanning a semester or more that includes:  a) preparation and an orientation for the students; b) support throughout the experience; c) reflection components; and d) a concluding session.
  • An opportunity for students to publicly present about their learning and transformation

Best Practices for Undergraduate Research

  • Must be a project that you identify and coordinate independently with a Virginia Tech faculty member or a faculty member at another institution as your PI (principal investigator).
  • Expectations and responsibilities of the student(s), the faculty mentor, and the PI (if different) should be written out and clear to all persons involved in the project.
  • Must have clearly articulated research questions and methodology.
  • Should stand alone and be independent of research assignments found in regular academic courses (i.e., a course assignment); however, enrollment and course credit through an independent research course is allowed.
  • Faculty mentor should provide the student with relevant and appropriate training to prepare for the research project and an opportunity for the student to intentionally reflect on the experience after.
  • Undergraduate research abroad must follow the Virginia Tech guidelines for study abroad experiences.

Internships

Learning Outcomes for Internships

  • Participate in direct experience in a work setting related to their career interests
  • Become aware of and gain experience in the benefit of supervision and coaching from a professional in their field
  • Improve their disciplinary learning
  • Develop career-ready competencies including leadership, teamwork/collaboration, critical thinking/problem-solving, oral/written communication, professionalism/work ethic, digital technology, career management, and global/intercultural fluency (from National Association of Colleges & Employers)
  • Clarify post-graduation goals

Essential Components for Internships

  • A clear purpose and intentional learning outcomes for the student
  • An immersive, transformational experience that will serve as a bridge between the student’s academic experience and future employment in the professional world
  • Involves student agency as opposed to an experience that is mainly orchestrated by a faculty or staff member through a course or other program
  • A supervisor and/or faculty member that the student is accountable to and who can serve as a resource and mentor for the student during the experience
  • A prolonged experience spanning a semester or more that includes:  a) preparation and an orientation for the students; b) support throughout the experience; c) reflection components; and d) a concluding session.
  • An opportunity for students to publicly present about their learning and transformation

Best Practices for Internships

  • Students are responsible for seeking out and researching opportunities, applying to those opportunities according to employer instruction, and successfully interviewing for and securing an internship with a legitimate organization.
  • The internship may be paid or unpaid.
  • The internship may or may not be credit bearing. Credit bearing internships will require tuition expenses payable by the student intern.
  • Student should have a plan outlining:
    • Their responsibilities at the internship site
    • The timeframe of the internship (start and end date)
    • If the internship will be paid or unpaid and what other benefits are provided with the internship, i.e. housing, travel expenses, etc., a well as any other equipment or special apparel that might be needed for the internship
    • Employer/Research contact information
  • Be sure there is a Partnership Understanding Form of some kind - contact Career & Professional Development for an example.
  • Have a mechanism for the employer to evaluate the student’s performance
  • Students who wish to do an internship abroad must follow the Virginia Tech guidelines for study abroad experiences.

Visit the page below to see internship opportunities specific for chemistry majors.

Service Learning

Learning Outcomes for Service Learning

  • Articulate the social issues relevant to the service learning including their scope, any underlying challenges, the resources needed, and the cultures of the communities these issues and initiatives commonly affect
  • Analyze issues of power and privilege relevant to the service learning
  • Demonstrate your reflection on the service learning’s impact in the community from multiple perspectives
  • Develop the following leadership competencies: reflection, application, social justices, social responsibility, systems thinking, and responding to ambiguity.
  • Compare and contrast experiences in the classroom and in the community
  • Apply classroom and community learning to their future profession.

Essential Components of Service Learning

  • A clear purpose and intentional learning outcomes for the student
  • An immersive, transformational experience that will serve as a bridge between the student’s academic experience and future employment in the professional world
  • Involves student agency as opposed to an experience that is mainly orchestrated by a faculty or staff member through a course or other program
  • A supervisor and/or faculty member that the student is accountable to and who can serve as a resource and mentor for the student during the experience
  • A prolonged experience spanning a semester or more that includes:  a) preparation and an orientation for the students; b) support throughout the experience; c) reflection components; and d) a concluding session.
  • An opportunity for students to publicly present about their learning and transformation.

Best Practices for Service Learning

  • Expectations and responsibilities of the students, faculty/staff mentors, instructors, and the community partner should be written out and clear to all persons involved.
  • Students should partner with a community, nonprofit, or other organization to address an identified need as well as provide them with professional skill development needed for their future career.
  • The community partner needs to provide an orientation for the student before the service experience begins.
  • The service opportunity ideally lasts for a semester or more with the student spending at least 20 - 30 hours at the service site each week
  • The structure of the experience should provide opportunities for the student to understand the issues, resources, assets, and cultures of a community
  • Reflection and analysis of the connection between the student’s academic pursuits and the service being performed should be built into the program before, during, and after the service experience, including a time to share reflections during the class component of the project.
  • Students who wish to do service learning abroad must follow the Virginia Tech guidelines for study abroad experiences.

Contact Our Team

Amy Kokkinakos

Program Advisor
amyk@vt.edu
540-231-4239

Joseph Merola

Professor
jmerola@vt.edu
540-231-5410

Amanda Morris

Professor & Associate Chair
ajmorris@vt.edu
540-231-5585