UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

UND celebrates opening of Experiential Learning Center

Center will offer ‘hands-on learning’ experiences that can boost students’ job prospects after graduation

ELC ribbon cutting
Chelsea Mellenthin, director for Career Engagement, left, cutting the ribbon, Liam Ghahreman, a UND Biology major, Lavinia Iancu, director of the Forensic Science Program and UND Provost Eric Link cut the ribbon marking the opening of the Experiential Learning center. Photo by Adam Kurtz/UND Today.

Following opening remarks, University administrators, faculty and staff members, and students gathered in McCannel Hall on Friday, Oct. 6, to cut the ceremonial ribbon officially opening the UND Experiential Learning Center (ELC).

Located on the ground floor of McCannel Hall, the ELC is the University’s latest endeavor to expand experiential learning opportunities for UND students. Within the ELC, students can discover opportunities to engage in undergraduate research, service learning, study abroad and applied learning experiences such as internships, co-ops, and the ability to apply learning from the classroom to a real-world setting.

Experiential learning is the process where students “learn by doing,” which is a strategic priority of the UND LEADS Strategic Plan. Hands-on learning opportunities help promote a culture of exploration, discovery and real-life problem solving, which in turn can lead to enhanced career opportunities.

UND Provost Eric Link, who spoke at Friday’s event and helped cut the ceremonial ribbon inaugurating the center, drew comparisons between the ELC and the Association of American Colleges and Universities’ LEAP initiative, which developed a set of criteria to assess learning outcomes that prepare students for twenty-first-century challenges. Those criteria, Link said, are deeply rooted in experiential learning opportunities.

“We are here today to celebrate the opening of a center that is dedicated to those principles, that is dedicated to providing an opportunity for every single student on this campus at whatever level they may be … to come to a place where students can get advice and mentoring and guidance, all the while getting great counseling from everyone in the counseling center about how to build toward career readiness after they get their degree,” Link said.

Lavinia Iancu, director of the Forensic Science Program, said she adopts principles of experiential learning into her courses by incorporating opportunities for research. Beginning with reading scientific papers, Iancu said she extends the principle of experiential learning from field and lab work to writing and presentation, to ensure her students are well-prepared for professional duties after graduation.

“I think research provides undergraduate students with knowledge, experience, and empowerment, that will help them to overcome difficulties after graduation and have better opportunities to get hired,” she said.

Iancu, who attended the event in laboratory clothes along with a class of her senior students also similarly garbed, drew a few laughs when she apologized for their informal dress.

“We are in the middle of class so that explains this attire!” she said.

Information about career services internships, career fairs and more can be found on the ELC’s website. Employers seeking interns or wishing to set up co-ops (generally treated as full-scale work experiences) can also find the relevant information on the website.

Chelsea Mellenthin, director for Career Engagement, thanked everyone involved with organizing and developing the ELC, as well as the crowd of people gathered in the center’s atrium in McCannel Hall. She said the skills students can receive by engaging with center will provide students with a better understanding of their course material, as well as a deeper appreciation of collaborating with diverse groups of people and organizations, all of which will serve them well in their future careers.

“We look forward to collaborating with faculty and with staff to promote these opportunities to students and make it easier for our students to engage with our industry, government and workforce partners,” she said.

Liam Ghahreman, a UND Biology major, also spoke at the event. Ghahreman, who studied abroad for a semester in France, encouraged students to consider similar opportunities, and the “transformative power” they hold. Of his experience, he said it forever altered his perspective and instilled in him a continuing thirst for knowledge. He encouraged the students in attendance to seek out similar opportunities, and to overcome any cultural differences they may encounter. Those differences, he said, are part of the journey.

“My experience in France with, its trials and tribulations, honed my resilience and deepened my appreciation for these cultural differences,” he said. “These qualities, highly sought after in the contemporary workforce, were the true treasures of my journey.”

More information about the ELC can be found on the center’s website. For any questions about the center, people may contact Chelsea Mellenthin, director of Career Engagement at chelsea.mellenthin@und.edu or 701.777.2117.

forensic science group photo
Lavinia Iancu, director of the Forensic Science Program, front row, second from the right, attends the opening of the Experiential Learning Center with her senior students. Photo by Adam Kurtz/UND Today.