Backpack to Briefcase: The Importance of Experiential Learning

Hands on learning is often preached in disciplines such as chemistry, in which students perform several lab experiments. How could you experience hands on learning in other subjects though?

With the help of Jenna DellOrfano, Assistant Director of Experiential Education & Employer Outreach at the Clay Center in the Villanova School of Business, this blog post will illuminate hands-on learning as part of the curriculum in VSB. Recently, I attended the Experiential Education Basics Session, led by Ms. DellOrfano, which covered three main types of hands on learning as part of the business curriculum: externships, Co-Ops, and internships.

We will start with Externships, the lowest level of commitment. Because of this low level of commitment, the school of business offers no academic credit for an externship. An Externship is usually only a few days, on-site with the employer. These experiences expose the participants to multiple facets of the business. Typically, these programs include office tours, team-building activities and networking opportunities. If you would like more information on externship programs, visit this link.

After an externship, a company may offer an internship to select students. An internship is an experience in which a student effectively works at a company for a couple of months. Like an externship, an internship allows students to network, experience the organizational culture, and become acclimated with potential career paths. Sometimes, an internship can lead to an offer of a full-time job for a student. Unlike externships, internships can also result in academic credit!

Another interesting internship opportunity at Villanova is the Spring Accounting Internship Program. The program involves working full time at an accounting firm during the spring semester, accounting’s “busy season.” Of course, students who participate in this program cannot take classes in the spring. To make up for lost time, these students can take up to 12 credits during the summer to recoup their losses and remain on track to graduate in four years. As with other internships, the Spring Accounting Internship Program often leads to full-time job offers for the students involved.

Finally, Jenna spoke about Co-Op programs. A Co-Op is a six-month long program during which a student works full-time for the organization. A Co-Op grants six academic credits, which helps the students stay on schedule to graduate in four years. Furthermore, Co-Ops give students a competitive salary. Often, participating in a Co-Op results in priority consideration for full-time employment upon graduation. Villanova offers Co-Ops with nine different organizations, including Johnson and Johnson, Lincoln Financial Group, Morgan Stanley, and SAP.

Not only does participation in an Experiential Learning program give you hands on experience, networking opportunities, and sometimes academic credit, often times it can lead directly to full-time employment. If any of these opportunities interest you, you should visit the Clay Center, whether in person or via the website. Employers today look to target students early through externships. Once students have entered a company’s “pipeline,” they can often move from externship to internship to career if they wish. For all of these reasons, Villanova encourages Experiential Education, and so does Jenna DellOrfano.

Martin Manion

VSB 1015-H01 Borden

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