Academic journal article Peer Review

Learning by Doing: The Wagner Plan from Classroom to Career

Academic journal article Peer Review

Learning by Doing: The Wagner Plan from Classroom to Career

Article excerpt

In September 2009, faculty, students, staff, and administrators at Wagner College gathered for a two-day symposium to revisit the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts. Implemented in 1998, The Wagner Plan provides a curricular and campuswide framework for all institutional activities focusing on Wagner s core mission and values. Since its inception, the Wagner Plan has grown and evolved, so campus leaders designed the 2009 symposium to review its development. Recognizing the need to include a wide variety of stakeholders in the conversation, the symposium brought together faculty, students, staff, and administrators to discuss the plan's past and to begin developing its next iteration: The Wagner Plan 2.0.

One of the insights that came out of the symposium was a recognition of how well faculty and staff have been working together to provide true support and mentoring for our students' career development. As a result of the symposium, the Career Development staff began to explore how the Wagner Plan reinforces our objectives of preparing students for their eventual careers, what we can learn from our students in order to improve our services and, given current economic conditions, what new efforts will be required to enhance our students' ability to discover their life's work.

Located on Staten Island, Wagner College's proximity to Manhattan has been a long-standing attraction for students interested in research, community service, and internships. Capitalizing on location and placing a premium on "Learning by Doing," the Wagner Plan integrates several high-impact educational practices into a robust curriculum: learning communities for first-year, intermediate, and senior students; experiential learning in various forms, including service learning, practica, internships, and community based research; and reflective tutorials (RFTs), where students use structured reflection to amplify and connect the learning experience.

The Wagner Plan provides students with a solid foundation for becoming lifelong learners and active members of their professional communities. First-year students participate in a First-Year Learning Community, a set of three courses linked by a common theme. Faculty incorporate a thirty-hour experiential learning component that engages the students in the local community through research and service or field trips, and orients students to New York City's many resources. The Intermediate Learning Community (ILC) encourages students to make connections between different disciplines. Two courses are combined to challenge students to increase their breadth of understanding across disciplines. These courses allow students to further understand that a career path may not be linked with a specific major or discipline. The Senior Learning Community integrates academic development and career preparation through a capstone course in the major and a second course, a reflective tutorial (RFT) that integrates a 100-hour field-based experience in the discipline. For seniors, the offices of Alumni Relations, Career Development, and Residence Education have created the Bridges Program, which provides students with programming aimed at making connections between alumni and employers.

LEARNING FROM OUR STUDENTS: NSSE DATA

During spring 2009, Wagner participated in the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Findings of four survey items clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of the Wagner Plan for career preparation (the figures below indicate the total percentage responding "very much" and "quite a bit") :

* Wagner College seniors participate in internships, practica, and research at significantly greater rates (96 percent) than their peers at comprehensive master s institutions (76 percent), and all participating institutions (76 percent).

* Wagner College seniors report that their experiences contributed to their knowledge, skills, and ability to contribute to the welfare of their community in similar measure (66 percent) to their peers at comprehensive masters institutions (52 percent), and significantly greater than peers at all participating institutions (48 percent). …

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