January 12, 2016

Program documents students’ co-curricular learning

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A new program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale offers students the opportunity to maximize their college experience in a tangible way to help them in their careers and lives after graduation. 

The SIU Advantage is an experiential learning program that enables students to graduate with a co-curricular learning resume to complement their diplomas and traditional academic transcripts. 

“In today’s competitive job market, employers want to hire graduates with that extra something special. The SIU Advantage can provide that extra something,” Heather Brake, coordinator of Student Involvement, said. 

In addition to classroom and lab learning experiences, students at SIU can participate in numerous activities that offer them the chance to gain insights, acquire knowledge, or enhance their cultural, intellectual, professional, social or personal skills. For instance, they may attend an etiquette dinner, improving their social and personal development skills as they learn how to interact with prospective employers and others in professional dinner settings. Or, they may enrich their cultural competency by engaging with students from a variety of countries during an international student activity. 

Through various events and activities, students develop and learn in ways not necessarily reflected on a college transcript. Much like colleges seek well-rounded applicants, prospective employers also want employees who are prepared for the real world and the myriad circumstances that arise there, Brake said. Through the SIU Advantage, students will have tangible documentation of some of their learning experiences outside of the classroom. 

Here’s how it works. Faculty and program developers at SIU are now applying specific learning objectives and outcomes to many extracurricular campus activities. When students log their participation by swiping their campus identification cards, their involvement is recorded onto their electronic co-curricular resume, available for printing and presentation to prospective employers after they graduate. 

Some activities require only attendance while others may include an active participation component or even a follow-up assessment activity.  That will be determined by the faculty member or programmer coordinating the activity. 

The Office of Student Engagement has developed four “Advantage Tracks” to reflect the diverse out-of-classroom educational experiences and incorporate them with the for-credit curriculum. The co-curricular resume will list experiences within these tracks. 

The tracks, and a brief explanation of each, include: 

  • Cultural Competency – connecting experiences that foster an appreciation for the cultural and human differences within the population and helping students develop a greater sense of global awareness.
  • Intellectual and Professional Skills – including opportunities for growth in the areas of teamwork, leadership and professional/career development.
  • Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Development – incorporating activities that strengthen interpersonal communication, self-awareness and advocacy skills as well as enhancing personal health and wellness.
  • Personal and Social Responsibility – focusing on helping students learn more about themselves and how they can be a catalyst for positive change in areas including civic engagement, sustainability, financial and personal responsibility, and civics and integrity. 

“We have so many great programs on campus that our students enjoy participating in and they are able to learn and expand their horizons as they enjoy these experiences. The SIU Advantage attaches definitive learning objectives and purposes to some of those programs so students can benefit from them in yet more ways,” Deborah Barnett, coordinator of Non-Traditional Student Services, said. 

Although not all activities and events on the university calendar are included in the SIU Advantage, Barnett and Brake say they anticipate the number of them that are linked to the SIU Advantage will grow over time. 

Learn more about the SIU Advantage by visiting www.getinvolved.siu.edu or sending an email to siuadvantage@siu.edu. Or, call Brake at 618/453-5714 or Barnett at 618/453-7521.