Mellon $800,000 Grant Propels Experiential Learning

April 18, 2018

Puget Sound will expand its summer internship program and launch ePortfolios


TACOMA, Wash. – The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded University of Puget Sound $800,000 to implement a transformative strategy that will ensure all undergraduates take part in meaningful, high-impact learning experiences.

The four-year Engaging High Impact Experiences grant carries forward recent Puget Sound work to create and pilot new internship models and to implement experiential educational practices across the curriculum.

This effort will now expand to include all sophomores in the Reflective Immersive Sophomore Experience (RISE) program that encourages students to connect their liberal arts education to a career environment. It also will progressively engage all students on campus in using ePortfolios—online showcases of their knowledge, skills, and growth.

 “At Puget Sound we believe a liberal arts education must continually transform itself as it engages new generations of young people and helps them become global citizens who are creative, analytical, system-thinkers, and strong and effective communicators who can apply all they learn to their careers and personal lives,” said Puget Sound President Isiaah Crawford. “The Mellon Foundation’s ongoing support for our high-impact learning initiatives is generous and farsighted, and will benefit not only our students, but the communities and industries they will serve.”

The Mellon Foundation supported Puget Sound’s formative work on a range of experiential learning projects over the past three years with a $250,000 award in 2015. Another $100,000 discretionary presidential grant was directed by President Crawford toward RISE, which engages sophomores in internships and ePortfolios.

Three years ago Professor Renee Houston began leading a new wave of experiential learning under the direction of Provost Kristine Bartanen. Along with faculty and staff advisors, Houston, now associate dean for experiential learning and civic scholarship, is setting the course to integrate these creative learning practices more broadly into the university curriculum, culture, and student cocurricular activities. Space has already been created in the curriculum for more internship courses, project-based education, community-based learning, and other activities.

In December 2017 new RISE Program Manager Nicole Kendrick began work on the sophomore-focused internship program. Students enrolled in RISE earn academic credit for a course that encourages career exploration and optimizes prospects for students to find fulfilling post-graduate employment. RISE launched in 2018 with 100 sophomores, and incremental expansion is planned.

Last year Puget Sound piloted ePortfolio, a student’s record of learning documented through text, photos, videos, documents, charts, presentations, and/or audio. The tool encourages students to showcase academic work; to share skills, interests, and projects; and to reflect upon the education journey.

 In each successive year of the Mellon grant, starting from fall 2018, the entering first-year class will be immersed in experiential learning that they will engage with through ePortfolio. The ultimate aim is for all students to take part in high-impact educational practices.  

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has been a generous supporter of Puget Sound, backing efforts such as internationalizing the curriculum for the Environmental Policy and Decision Making Program; development of a Latina/o Studies Program; creating new humanities and honors program initiatives; connecting students’ academic and cocurricular lives through residential seminars; and providing junior faculty sabbaticals.

Photos on page: From top right: A student does biology lab work; Professor Amy Spivey and Lillis Scholar Jordan Fonseca '18 work on a multi-campus solar project; students on a geology trip; students visit Indonesia as part of the LIASE Asian Field Schools initiative.

Tweet this: Visionary Mellon Foundation awards @univpugetsound $800,000 for more high-impact #experientiallearning. Thank you @MellonFdn ! https://bit.ly/2Hz2GCE

Follow us on Twitter! twitter.com/univpugetsound