Applied Learning Experiences (ALEX)

When the Young Give Back to the Younger

Wednesday, January 27, 2016, 11:33am by

March 3, 2015

Written By Asia Howe 

Video filmed and edited by reporter, Asia Howe.

“Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer.” — Unknown

Americans have over fifty different slang words for money, one being “skrilla” (Nichol). So much emphasis is placed on earning in our society that another equally important verb often drops from our lexicon, giving. While the concept of volunteer work does not always receive the attention it should, we must realize its ability to imbue us with satisfaction, bring us closer to others, and allow us to view the world in a whole new way. Below, one University of Hawaii at Hilo student shares her experience as an individual who does not only earn, but gives.

Nichole Chaffin, a Natural Sciences major from Waikoloa, assists various youth groups. “Tuesday nights,” she explains, “I volunteer for the Hilo Younglife group for high schoolers, Wednesday afternoons, I volunteer at Waiakea Intermediate School for Wyldlife, the school ministry, and Wednesday nights I go out to Waimea with a group of about five others and volunteer for the Waimea Younglife group.”

When asked what the driving force behind her volunteer work was, Chaffin reported, “When I was in high school, my youth group leader had a super positive effect on my life and I want to be able to have that effect on kids [who] live here.”

“She is diligent, on-task, on-time, attentive, and very friendly,” Associate Professor of English and Chair of the English Department, Professor Kirsten Mollegaard, states. Having had Chaffin in her English 287 Introduction to Rhetoric course, the faculty member is quite familiar with the Natural Science major. “She works well with others and also independently. She seems well balanced and has clear goals. She is not afraid of voicing her opinion or to argue a position contrary to someone else. At the same time, she is respectful of others and listens well.”

“During school, we have clubs where we play games, eat food, hang out, and talk to kids about Jesus,” Chaffin continues, “and then during school breaks (spring break and summer) we take kids to other islands and to the mainland for state and nationwide camps with students from other places [associated with] Younglife.” Regarding the most rewarding aspect of her work, the Big Island native says, “Definitely seeing how the kids go through their school years in a positive way. I have one girl who I’ve been [with since she was in] eighth grade and [now] she’s going to be a senior in high school. It’s crazy watching them grow up right in front [of] my eyes.”

The Natural Science major sees interpersonal knowledge as something she has acquired from her work. “[I learned] that not all kids come from the same background, so each relationship formed needs to be sincere and focused around what one kid needs to know in relation to what’s going on in their individual life.” Chaffin extends this knowledge to life in general, “[I have learned] just to not judge a person by their appearance because you never know what kind of heavy stuff they could be dealing with inside.”

Her volunteer work has also provided her with insight on how to best conduct herself in the future. “[I now know] to have genuine friendships and relationships with other people because,” she says, “it can benefit both parties.”

“Based on what I have observed about her in class,” Professor Mollegaard concedes, “I am quite confident that Nichole’s efforts as a volunteer have left a positive mark on the lives of others. I am glad to see that [the Office of Applied Learning Experiences (ALEX)] has chosen to recognize Nichole for her efforts.”

To students contemplating volunteering, Chaffin asserts, “Just go out and do it! It may be scary at first but the results are rewarding and definitely make you feel like you’ve made a difference in someone’s life.”


Monday, January 25, 2016, 11:06am by

November 17, 2015

Written by Eli Matola

If you are someone whose entire work experience has either been in a kitchen or an office, you begin to really overlook all the work that surrounds producing food. Below, a student who has made producing fruits and vegetables his area of study, Makana Ako, University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH) junior and Agroecology major, discusses his experiences with his field and school.   

Ako started studying agriculture after completing a high school internship in which he mentored at a farm. He explains that while there, he realized he wanted to work with hands for a living. Since then, the junior has moved from Oahu to the Big Island.

Agroecology uses ecological theory to study, design, manage and evaluate productive and resourceful agricultural systems. Research within the field considers the interactions of biophysical, technical and socioeconomic components of farming systems. Such systems are regarded as fundamental objects of study; those in the field wholly and interdisciplinarily analyze mineral cycles, energy transformations, biological processes, and socioeconomic relationships.

In layman’s terms, all this means that Agroecology uses nature in prosperous ways, benefitting us and the environment. To Ako, Agroecology “is the study of plants, … the study of sustainability.” He goes on, “If we all depend on plants to eat then we depend on them to live. If we can learn to create a better mutually beneficial way of farming, then it helps to us all.”

When asked what he has learned during his time at the university, the junior answers he really learned about the science behind it all—the ins and outs of how to prepare the land, plant the seed, grow it and harvest it. These ins and outs involve a lot of science, according to Ako, who uses biology, chemistry, horticulture, pathology, and even economics.

The Agroecology student says the best thing he has received from his whole experience of majoring in agriculture is simply learning how plants grow. “If you know that then you will never be hungry,” he stated. “In a world where less and less people know how to grow their own food, I have learned this extremely valuable skill.”

Another aspect Ako has grown to appreciate about his major is its relativity to the Hawaiian culture. As he comes from a Hawaiian background, much of what he learns from his classes he connects to his own culture. For instance, he uses the same agricultural practices when working in the lo’i’ which the ancient Hawaiians did hundreds of years ago, although within a modern context.

After graduating, the junior wants to work at a National Park. To those thinking about joining the major, he advises: follow what you love and do it; just make sure it is what you love. Those who join Agroecology cannot be concerned with not getting dirty, he remarks. Yet, the major is not just physical work, there being a lot of brain work as well. In fact, Ako mentions, the major demands just as much physically as it does mentally.

If you are looking for a major where you can literally see growth, join Agriculture!

Women Are Science

Friday, January 22, 2016, 9:30pm by

November 6, 2015

Written by Olivia Throssell

I want to make sure we use all our talent, not just 25 percent.— Mae Jemison, first African-American woman to enter space

University of Hawaii at Hilo (UH Hilo) junior Guinevere Davenport intends to close the gender gap in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math careers. In the last 30 years, this gap has closed only 19 percent. Currently, just 26 percent of the science field is women (Del Giudice).

A Cellular and Molecular Biology major and Chemistry minor, Davenport knew she wanted to get into the science field since intermediate school; however, whether she wanted a career on the medical or engineering side remained a question for quite some time. Today, grand opportunities she has come across thus far in her academic career have narrowed her career path.

One such opportunity was interning with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and assisting with the administration’s infrared telescope in the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. “This was an amazing experience,” the junior explained, “but it made me realize that engineering is not for me. I was the right-hand gal to the engineers and many of the projects we focused on revolved around the camera lens.” She participated in tasks such as lens cleaning and photo development; much of her internship relied on computer coding, something Davenport did not previously know about and found to be a great catalyst for a learning experience.

After realizing that engineering was not her career path, Davenport found a Sleep Center Hawaii job under the care of Dr. Gabrielle Barthlen, M.D. Having spoken with the junior and realized her eagerness, Barthlen hired her as a polysomnographic technologist, or sleep study technologist. Davenport monitors patients’ brain activity as they sleep, checking for evidence of neurological disorders.

This amazing opportunity has prompted Davenport to become EEG (electroencephalogram) certified, a certification which will allow her to perform tests on patients. Such tests detect abnormalities related to the electrical activity of the brain. At this point in time, Davenport spends most of her shifts at night where she is required to stay up for 12 hours monitoring patients.

Davenport believes that she got this job because is willing to learn beyond her classroom environment. She enjoys learning how chemistry works in the body and feels this is important if she intends to be a doctor eventually. “Doctors tend to miss the big picture and the connection the body has with its chemical components. My Biology and Chemistry classes are helping me notice that big picture and draw connections others may not have seen. We talk about chemistry in the biological terms.”

Davenport also feels that taking Stan Nakanishi’s Biology 466: Genetics course has really helped her see the connection between genetics and neurological disorders. On top of school and her job, Davenport is also involved in mentoring the underwater robotics team and helping with competitions at Hilo Intermediate School as well as competing in the Miss Hawaii beauty pageants. Davenport’s advice for college students is: “don’t be afraid to look outside the box and no one is going to do the work for you. Remember, the end goal is worth it. UH Hilo provides so many opportunities that students need to take but also keep an open mind to the world around.”

For more information on the internship with NASA, please contact the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center.

Del Giudice, Marguerite. “Why It’s Crucial to Get More Women Into Science.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 8 Nov. 2014. Web. 6 Nov. 2015.

Turn on, Tune in, Don’t Drop out

Friday, January 15, 2016, 9:21pm by

November 17, 2015
Written by Eli Matola

What makes University of Hawaii at Hilo Radio, KUHH 101.1 FM, truly special? The station’s motto reads “where our voice is your voice.” To learn more about KUHH, the Office of Applied Learning Experiences (ALEX) sat down and turned on the mics with the new station director and disc jockey (DJ), Jake Davenport, also known as Jake Da Snake, for more info.

KUHH aspires to broadcast musical, educational, cultural, and informational programs by transmitting student members’ voices. Its motto reads, “Where our voice is your voice.” Davenport mentions, less elegantly, that “University Radio is here to connect students. Whether that be sports, music, events, programs, whatever.”

KUHH 101.1 FM director and disc jockey DJ, Jake Davenport. Photo courtesy of Jake Davenport.

KUHH 101.1 FM director and disc jockey DJ, Jake Davenport. Photo courtesy of Jake Davenport.

This is Davenport’s second year with KUHH. Students might know him from his weekly broadcasts as Jake Da Snake at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, during which he talks about University of Hawaii at Hilo (UH Hilo) athletics. This is, however, his first year as Director at the station. According to Davenport, as Director, he provides and gathers news regarding school events and services. The majority of this work entails emailing, scheduling appointments, composing commercials, and communicating with local businesses.

Davenport asserts he acquired his new position due to his interest in sports broadcasting and the skills he earned from UH Hilo. He states that the university system has “helped [him] to balance [his] mind body and soul to achieve [his] goals” before admitting school has been a transformative experience.

Davenport feels the best part of his positions is the amount of people he meets. He notes that he feels like he knows half the university. His jobs are very communication-oriented. The DJ and director must meet with students, business owners, faculty, and others. Indeed, “a lot goes into making the news.”

In addition to social stimuli, his positions at the station also give him a sense of satisfaction by being aspects of the UH Hilo community. Since at working at the KUHH, he believes he has positively affected this population. For example, he created a weekly radio show that exclusively covers UH Hilo athletics, the only one on the station. Davenport says his favorite part about it all is that he gets to talk sports about the teams he loves.

Being in these jobs has allowed the DJ and director to learn what leadership and teamwork take. A lot goes into the ins and outs of a radio station, he affirms. Davenport further claims that speaking on air every week has not hurt his public speaking skills, in effect, it has done the very opposite.

Like most universities in the United States, UH Hilo has a radio station. What makes KUHH 101.1 truly special, however? The people who work there, like Davenport, who strives everyday to keep the UH Hilo community in touch and informed—people who do it not so much for the money, but for the community.

Davenports states that anyone interested in volunteering as a DJ may walk up to the table whenever the station is tabling on campus, adding that this is how he joined. Interested individuals may also email him at

Davenport plans to graduate a Kinesiology major and hopefully, one day be a coach or sports caster for some type of team. He concludes, confessing the university has accorded him skills applicable to and familiarized him with his intended career fields.

Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership applications for 2016. Deadline Feb. 22

Sunday, January 10, 2016, 12:46am by

CAPAL’s applications for the 2016 Federal Internships and Public Service Scholarships opened Monday, January 4. The priority application deadline is Monday, February 22 and the final deadline is Monday, March 7. The application consists of the following:
• Personal statement
• Resume
• Current transcript
• Letter of recommendation
Are you a current student interested in a career in public service? CAPAL’s Federal Internship Programplaces students within federal agencies to work on policy or scientific research, project coordination and management, business, law, communication and more. CAPAL’s Public Service Scholarship Programawards scholarships to students who will be serving in an unpaid public service internship.

Both opportunities are open to graduate and undergraduate students in all majors. Internships are eight weeks long and conducted over the summer. Awards include a $3,000 stipend with an additional travel stipend.

Learn more about our programs and apply below! The priority deadline is February 22 and the final deadline is March 7.

Apply Here

Applied Learning at Eastern Connecticut State University

Wednesday, December 30, 2015, 7:45pm by

Liberal Arts Work!—A Model for Applied Learning at Eastern Connecticut State University

 Eastern Connecticut State University, the designated public liberal arts university of Connecticut, has a long history of providing applied learning opportunities, including undergraduate research, service learning, internships, and other preprofessional experiences. In fact, a survey conducted for the university’s most recent strategic plan found that in five departments, 100 percent of students participated in some form of applied learning experience, with an average participation rate for all departments of 66 percent.

Eastern redoubled its efforts in this area starting in 2006, when Elsa Nuñez became president and the university began work on a new strategic plan. A central feature of that plan was an initiative to create even more opportunities for applied learning and promote collaboration across departments and university offices. That initiative, titled Liberal Arts Works! (LAW), was formalized in a university senate bill that laid out guidelines for what will eventually become a university-wide experiential learning requirement, though for now the experiences are optional unless required for a student’s major.

It was natural for the strategic plan to focus on one of the institution’s signature strengths, but the tough job market and Eastern’s status as a public institution were also motivating factors, says Carmen Cid, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. “Parents want to know, ‘will my son or daughter be able to be successful and get a job with a degree from Eastern?'” But probably most important, she says, “is that it gives students an opportunity to understand the content of their coursework better by seeing how it applies in the outside world.”

Establishing Learning Outcomes

Faculty and administrators agree that it was important to make LAW! part of the strategic plan, with collaboration across university offices, as opposed to an isolated academic initiative. Career services at Eastern is housed in student affairs, and that unit had to undergo a transformation, Cid says—”they had to go from showing students where they could work after graduation to also helping them acquire the skills they’ll need to do those jobs.”

Figuring out just what should count as an applied learning experience is an ongoing process, says Rhona Free, vice president of academic affairs. Course proposals are considered on a case-by-case basis, with a senate committee evaluating each course, internship, or other experience based on how well that experience will satisfy the learning outcomes that were established in the LAW! senate bill. Those same outcomes would also apply to proposals from students, when and if the university moves toward student-originated projects.

The committee actually uses two sets of learning outcomes. The first, for “internships, teaching practica, co-ops or other LAW designated courses,” requires that students “(1) will be able to demonstrate that they understand the connection between theory and practice as it relates to their experience; (2) will be able to demonstrate an ability to function effectively in a professional environment. This can include work products, workplace ethics, comportment and other workplace behavior; [and 3] will be able to articulate their interests, abilities and values in relation to the career experience.”

A slightly different set of outcomes applies to students who conduct research or create or perform original artistic works under the guidance of a faculty member: students must “(1) complete academic research or production/performance of artistic work under the supervision of, or in collaboration with, a faculty member, and in doing so demonstrate the ability to function as a professional within a chosen field of study; (2) display abilities (knowledge, skills, attributes) that allow the student to engage a particular research problem or creative question and then apply those skills within the framework of professional study or creative activity within their field or subfield; [and 3] formally present the research at an academic conference (undergraduate or professional) or submit the work to an academic journal for publication or present/exhibit/perform the work in an appropriate setting.”

Beyond the Standard Internship

Having a variety of applied learning options is crucial, says Drew Hyatt, professor of environmental earth sciences. “Not every student can or probably should do research or an internship, because different students will do well in different experiences—that’s why it’s important, and LAW! is trying to do this, to have a range of opportunities, because one size doesn’t fit all.”

Still, many students do elect to complete internships—to gain work experience before graduation, and to test out potential career paths. Alex Citurs, a professor of business information systems, coordinates internships for his department. Vetting and supervising internships properly can be labor intensive, he says, but it’s worth it. Faculty need to be in communication with business leaders to understand their changing economic situation and what they need from interns. And interns need mentoring on campus, as well as at the host site, to ensure they are not just completing tasks but actually learning how their academic studies apply in a real-world situation. But the internships are hugely beneficial both for the students and the host institutions. Senior internships are a graduation requirement in Citurs’s department, but many students have already completed other applied learning experiences before they begin their internships, so they arrive already equipped with experience to complement their academic studies. “It’s just tremendous value-added for both,” he says.

Making internships and other applied learning experiences equally available to all Eastern students remains a concern. Students without cars may not be able to travel off campus; other students may have family commitments or other obligations that make it difficult to complete the one hundred hours of service required for internships. With this in mind, Eastern has established the Work Hub, an on-campus work center where students complete “remote internships” for companies and community organizations. Citurs has several students completing internships there for the health insurance company Cigna, which provided funds to secure its proprietary data at the Work Hub, and some students have already received job offers based on their internships.

Terry Lennox, associate professor of art, digital art, and design, also has students working on applied learning projects at the Work Hub. Students can use computers there equipped with the most up-to-date design software; they also have a space to work for community partners that might not be able to offer them a work space onsite. Lennox, who solicits and vets internship opportunities for her department, says many nonprofit organizations in particular have design needs but limited space and equipment, so partnering with Eastern students can be an enormous benefit to them.

Community partnerships also offered learning opportunities for students in humanities majors that don’t have established internship pathways. Eastern often gets requests from local organizations that need help with grant writing, Free says, but the university has never had the resources to provide that assistance. “We realized we could train students to help them with that grant writing project. We have three students here this summer training, learning about the grants process, how to apply and develop budgets, and then we’ll match them with external agencies hoping to write grants. It’s very good experience—they’re practicing writing, research, critical thinking—and it’s the kind of skills any student can develop.”

Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate research has been a focus at Eastern, especially in the sciences—”you can only learn science by doing,” says Cid, who taught ecology before becoming dean. Hyatt notes that in the past, however, research was usually carried out as individual projects with a professor mentoring one or two students. “Usually they’ve done a practicum and gained a skillset—it’s usually strongly mentored—and they go on to do one- or two-semester fieldwork project.” Such projects continue, but increasingly research opportunities are imbedded in larger courses so as to allow more students to participate.

Hyatt also emphasizes that mentoring undergraduate students in research is not just one more task overworked faculty have to take on—at a teaching-oriented institution like Eastern, it’s to the faculty’s benefit if they can connect their research to the undergraduate experience. Cid adds that students can be useful assistants in conducting fieldwork and gain valuable data-collection experience in the process.

Although the humanities aren’t as known for mentored undergraduate research, original, primary source research has always been a requirement for the history major at Eastern, says Caitlin Carenen, an assistant professor of history who also sits on the LAW! senate committee. In order to further educate students in the professional aspects of being an academic historian, she and her colleagues encourage their students to present their research at conferences. Eastern holds two annual undergraduate research conferences, one for the arts and sciences and the other for applied fields. Some students have also submitted proposals to the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) undergraduate research conference. “It’s a way for them to understand what it means to be a professional beyond just writing the paper—to present research in a professional setting and being open to feedback and criticism, challenging them to make their research better and more applicable to an audience that is not familiar with their topic—that’s a great lesson no matter what stage you’re at as a historian, but it’s really useful for them, and exciting.”

Carenen hopes that more applied learning opportunities will also demonstrate that “our students’ skills as history majors have practical uses,” she says. “Fortune 500 companies have said, and I show this to my students, ‘we need people who can read and write and speak well,’ and all my colleagues emphasize these things in our classes.”

Hyatt also points to the benefits of conducting research for science students who don’t ultimately work in the field of their major. “Realizing you can do something original, that’s an ‘a ha!’ moment for students, regardless of their direction.” Another crucial outcome, he says, is that “when you work on a project, whatever it may be, in depth, you go in maybe not even knowing what the question is. As you develop that, you’re building problem-solving skills, and you gain confidence in working through a problem you weren’t sure how to approach initially—that’s hugely valuable.”

A Slow Expansion

As of now, the university is holding off on enforcing a campus-wide applied learning requirement, although many individual majors require internships or original research projects. As departments add new or expand existing opportunities, the share of students participating continues to rise, but there is no definite date for the requirement to go into effect—that timeline will likely evolve in response to the proposals various departments submit and the availability of resources, says Carenen.

For now, faculty and administrators are committed to expanding slowly and making sure all students have the opportunity to engage in applied learning before it becomes a requirement. They also hope that, as opportunities increase, students will have these experiences throughout their time at Eastern, Cid says. “It’sa process you can’t do in your senior year—you want to grow in your major from the start, so you have many stages along the way as career services is giving guidance, the faculty advisor is mentoring, and students are developing their skills.”


Eastern Connecticut State University