Experiential learning — or learning by doing — gives students the opportunity to bridge the gap between the classroom and the real world. Applying skills taught in a classroom, students solve a problem that simulates challenges they will face in the workplace. This type of learning is a hallmark of TU’s management and marketing programs. Not only do students gain valuable experience that carries over to their professional careers, but they also give back to the community through projects that benefit nonprofits and inspire leadership, creativity and innovation.
Why incorporate experiential learning?
Traditional classroom settings typically adhere to a structured format and while many professors encourage discussion, that type of instruction only takes a student so far into the material. Experiential learning, however, gives students the benefit of learning from one another in a self-directed manner. Students bear responsibility by creating processes, making decisions and maintaining accountability, keeping them fully engaged in a project. They experience success and failure just as they would in a professional setting.
Connecting with the community
Studio Blue, a unique student space in the Collins College of Business, is designed to encourage innovation. Charles Wood, associate professor of marketing, is one of several faculty members instrumental in bringing the concept of an in-house “idea factory” to fruition.
“Part of the strategy behind Studio Blue was to create interesting connections between our students and the community,” Wood explains. “There is a lot of need in the community, and the students need hands-on practice — everyone wins.”
With generous support from the George Kaiser Family Foundation and TU administration, the space opened in 2008. Students use Studio Blue as an agency-like environment to generate product innovation ideas, create business plans and work on projects for businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Wood also worked with the alumnus Joe Moeller and the Charles Koch Foundation to help design the NOVA Fellowship, which equips students with the tools to implement an idea or passion before graduating. The fellowship gives students the opportunity to work with mentors to develop innovative projects outside regular coursework. Students can obtain an Applied Innovation Certificate by taking a set of courses that teach innovation principles and the process of problem solving.
In the last few years, students in TU’s management and marketing department and the NOVA Fellowship have led nearly 100 projects on campus and in the Tulsa community. The hands-on projects range from promotional and branding campaigns to large-scale events for organizations including Family and Children’s Services, Mazzio’s, QuikTrip, Women in Recovery and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma.
Elizabeth Estrada (BSBA ’19), who majored in marketing, worked on a service project for Goodwill during her time at TU. “I think hands-on projects that are offered through Studio Blue and NOVA are extremely beneficial to students’ overall learning,” said Estrada. “Working on the Goodwill project not only taught me great teamwork, time management and multitasking skills, but it was also a great way for us to work with AdWords in a real-life experience. Although our project did not exceed our expectations, we were able to leave with the knowledge of the tool. This was an experience that is not often offered in a traditional classroom, so it was also fun!”
Bringing big ideas to campus
TU’s NOVA fellows have collaborated to organize campus events such as TEDx University of Tulsa and the Day of Innovation that spark creativity and showcase student talent. The Day of Innovation, which began four years ago, celebrates the hard work and bright ideas TU students have developed and implemented to benefit the college campus and local community. Caroline Rodgers, a marketing and French major who will graduate in the spring, said, “Having a small hand in the first and second Day of Innovation here on campus showed me that students and faculty alike crave the opportunity to put their creative skills to the test and moreover, recognition for the projects that they work so hard on — TUDOI gave them both.”
Rodgers explained that being able to help foster a space in which that was possible was such a unique experience and having the backing from the NOVA Fellowship allowed the idea to become a reality within a few short months. “I look forward to the great things that are to come from all TU students in an innovative capacity as the university continues to grow and change.”