Students present experiential learning experiences in 2019.

Wooster celebrates experiential learning tradition, award winners at virtual symposium

November 4, 2020   /  

The College of Wooster’s annual Experiential Learning Symposium officially kicks off in a virtual format Thursday, Nov. 5, highlighting the summer projects of Wooster students engaged in APEX Fellowships and as part of Applied Methods and Research Experience (AMRE) projects. Winners of the Excellence in Experiential Learning Awards will also be recognized.

The Andrew Award for Excellence recognizes students who demonstrated distinction throughout the process of applying for an APEX Fellowship. APEX Fellowships offer structure and mentored support to students engaged in unpaid summer internships or vocational exploration programs of at least six weeks (or at least 225 hours) in duration.

2020 Andrew Award for Excellence Winners

  • Kayla Bertholf
  • Morgan Fields
  • Sierra Foltz
  • Katiasofia Gonzales
  • Laura Haley
  • Amelia Kemp
  • Nga “Narissa” Le
  • Alexandra Manopoulou
  • Aubry Miller
  • Laura Montoya
  • Riley Smith
  • Megan Tuennerman

The 2020 annual Excellence in Experiential Learning awards are awarded to community partners, faculty or staff, and students for their outstanding commitment to—and exceptional growth and accomplishment through—experiential learning.

This year’s Community Partner award-recipient is Rev. Kevan Franklin, a local advocate the homeless, a member of the Wooster Taskforce on Ending Homelessness, and senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ. Rev. Franklin partnered with Rohini Singh, assistant professor of communication studies and her Communicating Public Policy class, a course which analyzes the language of public policy and uses those insights to serve the local community. They have designed class projects to support local advocacy efforts, including developing a series of talking points about opening a low barrier shelter, creating a resource guide for unsheltered people, and conceiving a poster series to counter misperceptions about homelessness. Singh’s nomination letter cites Rev. Franklin’s generosity with his time, knowledge, and advice, just a snapshot of his long-standing commitment to forging connections between the greater Wooster community and the College.

The Faculty/Staff award goes to Michele Leiby, associate professor of political science and a member of Wooster’s inaugural Experiential Learning Faculty Learning Community. Nominated by Erin Guzmán, interim director of spiritual and religious life, Leiby is recognized for incorporating partnerships with several grassroots organizations and non-profit entities to offer immersion and experiential learning opportunities for students that tie directly to state-wide and national policies. Guzmán said Leiby is “a creative, driven, and scholarly collaborator whose efforts to bring students into local movement work through her classes and EL opportunities have made a tremendous difference in the lives of immigrants in NE Ohio.”

This year’s Student Award goes to senior Stachal Harris ’21, a political science major who received no less than five nominations. Harris received the Student Award in recognition of her experiential work gained while serving on Wooster’s Strategic Planning and Priorities Advisory Committee (SPPAC) and as a highly effective member of an AMRE team this past summer. Stachal’s work on SPPAC included examining the serious challenges the College faces due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nominators suggested her efforts have positioned her well to continue a career in higher education administration, should she continue to pursue that path. Her AMRE team focused on developing policy prescriptions to improve the impact of benefits for those receiving public assistance, ultimately sharing different policy options with Ohio state legislators, state departments, local county government and agency leaders, and Ohio’s Lt. Governor Husted.

Finally, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics and AMRE Co-Director John Ramsay, received a Lifetime Achievement Award. Ramsay started AMRE, an eight-week team consulting program, 27 years ago with six students and two clients in an effort to help answer the question, “What can I do with a degree in Mathematics?” Since then, the AMRE program has grown, engaging about 35 students a summer, and serving 10-12 clients. Ramsay gained national recognition for the program, receiving the National Society for Experiential Education’s Outstanding Leader in Experiential Education award in 2015.

“I have been blessed to have a calling to something I absolutely love, to work with young people teaching them math, helping them learn and grow. Along the way I’ve had the opportunity to work beside so many amazing people, those in my home department of mathematics and computational sciences, those in APEX, those in the Wooster community, Wooster faculty, staff, students, and others around the country and the world. I thank all of you who have helped me find joy in this work,” said Ramsay. “I’m pleased to have been able to help us be where we are today, and I’m so excited for the opportunities that lie ahead for the College.”

After serving on the experiential learning task force, Ramsay joined APEX in 2012, first as the initial associate dean for experiential learning, then as executive director until he returned to the classroom full-time in 2017. One of his many accomplishments while in APEX was expanding AMRE to serve clients requesting projects completed outside the disciplines of mathematics and computer science.

Ramsey is known for the fun and lively environment he creates in his classes. While he holds students, staff, and his faculty colleagues to high standards, his ability to engage with a wide variety of people generated success in drawing and retaining AMRE clients and soliciting funding for APEX from donors. Hear more from Ramsay’s acceptance speech.

Above: Students present experiential learning experiences in 2019.