2013 3M Student Fellows feature article - Exploring the role of the university student as an experiential learner: Thoughts and reflections from the 2013 cohort of 3M National Student Fellows Journal Articles uri icon

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  • In recent years, there has been a dynamic shift in the role of the university student through the creation and promotion of experiential learning opportunities on campuses across the country. Many post-secondary programs now include co-op placements, practicums, or internships where students can apply theoretical knowledge to real-world settings. However, in this article, we have chosen to focus on more “altruistic” forms of experiential learning – volunteerism, development work, and service-learning – which have gained increased focus in recent years but are often used, we feel, without appropriately reflecting on their meaning. In this article, we draw upon our experiences as student leaders to define each of these roles, outline what we see as the benefits of experiential learning for students, and provide recommendations for how these learning opportunities can continue to be improved. Moreover, we identify privilege, ethics, and responsibility as complexities related to experiential learning and discuss each of these topics in more detail. We end our discussion by addressing the role of experiential learning in helping to define the value of a post-secondary education.


  • Acai, Anita
  • Cowan, Victoria
  • Doherty, Stephanie
  • Sharma, Gaurav
  • Thevathasan, Naythrah

publication date

  • May 26, 2014