Revisiting York University’s Experiential Education Symposium & Panel

A brief overview of our panel discussion and my perspective on why we must incorporate a variety of teaching styles for student success, as well as the critical role of experiential education in solidifying in-class learning.

5 people sitting at a table, four of which are panelists. The individual in the middle is holding a microphone.

Recently, I had the honor of speaking on a panel at York University’s annual Experiential Education symposium. Among the high profile attendees was York University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Rhonda Lenton, as well as chair and faculty members of various departments, accomplished students presenting various educational experiences, and the remarkable EE symposium team who all worked tirelessly to plan and execute such a successful event.

5 people are sitting at a table, 4 of which are panelists. The person from on the left is holding a microphone.
Four objects on a table. left to right the objects are a box with a pen attached to it, a certificate of recognition, and a microphone.

Do students currently receive the support they require?

As a recent graduate, it was a truly incredible opportunity to advocate the need for teachers and professors to enhance students’ learning by curating engaging lessons that incorporate the 7 different learning styles. When asked about the importance of reflective assignments, I spoke on why it is crucial and urgent for university faculty to address students’ needs for different types of teaching and assessment. Simply sticking to one form of teaching such as visual or verbal, or assessments strategies such as tests or assignments often leads to failure by some of the most talented and hard-working students. It is truly disheartening to witness brilliant students give up on their passions because the teacher or professor did not incorporate their optimal learning or assessment style. During this panel, I reinforced the importance of accounting for all students, accommodating for different needs, and utilizing different forms of teaching and assessment styles for inclusivity and student success.  I believe that the Professors, faculty, and staff at York University are progressive in this respect, and it is inspiring to see them include a variety of mediums while teaching, which I was privileged to experience during my undergraduate studies.

5 people are sitting at a table, 4 of which are panelists. The second person from the left is holding a microphone.

The relevance of experiential education

Speaking on a panel alongside a moderator, a current student, and two members of faculty, we discussed the importance of experiential education. As we reflected on our personal experiences in experiential education, I began to realize just how much external opportunities such as research placements, internships, co-ops, or volunteering truly reinforces classroom taught concepts and aids students with making a connection in the real-life application of these subjects. 

How often were you learning in a class wondering “when am I EVER going to use this?”. Until a concept or subject is related to current trends or explored in real-life applications, students may find themselves struggling with relating to a subject and in turn failing to find interest in it. True learning starts when interests are addressed. By giving opportunities and encouraging students to embark on experiential education, ideas and concepts are reinforced and students become empowered to make proactive changes in the real world. A subject taught on its own can be challenging to relate to, but when current trends and applications are discussed in the classroom, followed by hands on learning experiences outside of the classroom, students can master the most complex of fields. 

Giving students a chance

The search for opportunities is hard – especially if you are a student. Due to the often untrue negative connotations associated with students, professors, labs, organizations, and other areas that offer experience may refrain from accepting students. To me, this seems like a backward mindset – if someone is putting their time and effort to learn and educate themselves, wouldn’t you want them and their eager attitude on your team? I think it’s time to stand up for students and give them a chance. This is a two-way approach; students need to take on opportunities by deciding to embark on experiential education, while professors, teachers, employers, and co-op/volunteer coordinators need to take a chance on students and guide them to learning while assisting your organization. Students are eager to learn and improve, and their lack of experience can be overcome with their ability to learn while providing an innovative view of the subject and its relation to current trends.
In ecology, it sometimes occurs that two (or more) organisms both gain a net benefit from their interaction; this is called mutualism. Now is the time to take a chance on students, and witness how you both develop a successful mutualistic relationship by working together. 

Closing remarks
I am extremely grateful to everyone involved in planning and executing this event as well as all attendees. I appreciate and value York University’s faculty, staff, and students for allowing us to discuss our opinions on these subjects. I would like to also thank everyone for being so receptive to these insights and am open and appreciative of any and all critique and feedback.

For more information on the event:
News article by York University on the symposium
Tweet by York University

Credits: All photos of the panel are by York University C&PA

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Why startup experiences & hackathons are important for students

Recently, I worked with the Bergeron Entrepreneurs in Science and Technology (BEST Lab) at York University’s Lassonde School of Engineering to plan and organize Canada’s largest startup.

Over several weeks, I communicated with and invited top-tier speakers, mentors, and workshop leaders to ensure an incredible learning experience for students. Between guaranteeing that scheduling lines up, confirming that partners present applicable educational content, and securing proper accommodations for all attendees, I had a wide variety of tasks to make certain that I properly organization and coordinate this event. Fortunately, I worked with an incredible team that provided unimaginable support and helped me manage the planning. Thanks to their support and guidance, this event was a massive success, with attendees giving incredible positive feedback.

I am grateful to everyone from the BEST Lab at the Lassonde School of Engineering as well as all of the speakers, mentors, workshop leaders, and student attendees for all of the assistance and guidance with curating the schedule for this event.

Events such as these are absolutely crucial to students not only developing essential teamwork and entrepreneurial skills but also creating highly valuable connections. Whether it’s meeting other students or high profile leaders, building your network opens doors to opportunities you didn’t know existed. Jobs, volunteer opportunities, or co-op placements can all come through with these powerful connections in unexpected ways. Not only are these connections important for discovering opportunities, but discussing life and career paths/journies that someone experienced took can give valuable insight and advantageous life advice.

It was exceptionally inspiring to have the chance to address a large audience of such motivated and driven students and seeing how much effort they put in obtaining an optimal learning experience.

Learning comes through a widespread of mediums, and startup/hackathon weekends are incredible events that provide indispensable skills for students. When experienced individuals who are in the workforce mentorship or lectures to students, they provide not just advice but personal experience. Advice and guidance can be read and discovered from books or media, but advice coming from real experience can shine a light on critical points that other mediums negate.

Whether attending a startup/hackathon weekend, attending a conference, or even just participating in networking events, hearing about the academic and professional journies of different people can spark inspiration and guidance on pathways we may have not previously considered. So if you meet someone who inspires you, offer to buy them a coffee and ask them what advice they wish someone gave them at the start of their career – the answer may revolutionize your path.

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Experiential Education Symposium at York University

I had the wonderful opportunity to make a poster and present my research today at York University’s Experiential Education Symposium. During the event, York University president and vice-chancellor Rhonda Lenton and I discussed my biology research, as well as the many applications it has in the workforce. I am excited and eager to experience the opportunities that lie ahead.

Discussing my research with President and vice-chancellor of York University Rhonda Lenton
Presenting research at the conference. I got the chance to speak to so many different individuals, and am glad to be sharing scientific findings with such a large audience.
My poster on the optimal plant density research work I did during my research practicum with Dr.Christopher Lortie and Jenna Braun. I expanded on this knowledge in my honours thesis and am now searching for the optimal native plant density to outcompete an exotic invader. Restoration ecology in action.
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