Learn By Doing

Experiential learning has been called "the future of learning" (Eyler 2008; Prestholdt 2018). Each of the academic programs in IRIS include a dedicated experiential learning component that is designed to support students to:

  • Develop both broad and specialized bodies of knowledge;
  • Transfer classroom-based insights to real-life situations and contexts;
  • Deepen capacity for critical thinking;
  • Apply knowledge to complex or ambiguous situations;
  • Cultivate the skills of lifelong learning, including learning in the workplace; and
  • Strengthen intercultural and interpersonal skills through collaboration, problem-solving, and adaptation.


Experiential Learning Opportunities

We believe in learning by doing. 

Offering practicum, internship, fieldwork, and community-based learning experiences locally, regionally, and internationally.

Traverse City Students Who Built an In-Class Aquaponics System.

Whether partnering with the Grand Rapids Public Schools to create a uniform exchange program, building an aquaponics system, convening community stake-holders to develop re-use and redevelopment plans, participating in peer mentoring programs both on and off campus, or collaborating with international partners, students in IRIS have ample ways to take advantage of experiential learning.  



Students shown holding their Laker Effect Challenge Award for Harrison Park Uniform Exchange Project (2018-2019)

Internships, Practicum, and Community-Based Learning (CBL)

Students completing an Integrative Studies major are required to complete at least two credits of internship or practicum in order to complete their degrees. The department also offers a variety of community-based learning courses (CBL), many of which also fulfill General Education Issues requirements.  All students in the Social Innovation Graduate Program combine classroom studies with internships and/or graduate assistantship opportunities that build professional experiences and networks while also putting knowledge into practice.

Students shown at Cook Library Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan
LIB 100 Co-Curricular Mentors Shown for Winter 2019.

Co-Curriculars, Integrative Learning, and Mentoring

Many of our introductory courses, including LIB 100 (Reflect, Connect, Engage), LIB 201 (Diversity in the U.S.), REL 100 (Religions of the World), and ITC 100 (Introduction to Intercultural Competence) have significant co-curricular components. This means that these courses embed specific, applied experiences into course learning goals, guiding students to make specific connections between classroom and real-life events.

Students also have opportunities to work with peers both on and off campus, such as through the LIB 100 Co-Curricular Mentor Initiative, launched in 2018-2019 through the Brooks College of Integrative Learning and Advising.

Learn Globally Through Both Short and Longer Experiences

We value global learning and international experiences. The department works closely with Grand Valley's Padnos International Center to support opportunities for students to be able to learn internationally, whether for only a few weeks, a semester, or a full academic year. In addition to a sister program with the University of Bío Bío in Chile, IRIS faculty currently direct two special study abroad opportunities including one short-term (3 weeks) experience for TRiO students held in Spring Semester (Chile) and a 6-week Study Abroad program specifically designed for student athletes in Spring/Summer Semester (Spain). 

Students can count credits earned abroad toward their degree programs across the department. 

Group of students who participated in the Chile Study Abroad Program in Spring 2019 holding GVSU banner.

Page last modified June 13, 2019