The Experiential Learning Leadership Institute (ELLI) is a newly established program at Southern Utah University aimed at facilitating and training project-based learning techniques to educators locally and nationally.
Patrick Clarke, Dean of University College and Engaged Learning, says, “ELLI is designed to provide avenues to educate, network and share best practices among universities. The institute also helps to elevate the national discourse on what is effective experiential learning in higher education.”
Experiential learning, a term coined by educational theorist David Kolb, refers to the process surrounding an active experience. Thinking, watching, feeling and doing are all pieces to the overall experience and help individuals to develop crucial soft skills used in schooling and in the work place.
SUU is a national leader in supplying its students with these abilities, using ELLI as a way to showcase the award-winning EDGE Program. ELLI is a valuable resource in the field of experiential learning, sharing expertise and successful strategies with other higher education institutions across the country and worldwide.
John “Jeb” Branin, Associate Dean and Executive Director of Experiential Learning, states, “Schools that excel in certain areas often develop organizations where they can serve as resources for others. There is a lot of precedence for what we are doing, but the area we are doing it in is unprecedented.”
The four pillars of ELLI consist of an annual conference, an academic journal, professional development seminars and in-house consultations, offering a variety of opportunities to help institutions combine personal expertise to create cutting-edge plans for success.
Co-hosted by ELLI and the National Society for Experiential Education, the institute’s annual conference will be held at the end of June, incorporating lectures, workshops, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park excursions and a trip to the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
The Journal of Experiential Learning & Teaching in Higher Education, a new peer reviewed academic journal, will launch in 2017. The first of its kind to highlight project-based learning ideas and newly implemented programs from universities nationwide, the journal will be reviewed by a team located across the country and printed by SUU Press.
Last year, the National Society for Experiential Education awarded Southern Utah University’s EDGE Program with the Outstanding Experiential Education Program Award, highlighting how experiential education is woven into the undergraduate curriculum.
“The EDGE Program harnesses our legacy as a campus,” says Clarke. “It helps us provide a focus as national leaders. ELLI is an outgrowth of that same movement – not only helping students, but a way to help our faculty, our staff – our entire university, to convey the message to the outside world that we have a lot to offer.”
Speaking about the award and the university as a whole, SUU President Scott L Wyatt states, “Our project-based learning program has taken an enormous amount of work over the last five years, and I am extremely proud of what our faculty and staff have accomplished. Our students and their future employers are the beneficiaries.”