Nebraska on course to offer every grad a hands-on, real-world experience

Student Research

Troy Fedderson, April 17, 2024

Nebraska on course to offer every grad a hands-on, real-world experience


A growing wave of University of Nebraska–Lincoln undergraduates are gaining hands-on, real-world experiences that are preparing them for career success.

Ask Ella Humphrey, who waded knee deep through Nebraska waterways collecting shiners to advance a natural resources study.

Check out Dillon Galloway’s work, shot patrolling sidelines armed with cameras, honing his photography talents in support of Husker Athletics.

Review designs made by architecture students who partnered with Nebraska Game and Parks to develop concepts for a Niobrara State Park visitors center.

Be inspired by Sukaina Al-Hamedi, who aimed for the stars (and beyond) to complete four intensive NASA programs before graduation.

These once unique experiences are becoming the norm for Huskers as the university aligns to meet its N2025 strategic goal to offer every undergraduate a documented experiential learning opportunity before graduation.

“Our students are engaged in hands-on learning across all disciplines, and we have no shortage of opportunities available,” said Amy Goodburn, senior associate vice chancellor and dean of undergraduate education. “We expect to meet this goal by 2026 — which we had to delay a year due to impacts from COVID-19.”

To meet the goal, the university’s nine colleges have aligned with the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor to track and (in many instances) expand the experiential learning opportunities offered. To date, 3,140 students in cohorts from fall 2022 and 2023 have completed a hands-on offering — which includes more than a third of the class of 2026.

“As of the fall 2023 semester, 446 students have taken at least two different experiential learning experiences,” Goodburn said. “Fifty have taken at least three and two have taken four.

“Our students are buying in and taking as many opportunities as they can in pursuit of their degrees.

The growing list of experiences is available on the EVC website and divided by type, ranging from study abroad opportunities and internships to community engagement and leadership offerings.

Colleges are committed to offering experiential learning opportunities sooner, allowing students to gain experiences and decide if their chosen academic path truly aligns with their passions. An example of this is the College of Journalism and Mass Communications’ Experience Lab, which is offering students the chance to “do from day one.”

Launched in 2021, the Experience Lab offers a range of opportunities for students to learn about the industry — from a student-led ad agency that works with real-world clients, to a news service that provides news to publications statewide.

In their first semester on campus, students in the college explore professional interests for four to six hours each week in at least one Experience Lab program. The students are required to take part in the program for three semesters, earning three credit hours while developing industry skills.

“The idea is to offer our students the chance to experiment, play and — hopefully — fall in love with a career in journalism. Or this gives them an immediate opportunity to figure out this field is not for them,” said Shari Veil, dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Our Experience Lab is really an opportunity for students to figure out their passions and start pursuing them from day one in their college career.”

The program has proven popular, growing steadily in each semester offered. It currently has some 330 students enrolled, with 400-plus expected in fall 2023.

“We have students volunteering in the lab, not taking it for credit, but who are there to develop different skills,” Veil said. “And, we have a number of students from other majors coming to us to gain these experiences.”

Other unique experiential opportunities available to students across the university include master classes with world-class performers via the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts; community-impacting design/builds in the College of Architecture; entrepreneurial ventures in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources; global explorations in the College of Business; industry-leading internships in the College of Engineering; case-based learning in the College of Education and Human Sciences; serving as research assistants for renowned faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences; and working with clients in clinics offered by the College of Law.

“Experiential learning has truly become a strategic focus at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln,” Goodburn said. “We are preparing our students to be world ready, to have the skills they need to excel in their career fields and benefit communities across Nebraska, the nation and world.”

Read more about University of Nebraska–Lincoln students’ hands-on learning experiences in Nebraska Today.

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