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APSU students present at state's first experiential learning symposium

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In late October, a van filled with some of Austin Peay State University’s brightest students headed east for a unique scholarly event. About four hours later, the van arrived at the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus for the inaugural Tennessee Experiential Learning Symposium (TELS)—the state’s first academic conference to focus on service learning, study abroad and undergraduate research.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In late October, a van filled with some of Austin Peay State University’s brightest students headed east for a unique scholarly event. About four hours later, the van arrived at the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus for the inaugural Tennessee Experiential Learning Symposium (TELS)—the state’s first academic conference to focus on service learning, study abroad and undergraduate research.

“Austin Peay had eight students attend, and we had the second highest number of presenters at the conference,” Dr. Christopher Gentry, director of the APSU Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), said. “We were significantly higher than the rest.” 

Since 2014, APSU has pushed for students to engage in more experiential learning experiences. This push led to the development of the E^3 Initiative—a campus wide plan that focuses on increasing student participation in high-impact learning opportunities—and the creation of the Learning Opportunities Center and the Center for Service-Learning and Community Engagement.

Under the E^3 Initiative, APSU student Emily Stark was encouraged to attend an international mathematics program in Budapest, Hungry, last summer. Stark presented at the Knoxville TELS conference on her study abroad experience.  

“It is not a traditional study abroad experience through APSU or any American university in particular, but rather is a program that students from American-based universities all over the world apply to,” she said. “Though (TELS) was not my first (off-campus) presentation, it was exciting to be a part of the first year for an experiential learning symposium, and I am really excited to see how it evolves and improves in the coming years.

The OUR office paid the students’ travel expenses and provided them with a meal stipend so they could attend the event. In addition to Stark, the APSU student presenters included:

• Kelly Hernandez and Jay Alvarez, Languages and Literature,

• Elizabeth Upshur, Languages and Literature,

• Alexander Hornick, Computer Science,

• Ian Chambers, Sociology,

• Miranda Salters, Communication,

• Macon St. Hilaire, Art.

“It was a really nice event that gave our students a great opportunity to present their work at an off campus event,” Gentry, who served on the symposium’s inaugural organizing committee, said. “We are hoping it expands in popularity next year because of its uniqueness and the opportunity it provides to undergraduates in the state.”

For more information on undergraduate research at APSU, contact Gentry at gentryc@apsu.edu