Faculty Spotlight

Victor Asal, PhD

Chair of Public Administration

Department of Political Science, Specialization: Comparative Politics

101A Milne Hall | vasal@albany.edu | 518-591-8729

 

What does experiential learning mean to you?

Experiential learning, to me, means working with students to help them learn through applying theories and arguments to actual situations, whether it is through case studies, games or simulations, or experiential learning, so that they can see how the theories and models help them understand what is going on - and which of the theories and models we learn about in the course work best.

How do you incorporate experiential learning in your classes?

I use games and simulations in my class and students are asked to be “lab rats” in their own experiments by applying the theories we learn in class to the exercises to sort out what theories they think do the best job of explaining their own experiences.

Why do you think experiential learning is beneficial for your students?

I think for students it is one thing to try and analyze why historically a leader did horrible things; they can be judgmental and dismiss various factors. It’s a different experience when they are analyzing their own behavior (even though it is simulated) where they often put their own interests ahead of others (albeit in a simulated framework).

Can you give an example of how an experiential learning experience impacted one or more student(s) in your class?

I do an exercise where students play leaders of the countries of Europe in 1941 and they are asked by the Nazis to deport their undesirables (in this case defined as left-handers) to the “east” in exchange for peace. I have had students come to me afterwards to tell me that this is the first time they got an inkling how discrimination might actually feel and how much it might impact how those who are discriminated against feel about things. It’s very powerful.

Sanjay Goel, PhD

Chair and Professor, Department of Information Security and Digital Forensics

Program Director, Digital Forensics Program and Graduate Certificate in Information Security

Director, NYS Center for Information Forensics and Assurance (CIFA)

Director, Forensics, Analytics, Complexity Energy, Transportation & Security (FACETS) Center.

goel@albany.edu | 518-956-8323

 

How do you embed experiential education into your course(s)?

We have several ways to embed experiential learning into our courses including, working with private firms and national labs to provide students with live projects, flipping the classroom to allow students to work on projects in the classroom, and extensive use of lab-based curriculum in the technical courses.

What are the key lessons you’ve learned about experiential education?
  1. It is important to let students research on their own, even if they make mistakes, rather than spoon-feeding them answers (avoid the temptation!).
     
  2. Students need constant feedback from faculty to help improve their work.
     
  3. The most important role of the faculty is to instill confidence in the students.

Collaborative Experiential Project: “Community Applied Learning Lab (CALL)”

Wonhyung Lee

Assistant Professor, School of Social Welfare

whlee@albany.edu

Kim Stauffer

Lecturer, Department of Music & Theatre

kgstauffer@albany.edu

Can you describe your experiential education project?

Our interdisciplinary project involves a combined classroom session that brings social work and theatre students together, a project called the “Community Applied Learning Lab (CALL).” Social work students prepare to engage a client who will share their stories or struggles, and suggest potential resources for further assistance. Theatre students are assigned as the “client” with a challenge around which they must build a believable character. They spend 4 weeks developing a character backstory, portfolio, and timeline through structured class improvisations.  The theatre students keep their role a secret from the social work students, who believe they are consulting with true clients. Both arrive for the final day of class with a weighted responsibility to engage in a powerful hands-on learning experience.

What impact has this experiential project had on your teaching pedagogy? 

Wonhyung: It has challenged me to think more critically about what kind of classroom experience I hope students to walk away with. In order for teaching to be impactful, it needs to engage the mind, body, and spirit of every single student. It is the responsibility of the instructor to figure out how to create an environment that will boost up students’ motivation. 

Kim: Experiential learning can feel incredibly risky to students.  Inviting and allowing them to process their questions, fears, or anxiety – individually and collectively – is a critical part of the process.  I work diligently to scaffold the progression of low-risk to high-risk activities that give them the tools to succeed, and help them embrace the risks and rewards of taking on a new challenge.

What lessons have you learned from leading this project?

Meet a partner that you’d love to work with and plan early. And be flexible and persistent while going through the various hurdles and logistical issues. Classes and schedules run like clockwork in our “silos”, so stepping outside of that for interdisciplinary projects requires you blaze your own trail.  For example, we wanted a join meeting for our 2 classes together, but we were told this was not an option since our classes met different times and days. We eventually brainstormed the possibility of requesting that our final exams be held at the same time.  You may need to be inventive and come up with your own solutions to the logistical challenges. Be ready to explain your project to those along the way as you try to enlist help in making “outside the box” projects happen.

Rae Muhlstock, PhD

Lecturer, Writing and Critical Inquiry

rmuhlstock@albany.edu | 518-442-3347

 

How do you incorporate experiential learning in your classes?

I have an experiential learning project on every one of my syllabi. In the spring, I teach a course called "In a Mirror Darkly: Black Mirror, Science Fiction, and Social Anxiety”, where we study the Netflix show Black Mirror alongside an interdisciplinary selection of texts (novels, episodes of The Twilight Zone, short fiction, political studies, cultural studies, etc.). Students work in small groups to create original short science fiction films revolving around their own social anxieties. We do a screening of original student videos at The Madison Theater on a Saturday afternoon with a catered celebration. It’s thrilling to see their work — and more importantly, for them to see their own work — at an authentic venue like an off-campus movie theater.

Can you give an example of how an experiential learning experience impacted one or more student(s) in your class?

I have a wonderful media mentor, a junior business major who hopes to one day run a small production company, who is working with students on the cinematography of their films. He is walking them through the editing process, helping them storyboard, meeting with them weekly to discuss how the content of their films is supported by the directorial choices they make as filmmakers. In the process, he is learning more about constructing narrative films. This mentorship is immensely beneficial for all involved

Why do you think experiential learning is beneficial for your students?

It is a goal of mine to make my students' work matter beyond the 15 weeks of a given semester, and to give their work and their inquiries a life outside of the classroom itself.

Collaborative Experiential Project: "Ecojustice Summer"

Joanna Brebyl, PhD

Associate Professor, Sociology

jderby@albany.edu | 342 Arts & Sciences Building

 

Scott Kellogg, PhD

Adjunct Professor, Sociology

Educational Director, Radix Ecological Sustainability Center

skellogg@albany.edu

Can you describe your interdisciplinary experiential education project?

Our course involved having SUNY undergraduates participate as mentors of local high school youth in the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center's "Ecojustice Summer" program. Teams of students conducted community-based participatory research in Albany's South End that included interviewing community activists, photo-documentation of socio-environmental risks and amenities, and the creation of community asset maps. Additionally, SUNY students participated with youth in sustainability education, environmental justice awareness, and outdoor adventure activities.

Why do you think experiential learning is beneficial for your students?

Experiential education provides students with an opportunity to study socio-ecological conditions first hand in a community based setting, serving as a critical practical complement to traditional classroom learning. A form of service-learning, students are also encouraged to connect with and give back to the local community with whom they may otherwise remain separate from. Furthermore, experiential learning allows students to be familiar with the realities of a particular line of work before entering the professional field.

What impact has this experiential project had on your teaching pedagogy?

As a teacher, I am commonly frustrated by the constraints of the classroom and the tendency of theoretical knowledge to be delivered in an overly abstract manner. While it's certainly important for students to have a basic understanding of the how and the why and to have sensitivity to community needs, practical engagement is essential for providing a grounded and experiential knowledge that will better prepare students for professional work. I continually strive to find a balance between theoretical and practical learning, and am always seeking better methods for its delivery

What lessons have you learned from leading this project?

Students need to have a clear understanding before enrolling in experiential education that it will be quite different from traditional classroom work. Conditions can often be unpredictable and uncomfortable (for example, hot and dirty) and involve utilizing whatever resources are at hand. They must understand that participation is critical — active engagement with the program is necessary and will require a level of energy and attention quite different from what they may be otherwise accustomed to. Furthermore, experiential education is often non-linear in nature and students must be open to its experimental form. They need to appreciate that the process of the experience is just as important as any final grading outcome or defined educational deliverables.

Marilyn Masson, PhD

Professor, Anthropology

Arts & Sciences Building, Room 109

518-442-5199 | mmasson@albany.edu

 

How do you incorporate experiential learning in your classes?

In the summer of 2018, students enrolled in the six-credit Archeological Field School (ANT338) course actively participated in a field school project at several local sites in the Albany, NY area. Professor Masson collaborated with local experts in historical archaeology to offer students the opportunity to help excavate at three sites of the post-revolutionary war period (early 1800's), with a special focus on two localities that were homes of key leaders in Albany's Underground Railroad (Stephen & Harriett Myers house and Thomas Elkins house). The third locality is the Ten Broeck Mansion, where students investigated a servant's quarters building, formerly occupied by slaves or free servants.

The course offers interdisciplinary appeal and is a great way for students to gain significant hands-on research experience. Students learn useful skills for entry-level work in the archaeology profession, including how to lay out units, excavate, screen, map, record, and photograph archaeological features in the field, and also learn to wash, label, identity, and inventory artifacts in the lab. Students also engaged in community outreach with visitors and volunteers to the sites. Professor Masson collaborated with program directors at the Ten Broeck Mansion, as well as the Underground Railroad Project and the New York State Museum.