Stetson University: Providing Rich Opportunities for Hands-on, Experiential Learning
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Stetson University: Providing Rich Opportunities for Hands-on, Experiential Learning

Born and raised in Ghana, Evans Asuboah is no stranger to hard work. As a child, he made frequent after-school visits to his grandfather’s cocoa plantation to clear weeds and help with the harvest.

His strong work ethic and attention to detail helped him excel in computer science and gain admission to Stetson University. This summer, he landed a full-time internship with Amazon, the online retail giant, which flew him to Seattle to work as a software engineer on the Alexa Echo Show multimodal team.

“Stetson helped me a lot with this internship,” said Asuboah, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. “Right from the data structures course in class, the mock interview prep with the business school, and the opportunities shared by the [Office of] Career and Professional Development.”

Students like Asuboah find a wealth of opportunities at Stetson in experiential learning outside of the classroom, becoming immersed in high-impact practices like internships, study abroad, undergraduate research and community engagement. These hands-on experiences build on the academic excellence inside of the classroom, allowing students to apply and reflect on what they have learned.

One day, Asuboah hopes to return to Africa and establish an applied computer science tech school. Source: Stetson University

For Asuboah, this experiential learning also included research. In April, he won a coveted Maris Prize at Stetson Showcase, an annual campus-wide celebration of student research with more than 160 projects. He won for Outstanding Oral Presentation for his research presentation about revamping the Black Home Schoolers of Central Florida’s website, with the goal of creating a user-friendly and donation-boosting experience.

In addition, he gained real-world coding experience through an internship with CodePath and currently is undergoing the internship at Amazon. Stetson students find internships at other top companies, such as Microsoft, Facebook, JPMorgan Chase, BNY Mellon and Deloitte.

“Engaging in internships and research has been instrumental in complementing my academic studies,” Asuboah said. “These experiences have allowed me to bridge the gap between theory and practical application, gaining valuable skills and insights along the way.”

Noureen Saeed, a Psychology major from Egypt, agreed. She received a US$2,000 grant through the Stetson Undergraduate Research Experience programme to work on a research project with a faculty mentor. Through the SURE Grant, she has begun exploring the relationship between English language proficiency and psychological variables in Egypt. She will present her results at the Stetson Showcase.

“It has deepened my understanding of the meticulous planning and coordination required for a successful research project,” she said. “Although I’m still in the early stages of data collection, I’m enthusiastic about the potential findings that my research may uncover.”

At Stetson, Noureen has begun exploring the relationship between English language proficiency and psychological variables in Egypt

Soon, she will be taking on an internship, too. At the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, she will work alongside Dr. Qin Wang and enhance her knowledge in neuroscience.

Dr. Wang’s lab investigates cell surface receptor signaling and neuropharmacology in the context of brain physiology and disease pathology, helping to illuminate the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease. Saeed plans to pursue a PhD in cognitive neuroscience in the United States and one day go into research and academia, too.

Study abroad experiences, another Stetson hallmark, heavily contribute to students’ academic growth, as well.

Paula Hentz, Senior International Officer and Director of Global Initiatives, plays a pivotal role in making international excursions accessible to students. Thanks to Stetson’s donor funds and its extensive list of university partnerships, Hentz and her team were able to award over 70 students with study abroad scholarships.

They also pioneered the Rinker Global Scholars Programme, which enables students during their sophomore break to embark on an interdisciplinary programme in a new country, such as a recent trip to Venice.

Stetson offers more than 100 faculty-led, exchange, and affiliate programs for study abroad. No matter where students choose to go, they arrive equipped — Hentz leads a team of study abroad peer ambassadors who see to it. “Our study abroad ambassadors are all students who have studied abroad at Stetson before and want to help other students have the same opportunity,” she explained.

Students meet with the staff in WORLD: The David and Leighan Rinker Centre for International Learning “to help narrow down their choices and hone in on the programme that will be the best fit for them,” Hentz said. The centre also hosts study abroad fairs, international festivals and other events designed to get students out of their comfort zones and onto a plane.

Still a year away from graduating, Saeed has already travelled to France, Italy and the UK.

“Each of these experiences played a significant role in expanding my horizons and deepening my understanding of psychology,” she said. “By engaging with students and professors from different countries, I gained invaluable insights and diverse perspectives on the subject.”

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