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Dillon Hall
Dillon Hall

Provost’s Message

June 27, 2017

Songs of Experience
Photo of Douglas Kneale

Photo credit: Jason Kryk, The Windsor Star

In 1794 the English poet William Blake published an illustrated series of poems entitled Songs of Innocence and of Experience, showing “the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul.”

At first glance, Innocence and Experience do seem polarized, as different from each other as Blake’s meek Lamb from his burning Tyger. Yet upon closer inspection, scholars have noted, Experience is always already present within Innocence, there but not perceived, and perception – or at least its contrary states of blindness and insight – is what lies at the heart of Blake’s songs. Looking back at its former Innocence, Experience says: “I saw what I never had seen.”

Today in postsecondary education in Ontario we have our own Songs of Experience.

Not exactly poetry, it’s what we call “experiential education” or “experiential learning.” We now have “experience maps” that guide students through their undergraduate university education, showing how they can combine curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular experiences on their way to a career after graduation. Practically every university in the province now has “experience” in its lexicon, in its advertising, and on its website.

By experiential education, we mean more than just “co-op.” We define it as “the application of theory to a concrete experience, either within the classroom, the community, or workplace, that advances the learning outcomes of a course or academic program. It requires students to reflect upon their learning. Experiential learning can come in many forms and can occur both inside and outside the classroom.”

In 2016 the University of Windsor established a task force to review experiential education across our campus. The mandate was to establish a common terminology, develop a thorough inventory of current activities, and make recommendations for increasing and documenting student participation in experiential learning. As in Blake’s state of Experience, our research revealed far more than what we had innocently imagined. We saw what we never had seen. More than we realized, our University was deeply involved in and committed to experiential education in many different forms – curricular, co-curricular, and extra- curricular. Please click here to read our report.

We founded the task force partly because we saw that the province’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development was interested in having universities play a bigger role in preparing students to become members of the Highly Skilled Workforce – a government priority that has now evolved into the Career Kick-Start Strategy announced in April 2017. While that strategy, strictly speaking, focuses only on “work-integrated learning” (as one subset of experiential education overall), it dovetails with our more comprehensive review of the landscape.

All education is an “experience,” though not all of it need be “applied learning,” or at least not applied in any narrow sense of the word. Curiosity and imagination are as important, as useful, as reason and analysis, as Shelley said in 1821: “Whatever strengthens and purifies the affections, enlarges the imagination, and adds spirit to sense, is useful.”

Still, as one example of the high-impact educational practices that have been shown to improve student engagement and thus student success, experiential education is something that many employers and students are seeking. Here at the University of Windsor we have been offering our students hands-on experiential learning for a long time, and we are committed to enhancing the number and variety of such opportunities as we integrate them into the overall student experience. The possibilities grow every day.

UWindsor students can dive into experiences in Applied Research, Community Service Learning, Creative Performances or Exhibits, Field Placements and Field Schools, Internships and Externships, Labs, Practicums, Conference Presentations, Research Projects, Research Assistantships, Teaching Assistantships, and Work Study positions – to name but a few. And of course, we also have plenty of choice in Co-op programs, both in Canada and around the world.

Recent examples of experiential education opportunities at the University of Windsor include:

  • field study in Costa Rica through our Faculty of Science
  • editing and publishing practicum in the Department of English
  • state-of-the-art Simulation Lab in our Faculty of Nursing
  • practice teaching in the Faculty of Education
  • co-op placement in Germany through our Faculty of Engineering
  • internship in the Department of Communications, Media and Film
  • field practicum in our School of Social Work
  • Community Legal Aid Clinic in our Faculty of Law
  • Volunteer Internship Program in Community Service Learning.

These are our Songs of Experience.

I invite you to explore this website for more information – not just about the wonderful experiential opportunities at the University of Windsor, but about the full sweep of our programs and courses, and the outstanding research, scholarship, and creativity happening with our professors and students.

Even better, come visit our campus and see for yourself. Together we’ll map out a personal, hands-on University of Windsor experience that is uniquely yours.