Co-curricular involvement and Experiential Education
By Saben Durio UA’16 and Jim Stellar
Saben, you have been involved pretty extensively in student life in the last few years. How about you start by telling us a bit about what you did and what was the highest impact on you as a student?
I got my start with involvement as an Orientation Assistant with New Student Programs the summer following my sophomore year. Having the opportunity to meet many of the offices we have on campus was illuminating and helped me find many different avenues to get involved. Due to my involvement with Orientation I was able to be offered a position with Residential Life on a freshman living space. Working with the new students, many of which I had met during the summer at orientation, was a great chance to make sure they took advantage of the many different opportunities I had told them about during the summer. With the relationships I forged in Residential Life I was introduced to a public speaking organization known as Toastmasters International as well as our on campus government, Student Association. I like to think of these four specific groups as the cornerstones of my undergraduate involvement. What had the highest impact on me was something that wasn’t limited to just one of the offices. The opportunities to meet and interact with different individuals that became accessible due to my involvement in these activities was of the greatest import to me.
You have a new interest in combatting sexual violence against women and were interviewed last month about it for WCBTV in our empowered bystander program. Can you tell us about this new development in your own awareness?
Every year there is a startling amount of sexual violence being perpetuated across the country and especially on collegiate campuses. It’s been reported that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men will be sexually assaulted while on a college campus. Regrettably, a large portion of these acts go unreported and their perpetrators are not brought to justice. Due to this, multiple schools have tried to create programs to combat these statistics and arm students with the tools to take care of themselves and each other. Personally having close friends that have been victimized I felt the need to do more and join my University’s response to these acts of sexual misconduct. At UAlbany they have created Active Bystander Trainings that have launched with the mission of educating 25% of the student population of these statistics and how to put a stop to them. As a member of the team putting on the presentations I hope to act as a relatable student voice that individuals can empathize with. Something to be cognizant of is that these are not easy topics to discuss and students may have difficulty differentiating the importance of these presentations if given to them by faculty and staff. But having a student present, leading these discussions is peer to peer education and increases buy in from all members involved.
It sounds like both of these comments are different aspects of experiential education or applied learning as SUNY calls it. How did they affect your growth as a student, your choice of academic major, and your plans for yourself after graduation?
By having the opportunity to be immersed in these experiences I was able to figure out who I was as an individual and the topics that I’m passionate about. Although I learned a great deal from in classroom studies the experiences I participated in outside the classroom were integral in helping to decide what course I wanted to take throughout my academic process and beyond. Undergraduate involvement helped display the great interest I had in higher education and its associated work and led me to pursing a Master’s Degree in Education. Working with on campus offices, student groups and their many partnerships within the local community provided guidance and clarity towards my own personal goals and aspirations. Having both the curricular and co-curricular involvement experience working together in tandem were intrinsic to creating a road map for the future. After graduation I plan to work towards one day becoming a University President, helping other students have experiences that form them into the future leaders, innovators and citizens of the world.
We think the operative statement is “passionate.” In our experience, if a student can discover something about which they are passionate, they work harder and more effort brings more learning. Also, some argue that people who are passionate about something learn more for the time that they put in. So that in addition to hard work, maybe it is the case that passion makes people smarter. If so, that is what a college education is about. While it is critical to have a great curriculum that is well delivered, what the student’s put into their own education is critical and the best students go beyond required work to get to a level of excellence that serves them in college and in their career after. Universities need to concentrate as much on building passion as delivering the curriculum. Experiential education activities is one good way to develop that passion and a pattern of experiences chosen by the student to fit their interests and academic major is critical.