Learning Beyond the Classroom

Learning Beyond the Classroom

When you learn by doing you retain lessons for a lifetime. That is the philosophy behind the Learning Beyond the Classroom (LBC) Program. LBC offers a broad spectrum of opportunities for you to learn about yourself, other people, different cultures, and the world around you while making important contributions to our society. Possibilities for learning beyond the classroom are endless and so are the benefits that they can provide.

Learning Beyond the Classroom experiences can take many forms. These have included:

  • Volunteering for area social service agencies on "Make A Difference Day"
  • Helping build a replica of an 18th century Native-American village as part of an "Alternative Spring Break" trip to Hillsborough, NC
  • Reading aloud to elementary school children as part of the student-athletes' Golden Bear Literacy Program
  • Discussing the similarities and differences of the Colonial and modern day economies in a Money and Banking class after a trip to Old Sturbridge Village
The program provides opportunities for students in every major to reflect on cocurricular experiences and accomplishments through discussion, presentations, and/or portfolios.

On-campus learning is facilitated through student participation in clubs, honor societies, student organizations, athletics, mentoring and peer advising, tutoring, campus ministry, work study, and student government.

Reflective Learning Exercises

The critical factor in Learning Beyond the Classroom experiences is that they are discussed and analyzed so that students can review the learning dimensions and specific skills they have acquired. This may be done through a paper, a poster presentation, or a class discussion.  Regardless of the method used, all approaches emphasize the importance of the student reflecting on the experience and placing the learning in a context.

Alternative Spring Break

Environmental cleanup and restoration along the Appalachian Trail, investigation of Native American issues in Hillsboro, North Carolina, feeding the homeless in Washington, DC, and local work for Habitat for Humanity to build affordable housing for greater Springfield residents—these are just some of the exciting Alternative Spring Break experiences our students have enjoyed, donating their time and energy to different community service projects throughout the country. Students gain priceless experience through this program, which is organized by the Office of Learning Beyond the Classroom. A recent, unique trip was working with a child crisis center in El Paso, Texas.

Volunteer Opportunities

Western New England University seeks to produce well-rounded graduates who will become active members in their communities as volunteers and civic leaders. The Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development, the Department of Social Work, and Campus Ministry along with many student clubs and organizations encourage students to participate in volunteer activities and in community service efforts. Habitat for Humanity, America Reads and America Counts, and many other tutoring and mentoring opportunities are available.

Student Leadership

Student government leaders and student athletes have special experiences at Western New England University. They have the opportunity to take a studied look at their experience by working with a faculty mentor to investigate particular aspects of leadership. The captain of the soccer team may, for example, write a paper for his or her management professor on the team-building techniques used with the other members of the team. A student government member might work with the organization’s advisor to study principles of leadership and group dynamics.

A more structured opportunity might include the Art of Leadership, a series of leadership workshops, developed to enhance sophomore students’ leadership skills and enrich their cocurricular experiences by exploring the practical application of leadership skills. Workshops examine core-values and include self-introspection on personal leadership skills. Students learn to present themselves as leaders as well as to market their leadership experience on resumes and in interviews.


For over 30 years, Western New England University has set aside one day a year as "Lecture Day," inviting students and the public to attend lectures and seminars exploring important topics facing our society. To enhance the learning experience for students, many professors require students to attend and later participate in classroom discussions or write papers about the topic. Colloquia may be offered on specific topics. This extends our living and learning environment and creates an atmosphere in which both students and teachers are partners in a true community of learners.

Other organizations and student clubs sponsor a variety of speakers and programs throughout the year. Many faculty members incorporate these activities into their curricula to provide students with a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Putting Experiential Learning into Perspective

Group and individual reflective activities are an important component in helping students consider what they have learned. Writing a reflection paper or participating in a discussion panel helps the students to communicate their knowledge to others. In doing so, they are encouraged to consider the academic, professional, and political implications of their experience, and to place learning in a context.

To learn more about Learning Beyond the Classroom at Western New England University, contact Dr. Adina Elfant, Director of Learning Beyond the Classroom at: 413-782-1687, Fax: 413-796-2008, Email: aelfant@wne.edu

Alternative Spring Break

Alternative Springbreak album

Student groups have traveled to such locations as Florida; Washington, DC; Appalachia; and the Dominican Republic to assist with such issues as homelessness, hunger, refugeee resettlement, the plight of orphans, and the environment. 



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