Learning Beyond the Science Classroom: A Roadmap to Success

  • Laura J. Starr Purdue University
  • Dennis J. Minchella Purdue University
Keywords: experiential learning, scientific careers, professional development


Today’s college graduates compete in a global market fueled by rapid innovation and constant technological advances. In order to be able to contribute to and advance in these highly demanding careers, workers not only require advanced scientific and technological knowledge but they also need to possess versatility, collaborative problem-solving ability, professional self-confidence, and intercultural communication skills. Many of these latter competencies have been found to be better developed through co-curricular or experiential activities, like undergraduate research, internships, and community-based learning, than in the classroom. Yet, despite these findings most large research universities tend to regard experiential learning as an add-on. The College of Science at Purdue University, in contrast, has placed learning-beyond-the-classroom front and center. Students are encouraged to make co-curricular activities part of their overall academic plan and they are rewarded for doing so. Students benefit from a roadmap of activities in which to participate as well as coaching through the reflection process. They are prompted to discover a link between their experiences and what they have learned in the classroom, and encouraged to reflect on how their experiences may impact their futures. Completion of the Learning Beyond the Classroom Certificate appears on a student’s academic transcript and is noted at graduation.

Author Biographies

Laura J. Starr, Purdue University
Associate Director for Experiential Learning and Student Success College of Science
Dennis J. Minchella, Purdue University
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education Professor of Biological Sciences College of Science