Experience proves the mother of narration, learning

Thursday, April 28
Dion Family Student Center McGrath Room and surrounding areas
Opening reception for 5th Annual Experiential Showcase

Joan Wagner, dIrector of community-engaged learning and coordinator of experiential learning, opened this year’s Showcase by saying how much this segment of the SymJoan Wagner and Lauren Friedgenposium has grown since 2012, to a total of 68 students presenting over those years, and  “with hundreds of others represented who’ve gone through co-curricular programs.” The display this year in the glassed-in small McGrath Room on Dion’s Third Floor near the elevators featured 14 students’ “artifacts” with a reflective narrative by each, “boiling down and condensing impactful and meaningful, life-changing experiences spanning a long period.” It’s a nice way to represent and “demystify opportunities available at Saint Mike’s,” she said, explaining that she “believes in the power of personal narrative.” (That's Joan in the photo above at right, talking to Lauren Friedgen '16 at the previous day's MJD event). The pieces often uncover traditions associated with longstanding  activities that in many cases lead to discovery of a professional pathway, she said.  A few students read their reflections at the opening reception, including:

Erin Buckley ’17, an environmental studies major from Haddam CT, with a peace & justice minor,  who is a MOVE core team leader, but who chose to write and read about the hours she has spent working in the College’s organic garden/permaculture site down the hill behind Fire & Rescue. “It’s where I find my comfort and purpose and my home,” she said, noting the site’s beauty even in the dead of winter. The moment her perspective shifted , she said, came after her last day leading MOVE volunteers in putting in seeds at the garden, knowing “that garlic would grow in the spring and we’d use it to feed the community” – thus, in a “small but powerful way,” effecting meaningful change in the world. “It reminds me to nurture what is important to me and gives me a profound sense of place and belonging,” she said.

Kerianne Shetter ’17 wrote about her time as executive editor of the campus student newspaper, the Defender.  She had no interest in working for the paper at first, but it was the only class she could get into to meet a requirement, so she signed on.  “My fears were unfounded,” she read, and she felt after her semester that she had “produced some of the proudest student works of my time here.”  Kerianne learned that “good results rarely come easy,” describing a tough lesson when a story accidentally appeared twice in the same issue on different pages -- hence the name “Seeing Double” for her reflection. But, “we aren’t just classmates” at the Defender, “we are an editorial staff, and that has made all the difference,” she shared.

Mike Wojcik ’16 called his reflection “2,959 hours and 702 calls” -- the time he’d devoted to Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue at the time of writing, rescue badgethough his work as an EMT driver since then  has added to the total. Unlike many colleagues at Rescue, he’s “yet to deliver a baby, treat a gunshot wound or bring a person back to life,” but he has been “taught things I couldn’t’ learn elsewhere.” Initially doubting his own abilities to do the job, soon he’d found a niche, coming to “love the unpredictability” of responding to medical emergencies. It’s  privilege to “be the first to enter a home in someone’s darkest hour,” said Mike, who has sung a Taylor Swift song to a girl in a car crash to calm her, and held a dying nun’s hand in her last hours. It’s taught him how much he enjoys interacting with patients, solidifying his vocation to pursue health care as a career, he said -- specifically as a physician’s assistant, to best use his interpersonal strengths for optimal patient outcomes. His supervisor, Rescue Chief Leslie Lundquist’11, said Mike is a great example of what she likes best in her job – taking a student unsure of him- or herself, and helping that student see “how they fit into the whole process of becoming an adult.” Now Mike is “a leader, confident, he found a path. We got to watch him go out of his comfort zone, meet new folks, which is a fun process, and now he’s ready to get a degree and go out the door.” His "artifact" was his Rescue badge, seen in photo at right.

Tylik ExperientialTylik Williams-Prince ’16 of Brooklyn, NY, displayed his journal from his participation in the Student Association's leadership, an “extended metaphor for everything we’ve been through, for when things get messy but come together in the end.” Tylik learned the importance to have “a strong team to help you pull things back together when things get messy.” He was proud this year of “giving a voice back to students” in the SA, and of “how we accomplished so much and changed our image over this year.” That's Tylik on the left in this nearby photo, looking at artifacts in the McGrath Room Thursday.

Other artifacts and reflections from this year’s display were from: an intern in the Chief Medical Examiner’s office, a rock and ice climbing instructor for the Wilderness Program, a participant in the Purple Knights Leadership Academy, a LEAP Retreat Leader from Campus Ministry, a Summer Research Award recipient, an extended service MOVE volunteer, a pharmacy technician at CVS (paid internship), a Study Abroad student to Tanzania, a staff sergeant in the Vermont Air National Guard, and a Resident Assistant.

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