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UW-Superior's Senior Year Experience provides students with a 'culminating learning experience'

Posted on Apr 21, 2010
Spring 2010 is the first semester that every graduating senior at UW-Superior is required to complete a Senior Year Experience. Learn more about the SYE and see what some students are doing.

 It's among the biggest assignments students ever complete at UW-Superior.

Spring 2010 is the first semester that every graduating senior at UW-Superior is required to complete a Senior Year Experience - a creative or intellectual activity which demonstrates that he or she has mastered key skills learned during their years of university study. As students discover, their projects reinforce many skills and offer even more opportunities to learn as they complete one of the biggest academic achievements in their lives.

(See how the Senior Year Experience works in different academic programs and read about projects students are doing this year.)

'A signature experience'

The Senior Year Experience emerged from UW-Superior's Liberal Arts Initiative -- a detailed effort to provide students with a distinctive set of experiences rooted in the tradition of a liberal arts education and consistent with UW-Superior's status as a public university. 

"The faculty was looking for signature experiences that would define education at UW-Superior. The Senior Year Experience is one of those," said Dr. Christopher Markwood, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. "The Senior Year Experience is very discipline-based so it looks different in different academic departments, but they all have common threads: original research or creative experience or academic service-learning, and a public presentation, exhibition, performance or display."

In a way, the Senior Year Experience isn't entirely new at UW-Superior. Most academic programs, departments or even individual professors have been doing it for years through capstone courses, senior research presentations, senior recitals and other requirements seniors had to complete to earn their degrees, said Dr. Rhoda Robinson, associate dean of academic affairs and graduate studies.

Requiring the Senior Year Experience of all students provides a common program across the university for faculty, staff and students.  "Now, we're formalizing it as a critical piece of the senior experience," she said.

A lot of time, a lot of benefits

Senior Year Experience projects require a substantial investment of time. Depending on the subject, a student may dedicate several hundred hours of work to a project, particularly if it involves an internship, student teaching or a performance. Faculty members work closely with seniors throughout their projects, offering advice and guidance. Their dedication also requires a large investment of time, often equaling the teaching of an additional class.

The benefits of the Senior Year Experience are numerous:

  • Components such as undergraduate research have been shown to be "high-impact practices" that encourage students to complete their degrees.
  • Faculty members will use assessment of the students' presentations to make changes in the program curriculum.
  • The presentations call public attention to student achievements. "It brings more visibility to the high-quality programs and students we have here," Robinson said. "We want our students to know how good they are. We want the world to know how good our students are, and we want our students to be comfortable working in public."

Draws on many skills

The biggest benefit is that students find themselves drawing on many skills they've learned at UW-Superior as well as learning new ones to complete their projects.

"The Senior Year Experience is more than show and tell," Markwood said. "It's a culminating learning experience where concepts, theories and skills students have been learning since their first classes are brought together, integrated and showcased."

Read more:

Read how the Senior Year Experience works in academic programs such as biology, business, video production and music.

Read about the projects of three students majoring in biology, video production and music.

News Contact: Al Miller | 715-394-8260 | amiller{atuws}
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