Luther College Chips

New ‘learning hubs’ create opportunities for experiential learning

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New ‘learning hubs’ create opportunities for experiential learning

Illustration from the Mayo Clinic Destination Medical Center development plan.

Illustration from the Mayo Clinic Destination Medical Center development plan.

Photo courtesy of the DMC Excecutive Plan

Illustration from the Mayo Clinic Destination Medical Center development plan.

Photo courtesy of the DMC Excecutive Plan

Photo courtesy of the DMC Excecutive Plan

Illustration from the Mayo Clinic Destination Medical Center development plan.

Emma Busch, Staff Writer

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Luther College is currently exploring experiential learning opportunities for students through “learning hubs.” The hubs would be located in cities across the Midwest, and also in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic Destination Medical Center (DMC) initiative in Rochester, MN.

According to Interim Dean for Institutional Planning and Mission Bradley Chamberlain, interest in increasing the number of experiential learning opportunities was present throughout the 18-month-long planning period prior to the approval of the Strategic Action Plan. He says that while Luther is still in the initial planning stages, the college has a vision for how these programs may function.

“We envision this as a place outside of Decorah with a very focused purpose in creating experiential learning opportunities like internships and research experiences,” Chamberlain said. “So this is not a scenario where a student would go to Rochester, Minneapolis, Des Moines, [or other sites], and take four courses there as opposed to taking four courses here. They would go to one of those sites [and] they may take one or perhaps two courses either with a faculty member at that place or engage with the class here through technology, but a significant portion of their time would be in those experiential learning opportunities.”

Chamberlain says that the faculty will ultimately define what these opportunities will look like.

“We’re still in the visioning stage and there are conversations happening in terms of what some possibilities may be, but it will ultimately be up to the faculty to determine how those experiences will relate back to the general education program and how they will relate in the specific major programs,” Chamberlain said.

Photo courtesy of
Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

In addition to establishing its own experiential learning hubs, Luther is in conversation with representatives of the Mayo Clinic DMC initiative. The DMC initiative is a $5.6 billion plan with the goal to expand the Mayo Clinic and DMC over the next 20 years in order to establish Rochester as a global destination for health, wellness, and the biotech industry. Representatives from Luther including Chamberlain, President Paula Carlson, Director of the Career Center Brenda Ranum, Associate Professor of History Robert Christman, and Professor of Biology Jodi Enos-Berlage attended a meeting with Mayo and DMC representatives on Dec. 18 to discuss Luther’s possible involvement.

According to Enos-Berlage, the DMC sees Luther students as an incentive for new companies in the Rochester area.     

“They’re recruiting [to attract new companies to the area] and the companies are asking two questions,” Enos-Berlage said. “One is, ‘What access will I have to Mayo Clinic?  and the second question is, ‘Where is my workforce going to come from?’ They are very interested in the product of Luther College, which is our students. The quality of that product is what they are seeking because our involvement can help them achieve their objectives of making this Destination Medical Center.” 

Christman says the DMC also approached Luther due to the large number of alumns currently living in Rochester and working with the Mayo Clinic, as well as the type of student Luther’s liberal arts education produces.    

“They need people, obviously, who understand science, but they don’t want pure technicians,” Christman said. “They want people with broad educations who can bring a lot of different capabilities, viewpoints, and perspectives to the table. So they are very much interested in the type of student that Luther College turns out.”

According to the DMC executive plan, possible short-term opportunities for Luther students include J-term experiences and full-semester or summer internships. In the long-term, the DMC hopes to create “a steady stream of talented and dedicated Luther students coming to Rochester” for a variety of careers and the possibility of a “programmatic pipeline of defined opportunities and space.” While Luther plans to continue discussing options with the DMC and internally with faculty, Christman says the initiative offers a number of opportunities for a wide variety of students.   

“We see broad opportunities for students of all kinds of different disciplines and programs, so we certainly are not interested in excluding anything,” Christman said. “We’re in initial phases here and if students had something in particular they saw and like us to consider, we would certainly be happy to do so.”

Enos-Berlage says she and Christman have made an effort to document and share information and ideas regarding Luther’s involvement in the DMC initiative with faculty and are open to doing the same for interested students.

“What we’ve tried to do for the faculty is collect information, summarize it, distill it, and then share it with everybody so that everybody can see the full conversation that we’re seeing,” Enos-Berlage said. “I think that’s been helpful so far, so we can certainly do the same for students.”

Chamberlain says he will also look for ways to channel student input through Student Senate in the coming weeks.

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