Visual Summary

The Experiential Learning Continuum at Williams

Experiential LearningThe Williams approach to experiential learning is inclusive, academically rigorous, and holistic. We encourage and support the use of any of the experiential learning approaches in the college’s curriculum (problem-based learning (PBL), community-based learning (CBL), cooperative learning, etc,) as long as they are employed in academically rigorous ways. Williams’ homegrown version of experiential education, understood as “uncomfortable learning,” is also promoted by a specially selected faculty member, the Gaudino Scholar, with the support of the College’s Gaudino Fund.

The Center for Learning in Action encourages students to think of their community service and other work experiences as informal learning opportunities which can help prepare them for curricular experiential learning. The following continuum provides a visual representation of these practices, arraying experiential opportunities involving no formal analysis at the left, moving toward those in which formal analysis and co-creation of knowledge are of primary importance.  The ultimate aim of community-engaged scholarship involves students addressing pressing social and civic issues via mutually beneficial learning partnerships with community entities.

Beyond specially designed courses, Williams faculty welcome students developing their community service and work interests into curricular fieldwork, whether as a retooling of an existing assignment or an independent study.  The list below highlights Williams’s major curricular and extracurricular venues for experiential learning.

Community Service

Opportunities to apply creative energy and initiative abound in government and non-profit organizations in the communities surrounding Williams. Students can tutor in the local house of correction, address food insecurity, work on community energy efficiency campaigns, mentor at-risk youth,  teach and tutor in local K-12 schools, and more. In addition to opportunities and connections arranged by the Center for Learning in Action and other campus offices, Lehman Community Engagement, the main student service group, organizes volunteer opportunities for all students via special days of service and other periodic activities.

Education Fieldwork Programs in Local Public Schools

Students teach, tutor, and mentor in local Pre-K-12 classrooms or guide students in specialized projects through our Education Outreach programs.  For information on elementary school opportunities, contact Jennifer Swoap ([email protected]). For middle and high school opportunities, email Kaatje White ([email protected]).


Alumni Sponsored Internship Program

Students can apply for a grant from the ’68 Center for Career Exploration (CCE) to intern over the summer with an organization or project anywhere in the world! To learn more, contact Dawn Dellea ([email protected]).

Department and Program Sponsored Summer Internships

Students can apply for funding for summer research and internship opportunities from the Center for Environmental Studies (CES), the Zilkha Center for Environmental Initiatives, the Economics Department. For environmental fieldwork support, visit the CES Student Opportunities page. For information on campus sustainability internship opportunities, go to the Zilkha Center Internships page. For economics-related summer internship support, see the ECON Student Resources page.

CLiA Summer Community Outreach Fellowship

This paid summer training program provides a small group of rising Williams sophomores and juniors, with priority given to rising sophomores, training in key skills, and the opportunity to help build better community service and experiential learning opportunities at Williams.

Summer Research

Summer Research Work with Williams Faculty and Independent Summer Research Projects

Students can work with Williams faculty on research projects involving fieldwork in the Humanities, Natural and Social Sciences through programs administered by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty. For more information, see the Funding section of the Faculty at Williams website. For funding for an independent student research project over the summer involving domestic public policy, students can apply for a Sentinels Fellowship.  For information on other undergraduate and postgraduate fellowships see the Office of Fellowships website.

Course Fieldwork

Winter Study Program (WSP) Courses / Independent Studies Involving Fieldwork and Research

Students can take a Winter Study course such as Learning Intervention for Teens (PSCI/JLST 22) or create their own experiential independent winter study project (WSP 99) under the guidance of a faculty sponsor. Contact Center for Learning in Action Director Paula Consolini ([email protected]) for more information.

Regular Semester-Length Fieldwork / Research-Intensive Courses

Choose from a wide range of semester-long courses involving experiential learning including Environmental Planning Workshop (ENVI 411), in which students work as consultants for governments and non-profits, Clinical and Community Psychology (PSYC 352), in which students apply their academic learning in social service and mental health agencies, and the Advanced Seminar in Teaching and Learning (PSYC 372), a teaching practicum course.  Course listings are available on the CLiA Courses & Teaching page.

Williams Experiential Study Away Programs

Williams-Mystic and the Class of 1959 Teach NYC Urban Education Winter Study Program offer immersion learning in maritime studies and urban public school teaching, respectively.

Community Engaged Scholarship

Community-engaged Scholarship is the pinnacle of experiential learning at Williams. This form of learning-by-doing provides students the chance to create research and creative community work that builds on their prior service and coursework.