Rice University has identified experiential learning as the focus of its next Quality Enhancement Plan, according to QEP Planning Committee co-chair Robert Stein. Rice’s reaccreditation process occurs every 10 years and requires a five-year plan to improve all students’ academic experience. The previous QEP centered on civic engagement and resulted in the creation of the Center for Civic Engagement in 2006, which has since become the Center for Civic Leadership.

Stein said a committee formed in the spring of last year developed two proposals; one centered on oral and visual communication and the other on experiential learning. President David Leebron chose to pursue experiential learning. 

Stein said while direct implementation of the program has not been determined, the goal is to give students real-world experience.

“Students [should] have an authentic experience,” Stein said. “It could be from involvement in the community, part of a laboratory study, part of a scholarly project, [or] through an internship.” 

According to Stein, the QEP additionally aims to improve the pedagogy of the faculty.

“Every four years they zero your group, you go from 18 to 21 [years old] and I just keep getting older,” Stein said. “It is hard for a faculty member like me to retool. I have probably retooled four or five times over the course of my career.”

Brown College senior Amritha Kanakamedala was the undergraduate representative on the QEP Planning Committee. She said more than 85 responses were gathered from the Rice community online in March 2015. 

“We set up a blog page where students, alumni, faculty and staff could propose [and vote on] ideas,” Kanakamedala said.

Stein said students must be involved with the implementation of the QEP and development of curriculum.

“There is a need for the students to express a preference for that type of educational experience,” Stein said. “Students tend not to see themselves as customers but rather [as] receivers of education in a passive way, and this is only going to work if the students have input in the process.”

Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said the results of the QEP could be larger than initially anticipated.

“[The Center for Civic Leadership] was not envisioned in 2006,” Hutchinson said. “As opposed to this plugging into the current curriculum, it’s possible [this QEP] could be the foundation for a very different curriculum.”

The Faculty Senate will present a plan to President Leebron in November with the aim of full implementation by the 2016-17 academic year.