Salt Lake City – WGU Labs, Inc., an affiliate of online nonprofit Western Governors University (WGU), has announced a partnership with Student Opportunity Center (SOC): implementation research at WGU’s College of Business, growth advisory, and financial investment. SOC’s web-based platform helps students source and engage experiential learning (EL) opportunities at and beyond their university.
SOC currently works with more than 200 campuses nationwide and is expanding rapidly. WGU Labs—a research and development organization that also operates a business accelerator for education startups—will provide SOC support to further scale the platform across higher education and at WGU.
“There is significant overlap in our missions and shared interests in connecting higher education students with impactful career-relevant experiences before they enter the workforce,” said Chris Freire, CEO of SOC, of the relationship with WGU Labs. “We’re thrilled to be working with WGU Labs and WGU as partners and advocates for the future of experiential learning and workforce development.”
In the coming months, students enrolled in WGU’s Master of Science in Management and Leadership (MSML) program will be able to opt into an experiential learning opportunity sourced through SOC and linked to their course of study. Students will complete the EL project for credit in lieu of a standard MSML course. The same rigorous expectations and specific learning outcomes that WGU requires of its MSML students will be applied to the EL option.
Sunil Ramlall, Program Chair for the College of Business at WGU, said, “Students should take on as many practical, job-relevant opportunities as possible in organizations, student clubs, and other areas to further gain insights on curriculum and relevance to practice.”
“An EL experience is crucial, giving students the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with an organization. Students are able to go into live employment opportunities and take concepts from their courses to make a connection with the EL, becoming more effective employees in leadership and management roles.”
Research has shown that students who participate in high-impact practices, such as EL, demonstrate skills that employers consistently say new graduates need to succeed, such as critical thinking, writing, and appreciation for diversity. Additionally, studies conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) have found that EL projects such as internships can lead to higher earnings in a new graduate’s first post-college job.
Research further demonstrates that participating in experiential learning can improve success for first-generation students, students of color, and students who enter college less academically prepared; however, despite the benefits, these approaches are not yet integrated into institutional practices. Working with SOC institutions can scale experiential learning to reach all students.