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Increasing Graduation Rates Through Experiential Learning, With Middle Tennessee State University

Middle Tennessee State University is pioneering an approach to enhance graduation rates through experiential learning (EL) whereby dedicated departments and faculty members have played a crucial role in institutionalizing broad access to EL courses. 

The results of a study involving 33,000 EL participants provide compelling evidence of the positive impact of this initiative. 

Some core takeaways from this podcast: 

  • The importance of institutional commitment to experiential learning: Middle Tennessee State University is committed to making experiential learning a cornerstone of its educational approach. 
  • How data insights can build momentum from team members to mobilize toward shared goals through deeper understanding: Seeing an increase in graduation rates for 33,000+ EL participants through one or more EL activity inspires implementation of high impact practices 
  • Experiential learning was shown to contribute significantly to student success and degree completion – the end point
  • That dedicating to the refinement of what EL really is and how it is implemented will drive even greater successes: Experiential learning offers students practical, hands-on experiences that complement traditional classroom instruction but our definitions of it continue to be staggered. With more cohesion in understanding what it is and how we can implement it for maximum value, the sky’s the limit. 

This collaborative effort highlights the transformative potential of experiential learning in higher education.

Meet our Guests

Meet Jim Rost

Jim Rost in golf shirt smiling at camera with greenery through window in backdrop
Dr. Rost is a graduate with a master’s in physical education and Sports Psychology, from San Diego State University (1999), a Ph.D. in Sport Management (2015), and a College and University Teaching Certificate in Higher Education (2020). Today he joins us from Middle Tennessee State University as the lead faculty member for the Ed.D. in Assessment, Learning, and Student Success (Higher Education concentration). Dr. Rost earned this position after a twenty-plus year career working in higher education that brought him from academic support for student athletes, as a counselor and administrator at USC, LSU, MTSU, and Auburn University (1999-2011) to Advising Manager, and Health and Human Performance Department (2013-2020) and Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership (2020). His primary areas of research include ‘doctoral student self-efficacy towards program completion’ and ‘online course andragogy’.

Meet Janet McCormick

Woman with bob smiling at camera, black cardigan and necklace, green backdrop 
Dr. McCormick earned her BA, MA and PhD in Communication and has been teaching courses in higher education and conducting workshops globally for 35+ yearsShe spent 15 years teaching in Illinois, Kentucky, London, Buenos Aires, and Singapore before joining MTSU in 2002. Her expertise public speaking, interpersonal communication, leadership communication, intercultural communication, gender communication, small group communication, listening, organizational communication, communication consulting and auditing, communication training, communicating organizational change, and interview communication in undergraduate, graduate, online and accelerated formats, and moreDr. McCormick’s approach has always been to creatively and enthusiastically incorporate EXL pedagogy (theory, skills, application, and reflection opportunities) into each section, ensuring a quality course that all students will enjoy. She is the recipient of numerous teaching, advising, and service awards for her dedication to the Communication profession and her ability to better prepare students for the global workforce. Since 2019, she has also been serving as Director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (MALA) program.  


Meet Carol Swayze

Caroly Swayze wearing white collared shirt and black blazer, short black hair, blue backdrop, looking at camera

Carol Swayze is the Director of Experiential Learning and a faculty member in the Experiential Learning Scholars (EXL) Scholars Program at Middle Tennessee State University. She currently teaches the service-learning leadership course and the capstone ePortfolio course of the Experiential Learning (EXL) Scholars Program. Ms. Swayze has served more than thirty years in higher education as both administrator and educator at the community college and four-year university levels. She is a member of the Society for Experiential Education, a graduate of the Experiential Education Academy and is active in national, state, and local organizations. She served as the founding chair of the Tennessee Service-Learning Consortium and continues to serve on the board. Her experiential learning programs have won both regional and national recognition as Outstanding Credit Programs including two awards presented by the National Society of Experiential Education.


So, what are you waiting for? Get your mind in motion with Carol, Janet, Jim, and Bill! 
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