Photo by Stephanie Swart
By Lorena Grajales, Editor-in-Chief—
Responsibility, relationship and reflection: these are the three qualities that embrace experiential learning opportunities at UTC. Through these lenses, students are exposed to creative outlets that allow them to engage in valuable hands-on and virtual activities.
ThinkAchieve’s Beyond the Classroom Challenge was created to provide undergraduate students with interactive, skillful and stimulating learning experiences to prepare for real-world environments.
Validated designated experiences at UTC are composed of the NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity, Freshman Senate, the International Buddy Program, GEAR UP tutoring, Women’s Leadership Academy and numerous others. The full list of approved experiences can be found here.
After staff, faculty and community members meet and pitch experience proposals, an updated list of events that count towards the semester award is posted every week online, as well as sent out to students through Scrappy’s Newsletter.
Among several other events, students can look forward to hiking series, climbing wall basics and log rolling at UTC’s ARC. Afterwards, a written personal reflection is mandatory for staff to keep track of each student’s success and for students to contemplate on the unique experience lived.
“Those all contribute to a student’s disciplinary work and their formation as a person,” said UTC’s Experiential Learning Coordinator, Bengt Carlson.
Carlson said that those looking to get out of their comfort zone, such as freshman and transfer students are the ones that are greatly benefited from the challenge.
“It is probably the most accessible thing to an incoming student. That is a way that students can quickly get exposed to a lot of the best of what UTC and the Chattanooga community have to offer,” he said.
‘Beyond The Classroom’ perks and awards were tailored to favor undergraduate students, with privileges such as priority registration, a celebratory dinner with other awarded winners and a pictographic award signed by UTC’s Chancellor.
To be considered as a ThinkAchieve Graduate, students are required to earn 120 points through participation events. Students are then awarded with special recognition at UTC’s commencement ceremony, credit on their official transcripts and are invited to participate in the Senior Leadership Awards Banquet.
Miguel Mariscal, vice-president of UTC’s Hispanic Outreach and Leadership Association, amassed 100 points since his freshman year. Mariscal said he felt inclined to sign up for the challenge without hesitation during his orientation, to receive “the full college experience.”
He also said some of the most memorable events in the challenge so far included a historical and touristic tour through five free Chattanooga sites, the university’s kick-off events and the Latin dance exhibition, where he received free lessons at local studio, Dance Tonight Chattanooga.
Mariscal shared how he related to new students who may not have a sense of where to start, and
“I know initially being a freshman, you don’t know what you’re doing or everything’s new to you…still push yourself in any way you can to be out there, be more in your community and eventually we’ll get through this and we’ll be right back to normal, and you’ll be able to experience ThinkAchieve as it always was intended to be experienced.”