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Beyond the Classroom: 5 Ways the Kroc School Provides Learning Through Field Experience

This article originally ran on the website of the Kroc School at the University of San Diego.

Within the field of changemaking, employers increasingly seek concrete, real-world experience gained outside the classroom. This doesn’t diminish the importance of graduate school, but rather has encouraged social justice and conflict transformation-oriented programs to provide opportunities for students to enhance their learning beyond the traditional classroom setting.

The Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies (Kroc School) at the University of San Diego has adapted to meet the demands of today’s job markets, specifically by offering opportunities for students to gain practical skills through structured experiential learning and co-curricular opportunities.

Here are five innovative strategies that provide valuable experience for students to advance their careers of impact through field-based courses and co-curricular opportunities.

1. Practice Fellowships and Graduate Assistantships 

MA in Peace and Justice alum Yishak Kassa Tefferi ’17

The Kroc School’s Institute for Peace and Justice (Kroc IPJ) serves as the practice branch of the Kroc School. Its programs shift global perceptions about the United States’ trans-border region, catalyze effective peace processes by elevating the voices of women peacebuilders, work to rebuild law enforcement’s ability to interact with at-risk communities, introduce peacebuilding skills to youth, and more.

Through competitive fellowships, the Kroc IPJ creates opportunities for students to learn by working alongside its practitioners. MA in Peace and Justice alum Jessica Dockstader ‘19 worked on the Kroc IPJ’s Building Trust Partnership, a program designed to rebuild broken trust between San Diego communities and law enforcement. Upon graduation, and directly building upon her experience with the Kroc IPJ, Jessica was offered a position as a Research Specialist for police force trauma with an organization providing data to national security organizations.

There are also graduate assistantships available at the Kroc School, which are designed to enhance students’ learning by enabling them to work in collaboration with the Kroc School’s faculty on research projects and the design of pedagogical innovations. MA in Peace and Justice alum Yishak Kassa Tefferi ’17 worked alongside Distinguished Professor Necla Tschigi. Together they published an article about refugees in Ethiopia. Yishak is now working as a Human Rights Officer at the United Nations in South Sudan.

2. Connection to Mentors With Years of Experience in the Social Justice Field 

Patricia Whakhusama ‘18 in Liberia

The Kroc School’s Mentoring Alliance connects students with experienced professionals in a career that aligns with the students’ interests. This mentoring program is designed to provide unique and enriching one-on-one mentoring opportunities by helping students obtain access to new contacts, advice, and knowledge from an experienced professional.

By working with a trusted and experienced professional, students gain perspective and guidance as well as access to valuable, real-world networking opportunities. Mentors often introduce their mentees to new contacts and resources. MA in Peace and Justice alum Patricia Whakhusama ‘18 was paired with the Founder and CEO of Foundation for Women, a microfinancing enterprise dedicated to elevating women-owned enterprises. Through the trust they built as mentor and mentee, Patricia was offered a summer internship with the Foundation for Women based in Liberia.

3. Field-based Courses Both Locally and Abroad 

Kroc School students in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 2018

The Kroc School creates spaces for students to apply classroom skills and knowledge in the field within creative and structured environments. Field-based courses include three common elements: 1) a curriculum that incorporates both academic theory and functional, applicable skills, 2) the opportunity to interact with practitioners from communities affected by violence and injustice, and 3) experience in implementing collaborative projects in the field.

In the past, these courses have been extremely varied in terms of their location and focus. For example, one course takes students to Colombia, where they explore innovation and peacebuilding in the wake of the Colombian peace process. For another course, in 2018, students traveled to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and worked alongside Haitian graduate students to monitor and evaluate one of USAID’s programs.

The Kroc School’s proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border provides a vibrant space for students to engage in courses exploring the most pressing challenges facing the border region through the lenses of human rights, peacebuilding and citizenship. Within our field-based course, The Border, Peacebuilding and Human Rights, students partner with San Diego and Tijuana NGOs to explore peaceful, innovative and sustainable solutions to the most intractable regional problems, with a special emphasis on violence. Students gain hands-on experience problem-solving with local leaders, conducting interviews with local immigrants, refugees, and combat veterans, and analyzing and presenting real data for maximum social impact.

Naturally, as the field of peacebuilding evolves, so do these course offerings, keeping them relevant and innovative.

4. Social Innovation Prize Competition 

The Center for Peace and Commerce’s Fowler Global Social Innovation Challenge is a social venture pitch competition where universities from countries around the world come together to recognize students’ social ventures. Participating students receive coaching, gain pitch experience, and get the opportunity to compete for a prize pot of $50K in seed funding to help make their innovative solution to a complex injustice a reality.

Students come with projects at all different stages, from ideation to prototype to in-market. With mentors, coaches and professors of practice, students can fine-tune their venture to better serve customers with their solution. Through the connections and coaching she gained from the competition, MA in Social Innovation student Casey Myers rapidly accelerated the growth of the social venture she founded, One Digital World, which focuses on empowering refugees through digital education.

Get the course guide for the Master’s in Social Innovation now.

5. Innovative Classes Learning From and With Social Enterprises  

Kroc School students present to their clients during the 2020 Intersession Social Innovation Practicum focused on mitigating homelessness in San Diego.

Social Innovation is an introductory field-based course where students learn strategies and processes for creating social change through innovation. Through this opportunity, students have gained knowledge and experience through engagement with social and political entrepreneurs, managers, activists, and leaders in the San Diego/Tijuana region implementing a wide range of social innovations. Cases of social impact through different organizational platforms – in the market, in government, within the nonprofit sector, and increasingly in the space between these three sectors — are analyzed and discussed in class and in the field. Theories and frameworks for social innovation are inter-connected with field experiences.

The Social Innovation Practicum is another field-based course where students gain applicable experience. Acting as consultants, students acquire knowledge of real-world constraints and opportunities faced by organizations. MA in Social Innovation alumna Momo Bertrand ‘19 shares how his experience in this course led him to a speaking engagement on a global stage at the Collaborative conference in Boston, Mass.

Gain the Experience and Education Today’s Changemaking Organizations Seek

At the Kroc School, there are a combination of field-based learning opportunities both built into the structure of the programs and available as as a choose your own adventure package outside of the degree program. With the support of staff and faculty advisors, students are able to structure their time within a Kroc School master’s program to gain experience towards their future career goals with field-based courses and additional opportunities beyond the classroom. These unique offerings equip graduates with demonstrated experience, putting them notches above the competition.

At the Kroc School, we are educating for peace and social innovation. Ready to join us? Learn more about the Kroc School and its graduate programs.

This article originally ran on the website of the Kroc School at the University of San Diego. This is a sponsored post on PCDN.

 

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