engagement, part 2…

How to get students meaningfully engaged in their education…

On Tuesday (March 3rd), the students in my Spirituality and Entrepreneurship gave their presentations; each of the 21 students in the class were required to create a “project” that was driven by their purpose – a desire to make the world a better place in some way.  There was only one catch – they had only 4 weeks to complete the project from start to finish!  I provided them with a few resources over the course of the 4 weeks; for the most part, they were on their own.

The result?  Some of the MOST AMAZING projects I’ve seen from students in my 25+ years in higher education!  Here are some of examples:

  • An art student wrote a $2,500 grant to redecorate the student lounge in the art building.  Not only was her grant accepted, but she also was commissioned to do a painting as well.
  • One student created an event planning guide for her student organization.  Guide was shared with another local chapter of organization.  Shortly thereafter, the guide was distributed to all chapter of the organization!
  • Another art student created 10 off-the-wall greeting cards to sell as a side-business.  Not only were the cards professionally made, but were ABSOLUTELY hysterical (classmates offered to buy several on the spot)!
  • A business student initially want to created a way to donate leftover food from school cafeteria to local homeless shelter.  Ended up joining a campus-wide organization and partnered with another school (where he’s president) to work with local companies to donate food.  Held event this past Wednesday evening at local Chipotle store, where 50% of sales went towards organization.
  • Two students teamed up to created introductory promo video, encouraging people to learn how to do slacklining.
  • A public health student created a web site to address diabetes by detailing a week’s worth of meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) that one could create to minimize the effects of diabetes.
  • A social work students created a blog to help young girls with their self-esteem.  Blog got attention at local school; student and several of her sorority sisters will visit school on prom night and provide free makeovers to young girls getting ready for prom, with donations coming from organizations such as Mary Kay Cosmetics.
  • Another students developed a prototype for a hands-free book stand that can be used on a nightstand, desk, table, etc. to keep a book open to read without having to use one’s hands.
  • A Kinesiology students created a web site that contained hardcore exercise programs and exercise tips/advice; one student in class shared that she was on one of the programs and lost 1% body fat over a week.
  • A business student wants to create a small restaurant stand to sell gyro sandwiches, using a secret family recipe.  Brought in two different samples for class to try; class overwhelmingly stated that they were DELICIOUS!!!
  • One student who has a love for cleaning decided to offer a cleaning service to his fellow students.  For $10, he would clean their room; for another $5, he would also do their laundry.  He was able to get five clients in two weeks!
  • Another student wanted to help the homeless, so she accepted clothing donations, sold them on Etsy for dirt-cheap prices, then used all of the profits to by food and toiletries for the local homeless shelter.
  • Another group created a video and made t-shirts to address various issues surrounding social justice issues, with a primary focus on freedom!

These are just a few of the presentations that were given in this class!  After class, one student shared with me that he has never been in a class where the students were not only engaged in giving their presentation, but their classmates were engaged in hearing about them!  It was an amazing experience for me, that’s for sure!

Imagine a campus where every student was provided an opportunity to create something that was aligned with their purpose and that could impact the world in some way.  Remember, these projects were created over the course of 4 weeks!

As we look for powerful ways to engage or student, consider Purpose-Driven Project-Based Learning as a form of student engagement!

6 thoughts on “engagement, part 2…

  1. Bill, this is awesome. Such inspiring ideas. I keep your ideas in my “Dream Dean” folder and am always looking for ways to implement them in some way.

  2. Bill,
    I am so impressed by the creativity and commitment your students put forth with their projects. What resources did you provide for your class? You are truly an inspiration and great motivator!

    • Hi Cathy! Thank you for your kind words!

      As far as resources go, I spend most of the time helping the students connect to the things that matter to them, from a place of purpose. I have a “meaningful work” tool that I have them go through that provides at least a direction to help them identify a project. Once identified, the students them share their projects with the group, many times using their fellow classmates to help them complete a step, identify a resource, etc. It’s been a joy to watch them evolve as a small community!

      If you have any other questions or would like more details, feel free to contact me at whjohnso@uncg.edu or at 336-207-6795. And thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

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