Facilitating an Authentic Connection
Guided by a philosophy that states, "Learning should take place wherever, whenever, with whomever, and however best facilitates an authentic connection between student, faculty, and content," the EDGE program in Clemson's department of parks, recreation, and tourism management (PRTM) is giving students the opportunity to take the knowledge they're learning in the classroom and put it to use in very practical ways. EDGE is an acronym signifying "Engaging in Diverse Guided Experiences." The PRTM EDGE program was developed and implemented by a team of PRTM faculty members which includes Denise Anderson, Betty Baldwin, Bob Brookover, Fran McGuire and Teresa Tucker. The idea for the program emerged through an analysis of the department's curriculum, which led to the discovery that many of the concepts and topics being discussed in various core classes overlapped and intermingled. But, instead of students taking a set of classes in which they build upon knowledge gained in previous courses, the system was somewhat disorganized. This disorganization led the PRTM faculty members to question the system and ultimately ask: how can we do this better?
The initial answer to this question came in the spring of 2010 with a program called IMMERSION, which eventually developed into EDGE program. By having students enrolled in 4 core courses that served as a 12 hour credit block the curriculum became much more streamlined. Students participate in the EDGE semester during their sophomore year. In order to carry out the philosophy of giving students hands-on learning experiences, EDGE formed a partnership with Creative Inquiry. Students participate in a Creative Inquiry project for four semesters, beginning with their first semester of EDGE. They are presented with a list of projects that faculty members are interested in leading and are asked to rank their top three choices. While it isn't necessarily feasible to give each student their top choice of project, the program coordinator does her best to enroll students in the projects in which they are interested.
During the first semester of EDGE, students learn in their Creative Inquiry project the ins and outs of research methods, data collection, and receive an initial introduction to the topic of their project. The next semester is dedicated to more in depth work on the project, including narrowing down the research question guiding the project, and then actually conducting the research and writing up a report detailing their findings. Much of their research focuses on topics such as finance, leadership, marketing and event planning, which directly relates to the work they will eventually do in their respective fields. The students also get the chance to take a trip to various locations throughout the Southeast to meet with professionals in different related fields. This opportunity gives students the chance to see how research is being used in the field and the challenges that professionals face, even if it isn't directly related to their project.
One particular Creative Inquiry that is part of the larger EDGE umbrella is called Finding Your Voice, led by PRTM graduate student Kate Evans. Finding Your Voice is a residential weekend camp for 11-12 year old girls. The camp introduces these adolescent girls to nontraditional physical activities, such as rock climbing and kayaking, and nontraditional careers, such as engineering. The camp will also offer educational sessions on various topics ranging from bullying to college life to self-defense. The main goal of the camp, according to Evans, "is to equip females with both the abilities and the self-confidence needed to make healthy choices related to physical activity." The team also hopes to increase the campers' self-esteem and instill a spirit of selfempowerment in the girls who attend. The camp was held at the Clemson Outdoor Lab March 8-10. The members of the team served as counselors at the camp and also collected and analyzed data related to the outcomes of the event.
Another project that is part of EDGE blends surfing and voluntourism, a term that is becoming more widely used to describe travel or vacations that involve volunteering. This Creative Inquiry team is led by PRTM graduate student Matt Hughes and is partnering with WAVES for Development, a non-profit surf voluntourism organization in Peru. This organization allows volunteers to spend two weeks in Peru working, teaching and mentoring local youth through educational surf programs. After learning some of the issues facing the non-profit, the team has been conducting research and producing literature reviews on various topics related to surfing, travel, and volunteer motivations. They took a trip to Folly Beach, as well, in order to put their research into action.
The PRTM EDGE program is encouraging students to take what they've learned in the classroom and put it to use in a very practical way. Students emerge from the program excited about their major and ready to tackle their future goals.