Celebration paints healthy picture of experiential education

The smell of fresh spray paint and hot hors d’oeuvres filled the air at the Experiential Education Community Partner Appreciation Reception.

The unconventional combination — due in part to a live outdoor painting exercise by local artist Mathew Vizbulis —welcomed the more than 100 community partners, faculty and staff to the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, where they gathered to celebrate the University’s experiential education endeavours on Wednesday, April 18.

As the first Canadian University to have its Experiential Education definitions ratified by its Senate, Brock has quickly gained a reputation for having hands-on opportunities woven into almost every one of its programs.

Brock faculty, staff and community partners gathered to watch a live outdoor painting exercise from local artist Mathew Vizbulis during the Experiential Education Community Partner Appreciation Reception.

For Cara Krezek, Brock’s Director of Co-op, Career and Experiential Education, community partnerships are central to the University’s success.

“Brock’s roots are embedded in community initiatives,” she said. “From the founding of the University until now, we have relied on community partners to engage our students and provide them with a more full post-secondary experience. This event is a tribute to the community itself and how engaged and committed our partners are to student learning.”

Mike Stangl, owner of Stangl’s Enviro Lawn Care, is one of the partners Krezek mentioned. After receiving student consultation on several projects, including integrated marketing communications, database assistance and health and safety plans, he has become a firm believer in the necessity of experiential learning.

“I have partnered with more than 100 students,” he said. “All of them have allowed me to open my way of thinking to different avenues that generate more business and helped me to grow as a person, and we know it’s done the same for them.”

Stangl has also enjoyed working with Brock’s Experiential Education team.

“It has been exceptional,” he said. “They made the whole process and direction simple. I fully understood everything that was expected of me and of the students, and it was a very enjoyable process.”

While Stangl and the other guests sampled the food and beverages on offer, Vizbulis treated the crowd to an outdoor painting display that showcased ‘graffuturism,’ a concept that uses graffiti principles in a more studio- or performance-based environment.

As a contributor to several Brock experiential education projects, Vizbulis is also a supporter of the University’s efforts to provide education for its students in settings outside of the classroom.

“For me this is making history,” he said. “Brock is reaching out and keeping its doors open to the community. The University is evolving and it’s incredible.”

Vizbulis also complimented the University’s ability to expose its students to real-world experiences within the context of academic study.

“It’s great to see educational institutions grab a hold of something at the grassroots level to see what it really means,” he said.

Watching Vizbulis in action from the other side of the glass, Madelyn Law, Brock’s Faculty Associate for Experiential Education, highlighted the colossal impact that experiential opportunities can have on students’ lives.

“I think it’s something that can be life-changing,” she said. “We want to thank our community partners for the time and energy they devote to our students. It’s important for them to understand that the opportunities they provide can have a huge impact on students’ careers.”

As the event wrapped up and Vizbulis’ artwork was safely transported to Brock’s main campus to be displayed, Stangl summed up the feelings of many in attendance while reflecting on the unlikely role he now plays.

“I don’t consider myself to be an academic,” he said. “But to meet other likeminded people here shows what the working world can offer to students who are still in the midst of their studies. Learning from the textbook is great, but sometimes you have to call an audible in the backfield.”

Those interested in partnering with Brock’s experiential education team are invited to visit the Community Partners section of the University’s Experiential Education website or to email ccee@brocku.ca

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