Experiential learning brings special meaning to a Hesston education

Billy Bass – Horizon News Editor

Are you building the skills employers want? Are you focusing on the Christian ethics and principles while learning in your trade? Those are skills Hesston College professors are trying to instill through experiential learning. 

You often think of experiential learning as “learning by doing,” but that’s not the whole story. As Hesston students will tell you, it’s more often about using your education in new and unfamiliar situations.

Students listen to KMUW on-air personality Flether Powell during a visit to the station in Wichita, Kan.
Students listen to KMUW on-air personality Fletcher Powell during a visit to the station in Wichita, Kan.

Kevin Wilder, psychology faculty, brought developmental psychology and sociology students to Schowalter Villa, a neighboring assisted living and retirement community known for their in-house childcare center, part of the facility’s intergenerational experience program. Once there, they have the chance to interview residents and children.

“The students learn interviewing and observation skills” and are able to “interact with concepts from class,” said Wilder. 

But the learning doesn’t stop in the city limits of Hesston, nor is it confined to our two-semester academic year.

Last summer sophomore Wyatt Baer (Marshallville, Ohio) interned at Harper Industries, Harper, Kan.

“Originally, I was supposed to be doing some projects with inventory costing and setting up an online ordering system for these inventory parts,” said Baer. “But a week before I got there their accounts payable [employee] resigned and they had me fill in for the summer. So I got to pay all the bills for the small manufacturing company.”

Baer’s Hesston education – especially his accounting classes – had prepared him well for this unexpected responsibility. They also gave him the frame of reference he needed for his sophomore courses.

Wyatt Baer (So. Marshallville, Ohio) stands outside Harper Industries, Harper, Kan. with coworkers from the company's accounting department.
Wyatt Baer (So. Marshallville, Ohio) stands outside Harper Industries, Harper, Kan. with coworkers from the company’s accounting department.

“My freshman year at Hesston I had taken financial accounting, managerial accounting, and accounting software which all helped me understand the accounting cycle and what role I was playing in that cycle at Harper.

And this year?

“I have knowledge of how the material can be applied to the workplace and that I can use to help me decipher the concepts covered in class.”

That’s great news for the Hesston College business department, which prioritizes experiential learning.

Often, according to instructor Vickie Andres, that means field trips.

Last fall her exploring business class met at The Lincoln Perk to hear how the owners researched and purchased the business.

On top of that, students interview a wide variety of business and entrepreneurs throughout the class.

“The students also identify an opportunity to affect change on campus and conduct research, visit with interested parties and make a proposal,” Andres said.

But internships are perhaps the most effective.

“Internships are a wonderful way for students to explore areas of interest in business such as in accounting, finance, marketing, and human resources.”

It was Andres who proposed the idea of an internship at Harper to Wyatt.

“Vickie has been an extraordinary advisor throughout my Hesston experience,” he said. “She has provided the tools to succeed in my major and start my career while I’ve been [in the first two years of] college. Vickie is always willing to listen to my ideas and help me put my plans into action.”

Here are some of the unique opportunities available to Hesston College students:

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