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Latitude

Near or Far, Experiential Education Offers a World of Difference


Allen and his students explore in Grenada.

Sweeping landscapes across the globe inspire awe and exhilaration, but sometimes it’s the little details that can truly pique our imaginations. Having taken students on regional and national learning excursions, and as far away as Grenada in the Caribbean, Casey Allen, assistant professor of geography and environmental science in the Department of Geography and Environmental Sciences, knows this well.

“Experiential education helps students understand more about themselves and how they react to situations in the real world,” Allen says. “The only way to really get that experience is to live it.”

One of his more popular adventures, Allen offers students a field study class on the island of Grenada. “We spend all Maymester conducting fieldwork on site,” Allen explains. This involves students conducting environmental analyses such as monitoring sea surface temperature and water quality, but also extends into the human realm such as learning about tourism, economics, and politics first-hand. “Grenada is an intense, field-based experiential learning opportunity that is difficult to duplicate,” he says. “We learn all we can about the entire island.”


Other experiential learning excursions include exploring the Badlands regions in Utah and South Dakota and even closer areas, such as the hidden canyons and local establishments of Southeastern Colorado. “Many students, when I tell them we’re going to do field work in Las Animas and La Junta, roll their eyes,” Allen chuckles. “But once they get down there—see the landscape differently and apply the concepts that we’ve been learning in class—they come away with a greater appreciation and understanding of the environment.”

These experiential learning opportunities introduce students mostly to fieldwork, but also research projects and independent study projects with Allen. “These usually result in some sort of presentation, either at a regional or national conference. But I also work with students on generating a peer-reviewed publication if possible”

Allen’s experiential education offerings have led to other fantastic opportunities for his students. One student who took part in the Grenada field study program applied what he had learned to an advanced class, where he chose the topic of ecotourism for his final paper. Another used her work as a case study for alternative energy in the Caribbean. A third was offered a full research assistantship and tuition waiver because of her research.