ASL classes provide real-life experience


Students who are looking to have a more hands-on experience next semester might want to see what Academic Service Learning (ASL) classes can offer.

Both the Center for Student Enrichment and the ASL Board are attempting to spread awareness on NMU’s campus about ASL classes. They hope higher participation will provide valuable experiences for both the Marquette and NMU communities.

ASL classes enable students to get real-life learning experience outside of the traditional classroom setting and work with other organizations in the community.

Center for Student Enrichment director, Dave Bonsall, wanted to let NMU students know what ASL classes typically consist of. He doesn’t believe that many students are aware of what opportunities these classes can offer to them.

“It’s a learning methodology that faculty can use,” he said. “It should take what concepts you are learning in the classroom, and give students the opportunity to apply those in real life situations.”

NMU offered 24 ASL courses this fall semester and plans to have 35 courses in place by the time the winter semester starts in January.

Bonsall feels that enrolling in an ASL course can help students decide whether their major is right for them before they have to enter the job market.

“For some students, it really helps them to clarify their majors and their career choices,” he said. “Actually doing it can be a lot different than studying it in a classroom.”

Some of the current departments that are providing ASL classes to their students are the education, nursing and language courses. The Center for Student Enrichment is still looking to expand even more throughout NMU, said Katie Stelmaszek, a graduate assistant within the Center for Student Enrichment.

“We are trying to get more involved in the sciences,” she said. “We talked to the department head of biology about possibly working with the DNR to incorporate ASL into more biology classes.”

Stelmaszek said some areas of study at NMU have converted almost entirely to ASL classes, the French department.

Sophomore international studies major Kaitlin McDonald is currently enrolled in one of these French classes. McDonald and her fellow classmates are working with the Marquette Children’s Museum to teach French to children. She and her classmates are currently working on the stage area for the theater department in the Museum.

“It gets us out and doing things, instead of just having to read from a book, doing the homework and taking the exams,” she said.

McDonald believes that the opportunity to work with children outside of a classroom has given her a different perspective on how one can learn at college.

“If I ever wanted to teach French, it would give me experience teaching the language to other people in a public setting,” she said. “This would make me feel more comfortable interacting in another language.”

Bonsall said that the benefits of ASL can be seen when leaving NMU due to the fact that participating in an ASL class shows up on a student’s transcript.

“On [a student’s] transcript, it will have the designation ASL, meaning you have had an academic service learning experience,” he said. “For some employers, [ASL classes] show them that you have already gotten your hands dirty.”

According to Chuck Ganzert, chair of the Academic Service Learning board, ASL classes differ from internships due to the fact that they allow students to work together to solve problems amongst themselves.

“An internship is a course with one person in it,” said Ganzert. “Academic Service Learning is more team oriented, and it involves a class [atmosphere].”