The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Winter 2015 Rockefeller Center Direct Line - Experiential Learning

Article Type 

Rockefeller Center Director Andrew Samwick provides commentary on a variety of issues in the Direct Line, which is published at the start of each term. 

Inauguration of Philip J. Hanlon '77

In his inauguration address, President Hanlon issued a call-to-action to build Dartmouth’s academic enterprise around four themes: experiential learning, learning technologies, research impact, and affordability. The programs at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center incorporate all of these themes—most prominently experiential learning—in the realms of public policy and leadership development.

Many of the Center’s programs are among the College’s best examples of experiential learning. The opportunity to participate in the Center’s high-touch learning experiences is often a factor that draws students to Dartmouth rather than its peer institutions. More than one out of five students in Dartmouth’s Class of 2014 participated in at least one Rockefeller Center program during their four years in Hanover.

Experiential learning programs at the Rockefeller Center are based on an active-learning pedagogy with four elements:

  • Rigorous environments in which to learn knowledge and skills relevant to leadership, whether in or out of the classroom;
  • Consequential opportunities to apply this knowledge and practice these skills; 
  • Critical and constructive feedback on performance in these opportunities; 
  • Reflection on lessons learned and the setting of future goals.

Each program is designed with specific learning objectives in mind to enable students to create meaningful connections between theory and practice. Taken together, the programs engage students in and out of the classroom, on and off campus, for all four years they are at Dartmouth. The full range of our experiential learning programs is shown in the Student Opportunities section of our website and in our Experiential Learning Brochure.

The Center's Experiential Learning brochure which describes our programming in greater depth.

Curricular and beyond
When our experiential learning programs are based on mastery of a specific body of knowledge, they begin with one of the Center’s public policy minor courses. Each program then finishes with an opportunity to apply that knowledge outside of the classroom, whether as a public policy internshipwith a Dartmouth mentor, testimony on objective, nonpartisan research to policymakers, internationalfield research to gather primary source data on public policy changes, or a social entrepreneurship venture. Let me share with you two examples of such courses - Public Policy 43: Social Entrepreneurship (PBPL 43/ECON 77) launched just this past summer, and Public Policy 85: Global Policy Practicum (PBPL 85) now in its second year. These courses engage students in the process of developing and applying solutions to public policy challenges, a practice important to cultivating engaged, global leaders. 

Co-Curricular and beyondWhen our experiential learning programs are based on the skills and application of leadership development, they start outside the formal curriculum. Our earliest such programs focused on pre-internship training for first-year students and leadershipexperiences for a select group of seniors. With the introduction of the Management and Leadership Development Program (MLDP) in 2009, the Center began to offer new types of co-curricular programs, open to all students and offered multiple times each year. Weekly sessions in MLDP cover skills that are vital to post-Dartmouth success yet not featured systematically or prominently in a traditional curriculum, such as networking, the art of public narrative, writing in the workplace, team building, presentation design, and negotiation. About 10 percent of Dartmouth undergraduates complete MLDP during their time at Dartmouth, and the success of the program has inspired other offerings focused on reflection, cross-culturalcommunication, and developing attitudes and behaviors conducive to leadership. In all of these programs, students are then challenged to apply the lessons learned to their studies and to their other leadership opportunities on campus.

Andrew Samwick, Director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center
for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

It has been very rewarding for me to use experiential learning as an approach to educating our students in the past 10 years. With each passing year, I see more students who take advantage of our curricular and co-curricular program offerings and emerge with a strong sense of self and confidence in their own vision for their future. This is the transformation my staff and I seek to inspire in students through the work of the Rockefeller Center.

Andrew A. Samwick is the Director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, the Sandra L. and Arthur L. Irving '72a, P'10 Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College, and a research associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research. In 2003 and 2004, he served as chief economist on the staff of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers. Since joining the Dartmouth faculty in 1994, his scholarly work has covered a range of topics, including pensions, saving, taxation, portfolio choice, and executive compensation. Professor Samwick has been published in American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Finance, Journal of Public Economics, and a number of specialized journals and conference volumes. He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in economics from Harvard College and received his Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He blogs about economics, politics, and current events.

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