Experiential Excellence Celebrated—Students and Employers Both See Benefit

students and employers posing for picture at experiential excellence awards

With experience-driven learning a cornerstone of a Northeastern education, the College of Professional Studies presented its annual Experiential Excellence award to 10 students in June. Students, and the employers and sponsors who supervised their work and nominated them for recognition, gathered with faculty and other academic leaders to celebrate the power of applied learning at the undergraduate and graduate levels. All student winners engaged in meaningful professional experience in the form of co-op positions (working full-time for an employer), a sponsored project in their course or capstone, or an experiential project at their current place of work. Students’ experiences were directly aligned with their academic work, complementing the body of knowledge in their chosen field with an industry-embedded perspective.

Notably, the Excellence award winners demonstrated outstanding commitment to the university partners they partnered with on experiential opportunity. These opportunities are broad and representative of the global reach Northeastern and its student benefit from. This year, the students’ work included planning and implementing a talent acquisition strategy for an education organization, strengthening digital engagement for an arts and advocacy organization, and creating and managing a quality assurance program in the regulatory affairs unit of a contract development and manufacturing organization, among other outstanding experiences. The common thread though all of the students’ work is their enthusiasm for their chosen industries and their demonstrated ability to connect their academic learning to practice in the workplace, ultimately producing incredibly valuable work for their sponsors and employers.

One award winner, Michel Jennings, is a spring 2019 graduate of the Master of Education in eLearning and Instructional design program. She traveled from Denver, where she attended the program as an online student, to participate in the awards ceremony and celebrate her new job in instructional design over lunch with Melissa Fristrom, leadership development consultant and CEO of Core Allies, Inc., Jennings’ project sponsor. In her project for Core Allies, Inc., Jennings turned a Career Transition Lesson Plan into a 10-class interactive course, essentially creating a new product and revenue stream for Core Allies. Fristrom praised Jennings’ strategic approach to the project: “She asked the right questions to help me be creative and innovative. She demonstrated a desire to understand what I was looking for as a business person.” Jennings notes that another ingredient to the success of the project was her own interest: “It helped that I was super-passionate about this topic.” Jennings said that the two reasons she chose the Northeastern Master of Education in eLearning and Instructional Design program were the opportunity to create an ePortfolio of her work, which she saw as critical to landing a good job upon graduating, and the opportunity to undertake an experiential project.

Indeed, Northeastern faculty and staff in attendance were moved by each award winner’s sentiment on the importance of experiential work alongside their academic curriculum; all students remarked on the lasting impact their experience has had on their professional skillset and career trajectory.

Following are the 2019 Experiential Excellence Award winners:

Mariella Hidalgo Del Alamo—Master of Science in Leadership

  • Sponsor: Kathleen Egger, Learnwell
  • Project: Talent Acquisition Strategy
  • Award: Co-Curricular XN Award
  • The project with LearnWell served to support the human resources unit with the primary function of growing talent acquisition with home instruction tutors. Del Alamo presented tangible quantitative and qualitative goals, one of which was to grow the number of teachers hired in 2019. Through the course of her Experiential Network project, she was successful in hiring 16 teachers and provided a deep dive analysis on recruitment engagement and best practices to attract talent. 

Abhishek Jaiswal—Master of Professional Studies in Analytics

  • Employer: Allison Ruda, Northeastern University as an Analytics Solutions Advisor
  • Co-op Award
  • Jaiswal designed a database architecture that not only supports—but fundamentally accelerates—Northeastern’s ability to make powerful connections between industry needs, learner goals, and academic content and experiences. Abhishek worked to understand the curriculum design principles and program development approaches, as well as the human and technological processes and systems needed to support them. He then brought this knowledge together with the technological and analytical skill sets he is honing in the Analytics program to develop a functional database prototype and Tableau visualizations.

Sanchi Jain—Master of Science in Regulatory Affairs of Drugs, Biologics and Devices

  • Employer: Jeffery Pistor, Paragon Bio Services Inc. as a Quality Assurance Co-op
  • Award: Co-op Award
  • Jain created a quick search MS Access Database for Change Control records which improved employee efficiency by conserving 70% of their time consumed in finding paper records. Jain generated, analyzed and tracked the trends of raw material management process of the company, streamlined it and improved the process by 20% and digitized paper records. She conducted a 3-day Internal Audit of Facilities and Engineering department and drafted an Audit Report.

Suwarna Kale, Weipeng Zhang, Yiyi Zhang, Jaspreet Kaur Sawhney—Master of Professional Studies in  Informatics

  • Sponsor: Sebastien Mannai, ADS
  • Project: Cloud Development
  • Award: XN in Curricular Group
  • Each of the students contributed their unique skills to help the company develop advanced and comprehensive IT solutions, including AWS Cloud infrastructure architecting, Internet of Things device set-up, data storage and management, data streaming, analytics, and visualization (dashboard). Each of them worked on different perspective of the project (Weipeng even applied his earlier computer hardware training), but jointly they delivered a project that represents the cutting-edge IT applications. 

Amanda Nolan—Bachelor of Science in Health Management

  • Sponsor: Dedham Medical Associates
  • Project (self-developed): Improve Health Information Management/Electronic Health Record System to improve overall efficiency
  • Award: XN at Work
  • Nolan scheduled meetings with numerous individuals in different departments to learn more about some of the challenges others faced when entering and accessing information in the electronic health record (EHR).   Nolan not only identified challenges to the timely entry of vital medical information into the EHR, but also valued the ripple effect it had on the provider/patient relationship.  

Molly Chase—Master of Science in Corporate and Organizational Communication

  • Sponsor: Andy Short- Improbable Players
  • Project: Digital Marketing Strategy
  • Award: XN in Curricular- CMN 6940 Projects for Professionals
  • Chase developed a set of recommendations for this innovative nonprofit which wanted to leverage its digital outreach more effectively. Her project addressed three key components of a digital strategy. The first component was to improve the web content by effectively and creatively telling the stories of actors, in an effort to attach relatability and empathy, and by better showcasing what Improbable Players does. The second component was to increase audience awareness of Improbable Players through various social media outlets and content. The third component was to experiment and take controlled risks with e-mail marketing in order to engage the donors and prospective partners who are on the current mailing list. Her final report to the client was exceptional in terms of depth of research, creativity, and practicality of the implementation steps. She fully incorporated the consultative process that is embedded in the capstone course and developed a strong relationship with the sponsor.

For more information on experiential learning opportunities, please visit: https://cps.northeastern.edu/experiential-learning.