Engaged Learning Program prepares Rider students for success on and off campus

Students like Imani Guest are reaping a significant return on investment in their education
Adam Grybowski

The island of Hawaii consists of five active volcanoes. Of the five, the most active is a Kīlauea, which has been erupting continuously since 1983. Last summer, a Rider University student studying geosciences named Imani Guest traveled to Hawaii to take part in a highly selective summer internship with the University of Hawaii that would allow her to work with some of the top volcanologists in the world, including state volcanologist Bruce Houghton.

Guest traveled to the Big Island with Houghton and other students and walked on the active flows of Kilauea. The heat was of an intensity she had never experienced. “It felt as though my eyebrows were being singed off my face,” Guest says.

After her extraordinary introduction to fieldwork on an active volcano, Guest began her own research on the island of Oahu, which consisted of procuring and studying rocks that volcanoes had purged from the earth’s mantle. The research built on the skills and knowledge she had learned through the Department of Geological, Environmental, & Marine Sciences at Rider and provided the kind of experience that is at the heart of the University’s new Engaged Learning Program.

“The experience I gained in those two short months has proven to be very valuable as a prospective graduate student and a future geologist,” says Guest, who was accepted into graduate programs of several top colleges and universities ahead of graduating in May and has decided to attend Brown University.

As part of the Engaged Learning Program, all Rider students must complete at least two high-impact engaged learning experiences to satisfy their graduation requirements. In addition to internships, co-ops and fieldwork, engaged learning experiences include the categories of study abroad and cultural exploration, guided research and scholarship, arts, media and creativity, and civic and community engagement.

“Although these types of experiences require students to go above and beyond in devoting their time and intellectual effort, we know that they pay off in extraordinary ways,” says Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean A. Fredeen.  “Students are connecting their in-class knowledge to experiences outside the classroom, better preparing them for the world of work.”

Set to graduate in May, senior marketing major Elizabeth Stoldt has burnished her resume with not one but three internships with some of the top fashion companies and agencies in the world. Since January, she has been catching the 7 a.m. train to New York City every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for her most current internship, with Calvin Klein.

Stoldt originally enrolled at Rider with the intention of studying biology as a pre-med student. Those plans were superseded by a passion for fashion and a growing interest in marketing (aided by her four-plus years as a sales associate at J. Crew, where she continues to work). Stoldt switched majors in her first semester. As a junior, she says she went on an "application spree" to secure an internship in New York. She initially found success at BPCM, a leading global fashion agency, and later at Tommy Hilfiger before landing at Calvin Klein.

Among her many assignments as an intern, Stoldt has assisted in the production of runway shows, coordinating seating and guest lists, and has also helped facilitate samples and loans used by models appearing in such shows and in magazines. Last year, a dress worn on the runway by Kendall Jenner later appeared in Vogue through Stoldt's coordination.

Rider’s new Engaged Learning Program, which officially launched last fall, codifies the internships, study abroad opportunities and other co-curricular activities many students were already participating in around the University. About three of every four Rider students complete an internship or similar experience before they graduate. Collectively, students complete around 30,000 hours of community service annually and participate in more than 200 performances. Sixty-five percent of faculty work one-on-one one with students on research, thesis or independent study projects.

“We’ve designed the Engaged Learning Program so that the experiences Rider students have in and out of the classroom reinforce each other, making their education more meaningful,” says President Gregory G. Dell’Omo. “This prepares them to thrive personally and professionally and provides them with a return on their investment in a Rider education.”