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Ted Carter

Experiential Learning

Preparing The Youth Of Tomorrow, Today

By Jackie Ostrowicki

November 2022

University of Nebraska President Ted Carter was selected for the elite Top Gun program in 1985. There, he experienced hands-on learning that changed his life.

Today, Carter is committed to helping students succeed. He knows classroom lessons are enriched by experience and that a talented workforce strengthens the state’s economy. Carter wants to make sure every University of Nebraska student graduates with some type of hands-on learning experience—whether that be an internship, study abroad, or community service.

“We’ve always done well with internships when it comes to our state’s Fortune 500 companies. But it's the medium and smaller size companies that we want to expose our students to and say, this is your future workforce,” Carter said.

"There's so much to offer here in Nebraska, and we want to give every student the opportunity to explore those offerings."

— President Ted Carter

He also wants students to know Nebraska needs them. “We need to retain our talent here in Nebraska,” Carter explained. “We usually see somewhere between 15 and 20% of our top graduates move on to other states. There's so much to offer here in Nebraska, and we want to give every student an opportunity to explore those offerings.”

Making Internships Part of the Student Experience

The university’s strategic plan includes a focus on experiential learning. Over the next five years, Carter says the university is committed to developing talent needed to fill jobs across the state.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Vice Chancellor Mike Boehm believes Nebraska communities benefit from experiential learning opportunities. He says a variety of UNL programs connect student workers with businesses and organizations across the state.

“We've actually been able to position students from all of our colleges here at UNL and beyond in communities to work on problems and opportunities for growth—including everything from entrepreneurship to eco-tourism, rural prosperity, economic development, and urban planning,” Boehm said.

Ted Carter at the Navy Fighter Weapons School
NU President Ted Carter not only learned as a student at the Navy Fighter Weapons School—also known as Top Gun—he later taught there as an instructor.

Internships, serviceships, study abroad programs and other opportunities enrich the student experience and provide lessons that stay with them throughout their careers. Levi Theile, director of career development at UNO, runs a department fully focused on providing resources, assistance and training to students—so that they gain career readiness skills, are prepared to successfully obtain internships and then move to full-time careers after they graduate.

Thiele pointed out that research backs up why internships are so beneficial and important for students. “If you look almost any success indicator for students—academic success, time to degree, how long it takes them to search for jobs, what their starting salary is—all of those indicators are improved by participating in an internship.”

UNO recently launched an innovative new program focused on connecting students with internships. It’s called Career Connect, and it pairs UNO students with area companies and organizations to guarantee paid internship positions. This allows students to benefit from paid work experience while also pursuing an education.

Not only do internships benefit the students, they benefit employers. UNO Chancellor Joanne Li said, “The connection created by paid internships builds stronger bonds to our Omaha community, leading to greater employment and retention in our community after graduation—and ultimately driving the economy forward.”

Hands-On Learning Brings Classroom Experience to Life

UNK also emphasizes practical experience for students across the board as a way to bolster student success. In their College of Business and Technology, internships are required for some majors and encouraged for others. The college’s career center is tasked with providing personal and professional development for students through experiential learning and career planning.

"Internships and having experiences outside the classroom to complement what they are doing inside the classroom is the best way to provide professional development."

— Dustin Favinger, UNK Career Center Director

“Internships and having experiences outside the classroom to complement what they are doing inside the classroom is the best way to provide professional development,” said career center director Dustin Favinger. “Because we have the business community to support that, we have a great opportunity to connect our students with careers early on in their education.”

Across each of the four campuses in the University of Nebraska system, faculty, staff and administrators are working to build strong relationships with businesses, organizing career fairs and events to bring businesses to campus and offering classes to help students explore various careers, among other initiatives.

“We have access to the talent, but we also want to deploy the talent into the workforce. That's why students come to the university—to be transformed. And it's up to us to be a pilot in that in that transformation,” Favinger said.

Discover our Podcast Series

“Leading Nebraska” tells the stories of researchers, students and staff who are making a real impact. Join us in January as we follow NU System President Ted Carter. He discusses how the University of Nebraska was one of the only university systems in the country to grow during the pandemic—and how that growth impacts the state’s economy and success.

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