December 16, 2019

As 2019 draws to a close, so does the first official semester of Hampden-Sydney College’s newest academic initiative: an experiential learning program called Compass.

Campass: Navigate your Future watermark

Hampden-Sydney believes that college should help students find direction. The Compass program guides students by capitalizing on two of H-SC’s greatest strengths—its immersive, engaging learning environment and the strong relationships between faculty and students. The program combines active learning experiences with faculty-guided reflection to help students connect what they are learning with what they can expect to do beyond college.

The framework is simple. Every student must complete at least three experiential learning courses; at least one of them must have a significant off-campus component. Students can choose courses from a broad menu of options—internships, study abroad, research, service learning, and hands-on classroom courses. For qualified students, funding is available to support their experiences. This year’s freshman class—the Hampden-Sydney Class of 2023—will be the first to graduate under the new Compass requirement.

Compass courses have included summer internships at the Hatteras Island Ocean Center, a semester abroad in Muenster, a summer internship in New York, and community service in the local region. But they also enabled students to experience their world right here on campus. Students created art with materials found on campus trails in Art and Ecology class, wrote grants and were awarded up to $10,000 to address needs in the local community in Philanthropy in Theory and Practice, and formed a delegation to debate and negotiate in a diplomatic simulation in Model Organization of American States. In all, seventeen classes were offered in the first semester of the program.

The experiential learning course helped me to connect with the work in front of me in ways I had never thought of before.

Andrew Howell ’20

Upcoming Compass courses will enable students to study international trade in global cities like Dublin and propose entrepreneurial solutions to pressing health issues in Anatomy and Physiology. Many faculty members are also incorporating experiential learning into existing courses, from traditional core requirements such as Western Culture to long-standing favorites like “caveman chemistry.”

Following his service-learning Compass course, Andrew Howell ’20 observed, “The experiential learning course helped me to connect with the work in front of me in ways I had never thought of before.” Beyond college, Hampden-Sydney believes Compass will better prepare men to compete for top jobs and graduate programs. Elliott Professor of English and Assistant Dean of the Faculty Sarah Hardy notes, “It's hard to predict what skills students will need in the workplace in five, ten, or twenty years. But we can give students practice and guidance solving open-ended problems. Wherever this happens—in a lab, in an art class, in study abroad, or in an internship—students discover how their own mistakes, choices, and accomplishments can translate into success in any setting.”

To learn more, visit the Compass website or contact Dr. Sarah Hardy, assistant dean of the faculty, at (434) 223-6089 or Current students may also contact their advisors.


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