Practical learning in the classroom

In the June edition of Edubytes, our guest editors are Kaitlyn Tyler, Manager, Alumni Engagement Volunteer and Student Programs, UBC Sauder School of Business, and Christine Lee, Associate Director, Alumni Engagement, Faculty of Arts.

The Faculty of Arts and the UBC Sauder School of Business encourage faculty members to bring practical learning into the classroom to help students experience the tangible ways their disciplines are applied to environments beyond the university. This is achieved through alumni stories, mentorship, sharing real world experiences, and applications of their discipline across different contexts. As a result, students focus on developing skills and competencies that can be leveraged to achieve their individual life and career goals.

In alignment with UBC’s goal of Transformative Learning Approaches (Strategy 13), this work was informed by a 10+ year UBC Faculty of Arts alumni survey which suggested that alumni wish they had been better equipped to communicate their skills and the strengths of their Arts major and degree when they graduated.  For UBC Sauder, as defined in its most recent strategic plan Momentum, the Faculty integrates opportunities for alumni to be meaningfully involved in the school through the student and alumni journey. Faculty members are leveraging the passion and energy of alumni to increase engagement and volunteerism.

Integrating connections

Enabling alumni connections in the classroom helps students connect course concepts to professional skills, boosting their confidence and career clarity. This is also referred to as Career Development Learning, which can be embedded directly into curriculum and help students prepare for their future (Glover-Chambers, et al., 2024). UBC Sauder and Faculty of Arts alumni have helped enrich students’ learning experiences and prepare them for the workforce by sharing their career journeys and lessons learned. These alumni provide insights into current trends, challenges, and opportunities in business and society, serving as role models and inspiring students to strive for success and contribute meaningfully to their communities.

Integrating connections with alumni in the classroom provides the following benefits:

  • Access: Students have limited time to participate in co-curricular opportunities to engage with alumni.  Incorporating these interactions into the classroom makes the impacts accessible to all students.
  • Enriched learning: Enriches the understanding of course concepts and helps students achieve course and program learning outcomes.
  • Student recruitment: Attracts students to the discipline, helping them see how they can leverage their education to build a meaningful life and career.
  • Community: Introduces students to alumni early in their academic journey to foster a sense of community and lifelong connection with UBC through classroom engagement.

By offering diverse perspectives and industry insights through alumni guest speakers, faculty members will see how both Faculties are equipping students with the tools to thrive in an ever-evolving global marketplace.

Faculty of Arts

Below are some examples of Faculty of Arts courses currently offering practical learning opportunities:

WRDS150: Students in this writing and research methods course connect with alumni and learn how alumni apply and leverage foundational skills taught in the course in their day-to-day work.  Alumni narratives connecting skills developed in WRDS 150 with real-world applications provide current students with a tangible sense of how their academic work lays a foundation for their future careers. This connection not only reinforces the value of their undergraduate education, but it also inspires confidence in their ability to navigate life beyond graduation.

SOCI 102: First-year students are provided the opportunity to use concrete research skills, such as designing and conducting a research interview with alumni, demonstrating their capacity to analyze and present data through a sociological lens. Additionally, students build collaborative relationships with each other throughout the term by participating in discussion groups and a shared experience outside of the classroom, and eventually analyzing the alumni interview as a group before submitting individual essays.

I think that the students have this very linear idea of what a career looks like, and it’s good to hear from alumni who are doing jobs and have careers that look quite different to their education… by interviewing the alumni, the students get to know about life post-graduation, and about how certain other aspects, and even serendipity, shape what alumni do.”

–Neil Armitage, Lecturer (SOCI)

POLI 395: Instead of standard lectures, multiple sessions take place throughout the semester featuring Political Science alumni. In these three-hour long workshops, students learn more about applying their Political Science skills to a range of different professions, problems, and real-world responsibilities.

The idea is to connect students directly with alumni from a whole range of different working situations and professions, and bring to the students’ attention the areas which might never have occurred to them.”

–Richard Price, Professor (POLI)

CRWR 430/530: This course allows both BFA and MFA students to develop the necessary communication and reflection skills for success in the creative writing field. We look at how students their work out for publication and practice the applied aspect of public speaking, participating in a mock writers festival, and interacting with members of the industry through our term guest alumni speakers.

In my teaching, practical learning is less discussion around abstract theory, and engaged with more concrete elements. Students are provided various practical and participatory learning opportunities, such as creating materials collaboratively in class and engaging with promotional and marketing sources. We discuss hypothetical, professional opportunities and prepare the tools necessary for emerging writers to feel emboldened and confident to go out and sustain themselves and succeed in however they want to forge their writing career.

–Mallory Tater, Lecturer (CRWR)

UBC Sauder School of Business

Additionally, some examples of UBC Sauder courses and co-curricular programs currently offering practical learning opportunities include:

COMM 105: In their first year, all UBC Sauder students take COMM 105, a foundational course focused on personal and professional development within business studies. The course helps students cultivate professionalism and understand how personal values influence career paths.

Alumni join the class as guest speakers to share their career journeys, reflect on their UBC Sauder experience, and engage in meaningful dialogue with students. Meeting in tutorial groups of about 30 students fosters candid discussions and personal connections. Alumni guests address course objectives by sharing leadership experiences, highlighting the benefits of ethical business practices, and demonstrating a long-term perspective in business decision-making and societal roles.

Building community for first-year UBC Sauder students is an important part of COMM 105 Values, Ethics, and Community. Alumni introduce students to their extended network, and help students imagine future possibilities in their lives and careers.

Colin Dodds, Lecturer

COMM 483: UBC Sauder alumni are regularly invited to COMM483 as guest speakers to share their career trajectory, successes and challenges. They also serve as mentors and sponsors for students as they consider their future ambitions and aspirations. Every year, Adjunct Professor Adel Gamar’s class hosts a COMM483 Alumni Weekend where alumni return to UBC Sauder and participate in the class to analyze leadership and management cases. They also attend an Alumni Social which typically attracts over 100 people and includes guest speakers and facilitated discussions for deep connections.

Having the alum visit my class builds connections, instills hope, and forges community among students and alumni. We are inspired by those around us who lift us up and share stories of challenges and perseverance.

Adel Gamar, Adjunct Professor

MBA BA 580B Integrated Global Economy: This course, spearheaded by UBC Sauder Dean Darren Dahl and Associate Professor Werner Antweiler, was designed to challenge conventional thinking and prepare students to adapt to global business changes. The course focuses on three main objectives:

  1. Facilitate critical discourse on industry trends and challenges.
  2. Foster interdisciplinary connections between academia and industry.
  3. Encourage student reflection on long-term business strategies in dynamic markets.

A key component of the course structure involves the integration of guest speakers, including both UBC Sauder alumni and other UBC alumni who are renowned industry professionals, and government spokespeople. These speakers are strategically chosen to provide diverse perspectives on global business challenges to inspire students.

The curriculum is enriched by inviting speakers who offer a unique mixture of inspiration, motivation, expertise, and experience. These experts are feeling the pulse of the industry and can offer even more insight to the students than we can as Faculty.

–Werner Antweiler, Associate Professor

UBC Sauder student Co-Curricular programs also offer real world learning experiences with the support of UBC Sauder faculty and alumni and have a lasting impact on the students.

UBC Sauder LIFT: is a student led program that transcends international borders to deliver essential business tools to a classroom of aspiring youth entrepreneurs in Kibera and Mathare – two of the largest slum communities in Nairobi, Kenya. At its core, LIFT represents: Leadership, Innovation, Fundamentals and Training. Alumni provide invaluable learning materials developed based on their UBC Sauder course experience and their careers.

Growing with the SSE-Kenya program from my first year until now has been a major highlight of my university experience. The impact of sharing knowledge in these entrepreneurial communities is tremendous for all stakeholders involved: knowledge and community for the entrepreneurs and expanding perspectives, innovative thinking, and collaboration to do good for the UBC Sauder students. It leaves ripple effects in both communities of entrepreneurial spirit.

–Sabrina Dammholz, Finance Major, UBC Sauder student

 “LIFT was a way for me to pay it forward, not only to the entrepreneurs we train, but also to the next generation of UBC Sauder alums. Being a role model for future alums that we can care and contribute whilst pursuing our personal ambitions.”

–Lawrence Leung, Senior Director Corporate Internal Audit, Alumni

The Brand Management Mentorship Program (BMMP): is led and delivered by UBC Sauder alumni marketing professionals and facilitated by Professor Tim Silk, for both undergraduate and MBA students. The strength and success of the BMMP stems from the team of alumni mentors who have successfully landed some of the most coveted brand management positions in top tier companies. They have an in-depth understanding of what it takes to be successful in the interview process as well as on-the-job. Having gone through the process themselves, alumni provide insightful feedback on students’ resumes, job-searching, and interview skills, and help the students gain the competitive edge required to secure jobs after graduation.

This initiative bridges the gap between academia and industry, cultivating a community of continuous learning and support, ensuring its sustainability and success. Participants emerge more self-aware, polished, and mature.

“This is not just about getting a job; it’s a process of self-discovery and personal development. Whoever is in the program is becoming a better version of themselves.”

Dr. Tim Silk, Associate Professor

“Engaging in personal conversations with mentors to understand their values and why they chose brand management was enlightening. The program, alongside these mentors, not only taught me about brand management but also introduced me to various aspects of marketing. I gained not only industry insights but also a deeper understanding of my personal values within a professional context.”  

–Student testimonial

UBC Master of Management Community Business Project (CBP): connects often alumni-led not-for-profits, community organizations and social enterprises with Master of Management students who provide free consulting services. This four-month initiative allows students to address key challenges faced by these organizations, offering them practical business solutions in the realms of strategy, finance, marketing and human resources. Teams, mentored by faculty and industry experts, produce valuable deliverables like business expansion plans and operational models while honing their skills in project management and leadership. The project emphasizes long-term thinking, realistic goal setting, and effective communication, bridging the gap between academic knowledge and real-world application.

“The CBP was an incredibly valuable experience. Being able to work one-on-one with a client, solve real-life issues as a consultant and get that hands-on experience directly through UBC Sauder.”

–(Sameen Gaemian, UBC B+MM ’23)

“This is a very strong mechanism to help these students apply the skills that they’ve learnt through the MM program, into what businesses are going to be looking for in the actual workforce.”

–Vik Kambli, Adjunct Professor

UBC Portfolio Management Foundation (PMF): provides a small group of select BCom students with an experience that will provide world-class training in the global capital markets. Students learn from and have access to the best investment professionals and alumni within and outside of Canada to prepare for careers in investment banking, research, sales and trading, and money management. Leslie Wong Fellows (alumni of the program), engage with the PMF students throughout their time in the program as both mentors and teachers and play a critical role in the PMF students’ personal and professional development.

As a student in the PMF, you spend a large portion of your time evaluating and understanding individual companies and in doing this, you learn that this knowledge cannot be acquired in the classroom but rather through real-world application.”

–Student testimonial

Given the breadth of our alumni network across numerous roles within the capital markets, the Leslie Wong Fellows provide students with vast and oftentimes conflicting perspectives on financial markets, allowing us to contrast perspectives and form our own opinions. This exposure to a broad and supportive alumni network has had a major impact on the development of my understanding of financial markets and has also allowed me to evaluate various positions as potential options for a future career.”

–Student testimonial

The Faculty of Arts and UBC Sauder School of Business prioritize real-world experiences in teaching to equip students with practical skills and insights. Alumni involvement, mentorship, and shared experiences bridge theory with application, preparing students for their life and careers. Integrating alumni in the classroom helps students connect course concepts with professional skills while gaining confidence and clarity in their life and career aspirations.

To learn more and explore options for your work, please contact Christine Lee, Faculty of Arts, or Kaitlyn Tyler, UBC Sauder School of Business at

Additional Resources

Faculty of Arts Practical Learning Teaching Stories

Faculty share their approach to incorporating Practical Learning strategies into their course work in diverse disciplines including Sociology, Creative Writing and History. 

Faculty of Arts Practical Learning

Online resource webpage to showcase innovative Practical Learning curriculum to help students connect disciplinary learning and their futures.

Practical Learning Annotated Bibliography (PDF)

Review studies in the Practical Learning annotated bibliography about integrating practical learning into the classroom for students. 

Enjoyed reading about practical learning in the classroom? Learn about other topics we covered in the June 2024 edition by reading the complete Edubytes newsletter. To view past issues, visit the Edubytes archive.

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