Independent Learning Experience (ILE)

A major academic goal of a liberal arts education is to transform students in meaningful and positive ways. Our mission statement describes specifically the goal of enabling students “to become independent, responsible and thoughtful individuals.” The Independent Learning Experiences (ILE) will help students take responsibility for their education and foster student initiative and independence by enhancing their confidence in their own abilities.

The ILE requirement is fulfilled by a completion of a single project of at least three credits in a single semester or summer in one of these categories: (a) an independent research project or a creative project (including but not limited to honors); (b) an internship; (c) an approved study abroad program or (d) student teaching. The requirement can also be fulfilled by completion of a project in the Summer Fellows program or a comparable summer research program. For pre-engineering students, successful completion of the first of two years at the engineering school satisfies the ILE requirement.

The Independent Learning Experience will provide students with the opportunity to:

  1. develop independent thinking skills, their awareness of self and others, and their capacity for reflection by adopting different perspectives and inquiring into their own beliefs. 
  2. apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom successfully and thoughtfully to an experience outside of the classroom.
  3. gain knowledge and skills that are applicable to future pursuits.
  4. produce evidence of their ability to synthesize their learning inside and outside of the classroom (e.g., internship essay, public presentation, research paper) to be shared with others.

Departmental and Interdepartmental Honors

The goals of the Honors Program at Ursinus College are to encourage academic excellence, to promote original research and independent study, and to reward scholarly achievement. Students with high overall academic standing who have demonstrated an exceptional competence, the capacity for independent, original research and disciplined scholarship may be awarded departmental honors or distinguished honors in the department of their major or minor fields of concentration. Students may also be awarded interdepartmental honors or distinguished honors, if they are double majors and complete the requirements for honors in both departments. Interdepartmental or distinguished honors may also be granted to students who complete the requirements for honors in the departments of their major and minor, subject to approval of both departments. Students may receive honors or distinguished honors in their minor departments or programs, with the approval of both their major and minor departments/ programs.  Students’ eligibility to do honors outside of their major or minor must be pre-approved by the department in which the honors project is conducted and by the Academic Standards and Discipline Committee.  

All these awards are made subject to the following regulations:

1. To be eligible for departmental or distinguished honors, students must have a 3.5 cumulative average based on their last four semesters. Exceptions may be made by the Academic Standards and Discipline Committee at the request of the department. 

2. To be admitted to candidacy for departmental or interdepartmental honors or distinguished honors, students must enroll in a first semester of Research/Independent Work 491. By the middle of their first semester of Research/Independent Work 491, a candidate for honors submits a formal proposal including a bibliography and research plan to the department(s) for approval. Near the end of the 491 course, the candidate submits a written status report and makes an oral presentation to the department(s). Upon completion of 491, the student may be invited by the department(s) to pursue honors in the following semester. 

Students must obtain written consent of a faculty member who will serve as the project adviser, have their candidacy certified by the chairperson of the department in which they wish to pursue honors. In the case of interdepartmental honors, students must obtain written consent of a faculty project adviser from each department/program, have their candidacy certified by the chairperson/coordinator of one of these departments/programs, and have the research or individual projects approved by both departments/programs.

Students who receive such approval by the end of the first semester will complete a second semester of Research/Independent Work 492.

3. The Honors Project, completed in the second semester of  research/independent work, must demonstrate disciplined, independent and original scholarship or creativity. If the candidates receive a passing grade, they will earn credit hours toward graduation, even though their work may not be recommended for honors.

4. An honors committee consists of at least three faculty members, at least two from the department(s) and at least one from outside the department(s). If the committee agrees the project is moving towards consideration for distinguished honors, an outside evaluator will be secured at least one month prior to the project’s defense and added to the committee. The committee evaluates the project and an oral presentation, and examines the candidate by early to mid- April. This committee is chosen by the adviser(s) in consultation with the department chair(s) and the student. Departmental or interdepartmental honors will be awarded on the recommendation of this committee and the department(s), and the approval of the faculty.

5. After the student submits the final paper and passes the oral presentation, the committee may decide to award distinguished honors, if the student has demonstrated exceptional scholarship, originality, and/or thoroughness, and the project has been vetted by an outside reader. The Honors Committee including the outside reader must be unanimous in their decision to award distinguished honors to the student.

6. Departments specify the date for the candidate to submit a completed thesis. In order that the faculty may consider the awarding of honors or distinguished honors, the candidate must submit the completed thesis in PDF to the Digital Commons by the Monday of the last full week of classes following the format established by the Myrin Library, the approval of the project adviser(s), and approval of the department(s) and of the outside evaluator for distinguished honors.

Internships

An internship is a structured and supervised professional experience for which a student receives academic credit. The Office of Career and Professional Development has information on a wide range of internship opportunities.

Guidelines

Credit for a departmental internship will be established within the department and may be either three or four credits. The faculty internship adviser will determine whether an internship opportunity meets the standards to qualify for academic credit. Approval for academic credit for internship experiences will not be granted for internships in progress or following their completion. Students register for a summer internship during the spring registration period. On-campus internships must be approved by the Academic Standards and Discipline Committee.

Qualifications

Students who meet the following qualifications will be permitted to enroll in an internship for credit:

  1. junior or senior status
  2. have completed three courses within the department that administers the internship, or permission of the faculty internship adviser;
  3. must have a cumulative GPA of 2.0;

Students will be permitted to undertake two internships, provided they are not concurrent, under any of the following conditions:

  1. the internship site requires a two-term commitment
  2. the student is a double major and wishes an internship in each major
  3. the second internship is outside the major (e.g. in the minor)
  4. the two internships are within the same major but are so different as to constitute a markedly different experience

Exceptions to these qualifications must be approved by the Academic Standards and Discipline Committee prior to enrolling in the internship.

Defined Activities

The internships will include the following specified activities:

  1. specified number of hours at the internship site; the minimum hourly requirement will be 10-12 hours per week with a minimum of 160 hours per semester – four credits; 120 hours per semester – three credits
  2. submission of the internship registration form (internship learning agreement)
  3. completion of the Online Internship Companion Course (Internship PREP) by the end of the first week of commencing the internship
  4. a journal or daily log recording activities and hours
  5. meetings with the faculty internship adviser
  6. a final research paper or other visible product such as a portfolio, video
  7. whenever possible, a public oral presentation of results
  8. Completion of an internship evaluation within one week of receipt.

Grading

Since the faculty internship adviser is responsible for the final grade, the internship will be graded on the basis of: a) final visible product as defined by internship-granting department, b) input from on-site adviser, c) input from faculty internship adviser

International Programs

The immediate knowledge of the cultural heritage of another country, with its contemporary economic and social problems, affords students an awareness of differing values and an understanding of their own country’s relation to issues which confront the world today. Ursinus students grow and learn from a wide variety of international experiences, both for academic credit and not credit-bearing. Students may participate in an approved study abroad program during the academic year or during summer or winter break provided they are students in good standing, are recommended by their major adviser, and, in the opinion of the dean and the faculty, will be worthy representatives of the College and will profit from this experience. Many programs provide internship or service learning opportunities for academic credit while others offer extracurricular and volunteer activities. Students may apply to study abroad as early as the summer following their freshman year and as late as their penultimate semester. All students, regardless of major, are encouraged to consider study abroad, and opportunities are available in English, in the host country language or in a combination thereof in most regions of the world. Students approved to study abroad for a semester are required take a pre-departure orientation course. The course of study must be approved for transfer credit in advance. All approved semester and some short-term programs satisfy the College’s ILE requirement. Students may apply their financial aid and merit scholarships to approved semester abroad programs. The Ursinus faculty-led and affiliated programs listed below are a partial list of study abroad options chosen by our students. We also allow students to participate in a number of other overseas programs run by partner organizations. Additional information may be obtained from the Center for International Programs and website. Other international opportunities are supported by the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships, the Office of Career and Professional Development, and the Ursinus Center for Advocacy, Responsibility and Engagement (UCARE).

Ursinus College Summer and Winter Interim Programs

These programs are conducted by Ursinus College faculty. Programs that fulfill the Independent Learning Experience (ILE) are indicated by *.

The Summer Program in Japan*

This program runs from late May to late June and is offered in collaboration with Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai, Japan. Students live with families while studying at the university and have an opportunity to visit Hiroshima and Tokyo.

Biology of the Neotropics*

A field study of the rain forests of Costa Rica. Qualified students meet for hours on campus during the fall semester and spend three weeks during winter break in the field. Side trips include visits to cloud forests or coral reefs. The program is offered every other year.

Exchange Programs

These semester or academic year programs are based on student exchange agreements with other institutions or organizations. Students who participate in these programs are officially enrolled at the host institution. Up to 16 credits per semester, but not grades, may transfer.

Akita International University (Japan)

Qualified Ursinus students can study at AIU for the fall and/or spring semester. In addition to intensive Japanese language courses, AIU offers many courses taught in English in a variety of disciplines, making the program open to students of all majors. Its location gives our students an opportunity to study away from Japan’s urban centers, while still having access to a region rich with cultural and recreational activities. AIU houses most of its exchange students in dorms with Japanese students. A winter term option is available. Previous study of Japanese is desirable but not required. Admission is competitive.

Lingnan University of Hong Kong

Ursinus students may apply to study at Lingnan for the fall and/or spring semester. Lingnan offers coursework taught in English in many disciplines and therefore may be of interest to students in any major.  Lingnan houses exchange students in residence halls with local students. A summer option is also available. Previous study of Cantonese is not required.  

ISEP Exchange

ISEP is a network of over 300 colleges and universities in more than 50 countries. The consortium allows Ursinus to offer study abroad opportunities in programs or countries that may be of special interest to particular students. Participating students enroll as visiting students for one or two semesters in a foreign university and enjoy virtually all of the rights and responsibilities of local students. Students are housed in residence halls or in private accommodations arranged by the host institution. Each accredited and recognized university is unique and therefore requirements and offerings vary from one host to the next.  

Ursinus-Tohoku Gakuin University Program (Japan)

Ursinus students may spend the fall semester at Tohoku Gakuin, our sister university in Sendai, Japan. Classes are conducted in English except for Japanese language classes. Admission is competitive and the program is open to majors in any field who have completed at least one year of Japanese language study at the college level.

Partnerships

Ursinus College is affiliated with several organizations and consortia of colleges and universities that offer high-quality international experiences to our students throughout the world. Qualified students who participate in these programs are visiting students abroad. Normally up to 16 credits, but not grades, may transfer. Students have recently studied abroad under the auspices of CAPA The Global Education Network, the Council for International Education Exchange (CIEE), Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA), International Christian University (Japan), French Field Study and Internship Programs (IFE), School for International Training (SIT), and University of St Andrews. For a complete and updated list of approved programs, please see the Study Abroad Website.

Student Teaching

The teaching semester immerses students daily in a large and varied professional community outside Ursinus. The college is approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) to offer initial teacher certification in 13 subject areas (see Education section of the catalog). To pursue one of these subject area certifications, students must major in that subject and complete nine Education courses totaling 38 credits (which includes the student teaching semester). The department does not offer certification in elementary education (though some subject area certifications, such as foreign languages and health/physical education, span grades K–12).

Earning a degree and certification in four years is possible, but candidates must meet with their advisers early in their college career and plan their schedule with care. Interested students should read the Education Department section of the catalog for the eligibility requirements for Field Experience, Admission to the Program, and Student Teaching.

Most Education courses require field experience hours in local public schools, which prepare students to step in front of a class during the student teaching semester in the senior year. Students must arrange transportation for all field experiences and student teaching. Student teaching can take place in either the fall or spring semester. In order to be recommended for a student teaching placement, students must receive the approval of faculty from the major department and the Education Department, who will consider patterns of professionalism as well as academic performance.

Summer Fellows and Undergraduate Research

Another program that illustrates the College’s commitment to providing meaningful independent research opportunities is the Summer Fellows Program. Established in 1996 for students of all disciplines, the program allows students to participate in a research project or a creative or artistic endeavor on a one-to-one basis with a faculty member. For eight to ten weeks, Summer Fellows live on campus and work closely with their mentors on independent projects. The opportunity for students to live and work together as a community of scholars generates a unique atmosphere of student-faculty collegiality on the Ursinus campus that is highly valued by all participants. The program is highly competitive and about seventy to ninety students participate each summer. To mark the close of the summer program, each year students, faculty, and members of the Ursinus community gather together formally to recognize and celebrate students’ outstanding achievements with a Summer Fellows Symposium, an opportunity for student scholars to present their work in a public forum. The program is funded by internal and external grants as well as by gifts from generous alumni.

Students who do not have the time for a major research commitment such as honors or Summer Fellows often participate in a focused research project for at least one semester through Directed Research courses and Independent Study courses. Small grants are available to support research expenses for Honors, Directed Research, and Independent Study courses.

Students to have the opportunity to showcase their work on the Celebration of Student Achievement (CoSA) day each spring when classes are set aside for the presentation of students’ scholarly and artistic work. Ursinus students regularly present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and at the Sigma Xi Student Research Conference as well as at discipline-specific undergraduate research conferences and regional professional meetings. Others have co-authored presentations at national meetings and many have won awards for their independent research and artistic accomplishments. Many students also publish with their faculty mentors and in the past five years over one hundred papers have been published in professional journals.