All students at Rhode Island College are expected to participate in experiential learning opportunities prior to graduation. As RIC says, “Experiential learning is a process through which students develop and apply knowledge, skills, conceptual understanding and values to real-world problems or situations. The classroom, laboratory, studio or authentic real-world experiences--on campus and in the community--can serve as experiential learning settings. Through experiential learning, students are able to bridge the gap between theory and practice.” (For more about the college-wide requirement, see this page).
Experiential Learning in Sociology
Sociology majors take a culminating capstone course in their senior year, Sociology 460: Senior Seminar, as well as a two-course research methods sequence, Sociology 302: Social Research Methods I and Sociology 404: Sociology Research Methods II, in which they develop their skills in social research. Students learn to design research projects and data collection instruments, collect data in various ways, and analyze their data using both qualitative and quantitative methods of data analysis. These experiential opportunities enable students to develop and practice skills which are in high demand in careers and which are vitally useful for those continuing their education at the graduate level.
Students can also take additional, optional courses offering experiential learning opportunities, including Sociology 315: Community (a service learning course), Sociology 450: Topics (service learning in Ecuador), and independent or directed study focused on student-designed research. Students who choose to take Sociology 315 or 450 engage in service learning in which they connect their classroom learning to real-world social problems.
Experiential Learning in Justice Studies
Justice Studies majors take a culminating capstone course in their senior year, Justice Studies 466: Seminar in Justice Studies, as well as a two-semester research methods sequence, Sociology 302: Social Research Methods I and Sociology 404: Sociology Research Methods II, in which they develop their skills in social research (double majors in Justice Studies and either Psychology or Political Science take a slightly different sequence of research methods, but are still required to take two semesters in this area). Experiential learning in these required courses focuses on the skills needed for applied social research. Students learn to design research projects and data collection instruments, collect data in various ways, and analyze their data using both qualitative and quantitative methods of data analysis. They also learn to relate these findings to real-world problems, with a particular focus on the implications of research findings for justice policy, justice services, and theory. Students graduate having completed an original research paper, grant proposal, or other project linking theory and research and enabling them to demonstrate their real-world skills.
Justice Studies majors also have the option of completing an internship for course credit towards their major. They may choose Political Science 327: Internship in State Government, Political Science 328: Field Experiences in the Public Sector, or Social Work 436: Internship, depending on their area of professional and academic interest. Students who complete an internship have further opportunities to connect their classroom learning to the occupational opportunities available in justice-related fields and to develop real-world work experiences and networking connections which will serve them well in their future pursuits.