It's not uncommon for Cobbers to use spring break as an opportunity to take learning out of the classroom – around the country and across the globe.
This year, 16 students used the week to explore conservation and activism in the Florida Everglades.
The experience was organized and led by students as part of a fairly new initiative at Concordia. The High Impact Leadership Trip (HILT) concept was developed in recognition of the benefits of experiential learning. This year marks the third HILT to take students off campus in an effort to drive responsible engagement in the world. The "hands-on" component is as crucial to the program as the knowledge gained, says faculty advisor Dr. Ken Foster.
“The HILT program aims at helping students to develop as active citizens and leaders,” Foster says. “The trips are designed to enable students both to learn about the issue and explore how people are working to address the issue.”
In the Everglades, students worked alongside local conservationists, focusing on climate issues and water conservation and gaining an understanding for the impact of human influence on the delicate ecology of the area environment. From volunteering with the National Park Service to remove invasive species from trails to learning how oxidation influences soil levels, students immersed themselves by digging into environmental issues with implications not just in the Everglades but back home in the heartland as well
Kelly Knutson '15, Grand Forks, N.D., a student leader for this year's HILT, believes the experience in the Everglades will continue to be relevant back on campus.
“We hope students are inspired by these leaders and activists to continue activism and leadership by working with an existing campus group, starting their own initiative, as well as continuing the conversation with the rest of campus,” he says.
The HILT program focuses on developing student leaders by placing sole responsibility for planning, coordinating and leading the trip on the students themselves. From choosing a topic to planning the itinerary and developing a budget, the students own the experience in a way that differentiates it from other travel programs.
For Ivy Estenson ’15, St. Peter, Minn., the trip was an opportunity to gain a different perspective and take BREW outside of the classroom.
“The HILT helps Cobbers BREW because it gets them out of the classroom, out of the Concordia ‘bubble,’ out of Fargo-Moorhead and allows them to experience problems in a different part of the country with an overall goal of impacting their community at home,” she says.
Upon their return, the student leaders are intentional about sharing the benefits of this unique experience – with the goal of influencing the next group of Cobbers to take their passion for learning and activism on the road.