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Hands-On Learning

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Your hands are a tool by which you explore the world. They're also how you show people where you experience hands-on learning in Michigan. At Albion, we create an environment where you’re encouraged to dive into the things that you love.

We'll get you outside of the classroom so you can get your hands dirty with experience, and prepare yourself for the real world. Our job is to listen. To lend a hand when you need it. To give you a pat on the back, a round of applause or a gentle nudge in the right direction.

At Albion, we’ll help you grasp the opportunities of today so that you can take hold of your future.

Apply today and begin writing your own hands-on story.

Reinventing Our Midwestern Communities

Remarks: Reinventing Our Midwestern Communities

Richard C. LongworthRichard C. Longworth

When I was doing my research on the Midwest, I was astonished to discover that not one college or university in the Midwest even taught a class on the Midwest. The University of Michigan teaches the history and economics of Michigan, and the University of Illinois has its experts on the state of Illinois. But not one school taught or studied the Midwest itself, this region where we all work and make our lives. Try googling on Southern Studies sometime and see what you find. There are whole departments and schools down there devoted to Dixie. But the Midwest as an academic subject is all but forgotten.

I'm glad to report that that's not entirely true anymore, due to the work and vision of the man we've come to honor today. Mauri Ditzler introduced the Midwest Matters initiative while he was at Monmouth and, in the process, put to shame much bigger schools across the region. It's a distinguished program, with courses on politics and government in the Midwest, the history of the Midwest, the economics and culture of the Midwest, a study of our region through its literature. Past courses have dealt with the infrastructure of the Midwest, specifically the role that railroads played in creating this region. Some of these courses use the Midwest as a laboratory. One class right now is dealing with immigration, by studying towns and cities across the Midwest that have large immigrant populations, to see how they're coping or not coping.

Naturally I hope Albion will emulate this experience. But it all begs the question: Why is the Midwest important? Why is it a proper subject of study? What can you get from studying the Midwest that you can't get from studying, say, Michigan? And what is the Midwest anyway? And what does this have to do with Albion, as a college and as a town? How can a liberal arts college in this post-industrial twenty-first century be a leader in reviving this region?

I would argue that we can't understand Albion these days, or this part of Michigan, unless we understand the broader Midwest—its history, its economics, its political push and pull, its demographics—which is to say its people, its culture, its literature and theatre, and, especially, its ideas and beliefs.

As you'll notice, they don't teach any of these things in medical schools or law schools. All this is basically people and their communities and civilizations, where they came from and where they're going. All this is the proper curriculum of a liberal arts school. Albion teaches all this now, but I wonder if it frames this teaching in the context of the Midwest, of our special civilization right here in the heart of America.

The Midwest itself is a little hard to define, harder than, say, Dixie or New England. Does it include the Great Plains or the Upper Peninsula or the southern parts of Indiana or Illinois, which seem more Southern than Midwestern? I'd argue that the real Midwest extends from western Pennsylvania through eastern Iowa, from upstate New York through Michigan to Minnesota. It is defined geographically by the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Basin. Its people came first in the great wave of immigration from northern Europe and New England, giving us our focus on education and hard work and community, enriched later by the Great Migration from the South and the more recent Hispanic immigration. Mostly, the Midwest hangs together economically. It's the industrial and agricultural center of the nation. It does two big things for a living, which are heavy industry and intensive agriculture—and globalization has thrown both of them right up in the air.

All this is true of Detroit and Battle Creek and Albion, just as it's true of Chicago and Monmouth, of Cleveland and Dayton, of Gary and South Bend. The Midwest rose together as a region in the Industrial Revolution and the century that followed. It declined together through the Rust Bowl days and the great challenges of globalization. It will rise again economically only as a region—a region that knows we're all in this together—and is willing to combine and leverage all its strengths, including the intellectual firepower of its great colleges and universities.

Albion most definitely shares this dynamic past and the struggles of the present. It has been one of the cars on the rollercoaster ride that defines the economic history of the Midwest in the twentieth century. But we're in a new century now and, in many ways, in a new economy, a global economy. The challenge now is to take what we know and what we've learned, to let the past go and then build on that past, to build a future within which Albion—the town and the college—its citizens and its students, can join the rest of this region in the great task of reinvention.

We hear a lot today about advanced manufacturing, about STEM training and narrow expertise and specialties. Where does this leave the liberal arts? I'd say it leaves them at the head of the parade. We aren't going to understand where we've been and where we're going unless we get out of the labs and trading rooms and consider our civilization as a whole. It's useful to know how to code, but it's better to know how to think, and that's what Albion and the liberal arts are all about.

As Alexander Pope wrote, "The proper study of mankind is man." He went on to describe this mankind as

Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise, and rudely great,
With too much knowledge for the sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the stoic's pride.

That sounds a lot like where we are right now, not just in that "middle state" but wise enough to know that the history of the Midwest is not yet over and ambitious enough not to accept things as they are.

This then is the role of the liberal arts and of the colleges that make the liberal arts their mission. This mission is to tell us where we are and how we got here. The economy is part of this, and if your graduates don't understand the economy, they don't understand anything. But there's more to this than GDP statistics or unemployment rates. We're talking about our civilization here, our place in the world, about the lives that that economy pays for.

It's a fact that almost every place you can think of is there for some economic reason. Every town and city, every Detroit and Albion, was born because it served an economic purpose—as a farm town or mining town, as a port or factory town. If the reason was a valid one, then people came to work and stayed to build first a community and then a civilization, not just houses and workplaces but schools and parks and theatres and even colleges and universities. The economy supported all this, but the real point was the civilization itself.

But in economics, nothing lasts forever. The port silts up or the mine plays out or the factory closes and its jobs go somewhere else. When that happens, it's more than just an economic downturn. It's a civilizational challenge. Places where this happens can become backwaters, no longer able to support their civilizations, not disappearing exactly, but not the sort of place where you'd go to find a job or raise your family or make your life.

Or they can reinvent themselves, as towns and cities have done throughout history. They can find new ways to earn their living. With roots sunk deep into their native soil, they can build something new on the platform of the old. I know this can be done because I see it happening in old industrial areas, in the States and abroad, where people are determined to revive and rebuild.

But it takes leadership—and that leadership can and should come from the liberal arts. Not only the historians to tell us where we come from and how we got here. And not just the economists to explain this strange and rather scary new global economy to us.

We need international scholars, and we need to send our students around the world, because we're involved with that world today in ways more complicated and crucial than ever before. We have to reach beyond Albion and southern Michigan to strike alliances with other regions, American and otherwise, which are asking the same questions and facing the same problems.

The social impact of a changing economy is terrific and often traumatic for the people caught in this transformation. Might I suggest that there's a rich field of study, right here at home, for sociologists who can turn their own neighborhoods into laboratories.

This turbulence, of course, goes to the heart of a community, to its culture and its soul. We need to know how to think about this and for that we turn to our artists, to our writers, in particular. Over the past century, Southern writers defined the trauma of that region for the people who lived within it. It seems to me that the proper study of our writers and poets, our artists and dramatists, is the very human drama being played out right here right now.

Armed with this knowledge, Albion the College is perfectly placed to reach out to Albion the Town, to work together with the town and its leaders to build the future. This takes tact and diplomacy, and it may be slow going. The stresses between town and gown are real in almost every college town. In some of these towns, the colleges have almost built a moat around the campus, pretending that they are independent centers of academia, not really Midwestern, not really part of the communities that surround them. Not surprisingly, this arrogance is returned by the town—and nothing gets done.

I hope your students can be encouraged to be part of this community, to volunteer and intern there, to get to know the town and to establish personal ties that, with luck, will keep them here after graduation.

But I also hope that Albion will reach out to the other first-rate colleges and universities in this region, including community colleges, to combine your intellectual strengths, to leverage your local ties, to make common cause with other colleges and towns in Michigan and with the other schools in the Great Lakes Colleges Association. It's going to be a big job, this reinvention of our Midwestern civilization, and we need all the help we can get.

I know that Dr. Ditzler gets this because I've seen what he did in Monmouth. It's because I admire so much what he did there that I'm here today, to celebrate with you his arrival in Albion. He is a distinguished scholar, but more, he is a visionary leader. I know he is optimistic about Albion, both the school and the town, and from what I've seen and heard here, he has reason to be optimistic—as do we all.

Perhaps I can close with a few more lines from Alexander Pope to define this vision, this optimism. Nearly three hundred years ago, here's what he wrote:

Heaven forming each on other to depend,
A master, or a servant, or a friend,
Bids each on other for assistance call,
Till one man's weakness grows the strength of all.
Wants, frailties, passions, closer still ally
The common interest, or endear the tie.

"The common interest," he said. Not the narrow specialized interest, the parochial expertise that lives in academic silos, but the common interest on which sits "the strength of all." This is the power of learning and of the liberal arts, of a school like Albion, as it begins a new era in the history of this community and of all its people.

Thank you.

Kristen Beyer, '16

Kristen Beyer, '16 as an intern in London.

For Kristen Beyer, '16, Albion College is her home away from home. "The professors here are more than willing to help students with anything that they may need, from staying late for office hours, emailing back almost immediately and giving each student the hands-on experience they need to succeed. During my three years at Albion, I have been inspired by so many professors and will always be grateful for what they have done for me."

Kristen Beyer, '16 poses in front of the Dorchester. Kristen has had many hands-on opportunities throughout her time on campus. During the fall of her junior year, Kristen was given the chance to study abroad with the Boston University London Internship Program. Coming into college, she says she never thought that she would receive the opportunity to go abroad. While in London, she was given a rigorous course schedule based on her interests in advertising, marketing, and public relations while also completing a marketing and public relations internship. Her internship was for a start-up project and cost management company called Future54, located in Victoria. Here, Kristen applied her knowledge from both her course work at Albion College and the internship program to improve the Company's marketing and public relations strategies. Several of her suggestions are still used today by the company. "This hands-on experience gave me the opportunity to broaden my horizons and step out of my comfort zone. I came back from London a completely different person, and I have Albion College to thank for that", Kristen says.

On Albion's campus, Kristen is a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority where she has served as both the Event Director and the Online Media Manager. She is also a member of Lambda Pi Eta, the National Communications Honor Society. This summer, Kristen is getting more hands-on experience through her internship with Albion's Marketing Communications office, where she is learning more about the marketing field and putting her knowledge to work in a real-world environment.

"I'm thankful that I chose a Liberal Arts education because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my future, and Albion College has allowed me to take various classes so that I can discover what I am truly passionate about". Kristen has now found her passion for the marketing field and is planning for her future. Currently, Kristen is on track to graduate December of 2016, and is applying to graduate schools, hoping to eventually receive her Master's Degree in International Marketing!

Learn more about hands-on learning at Albion

Protecting of Minors on Campus

Albion College is dedicated to the welfare and safety of all Minors who visit the Albion College campus to participate in Albion College related programs. We are particularly interested in ensuring that staff, whether they be employees or volunteers, for youth oriented programs and activities are sufficiently screened and trained for the role of working with youth.

Employees and volunteers participating in such programs and activities:

  • Shall not spend time alone, either on or off campus, with a Minor away from others. If one-on-one interaction is required, meet in open, well lit rooms or spaces with windows observable by other adults from the Program. It is expected that activities where minors are present will involve two or more authorized adults.
  • Shall not engage in inappropriate conduct of any kind toward, or in the presence of, a Minor.
  • Shall not strike, hit, administer corporal punishment to, or touch in an inappropriate or illegal manner any Minor.
  • Shall not engage in the use or be under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs during such programs or activities.
  • Shall not be under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or legal drugs which may endanger Minors participating in the program or activity.
  • Shall not view pornography in front of Minors or make pornography in any form available to Minors participating in programs and activities covered by this policy or assist them in any way in gaining access to pornography.
  • Shall not develop inappropriate relationships with individual program participants under the age of 18.
  • Shall be alert to the physical and emotional state of all children each time they report for an educational program. Any signs of injury relating to suspected child abuse should be reported to the appropriate authorities.
  • Shall report as soon as possible, any suspected incident of sexual violence (see policy).
  • Shall not tell children "this is just between the two of us" or use similar language that encourages Minors to keep secrets from their parent/guardians

Mandatory Training on the Prevention and Recognition of Child Abuse
Albion College utilizes a service provided by in2vate.com to provide online training. Please send an email to to request access to this resource.


Criminal Background Checks
Criminal background checks and Sex offender registry checks are required of each employee or volunteer, to be completed and affirmative confirmation is cleared to work prior to his or her interaction or participation in youth oriented programs and activities.

  • Regular employees of the College and non-student volunteers must be cleared through a comprehensive background check process administered by the Human Resource Office.  There are select circumstances where this standard background check may also be administered for student employees and volunteers.
  • Student employees and student volunteers must be cleared through an I-CHAT background check and a sex offender registry check in the individual's home state and the state of Michigan. Complete and return pdfICHAT_Form.pdf to the Human Resources office in person, by email (scanned) or by fax to 517-629-0661.

Employment paperwork
Seasonal employees, including students who are not registered for student employment, working for summer camps will also need to complete appropriate employment forms:

 

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