Every student’s program of study centers on the familiar work of classroom and laboratory, library and studio. Yet important learning also takes place in less familiar settings, where the student is called upon to adapt to a new environment, to act without one’s customary support system, to develop trust in one’s own resources of intelligence and discipline. It is to encourage that kind of learning, so critical to personal maturity, that the College makes available a variety of special programs.

What is Experiential Education?click or touch to open

Experiential education emphasizes guided activity as a primary mode of learning. It often takes place outside the conventional setting of a classroom, library, or laboratory, and  typically does not take place at a study desk. While mastery of information, understanding of expert opinion and cognitive learning are not ignored, effective change and growth is stressed. By exposing students to unfamiliar tasks and environments, experiential learning encourages mental and emotional adjustments and promotes the development of new skills and attitudes. It has as a principal goal the creation of sense of achievement, personal competence, and self-reliance.

Experiential learning begins with concrete experience, but it does not stop there. It also involves an important element of reflection, an effort to develop a clear view of what one is doing and to assess its value. These observations and reflections should lead learners to new generalizations and concepts, fresh understandings of the world and oneself, and some enhancement of ability. Subsequently, new learning should be tested and refined in a different situation or additional experiences. At its best, experiential learning deepens the learners' sensitivity to social and physical surroundings and encourages them to use senses and wits more fully. Thus it affords powerful opportunities for holistic learning.

An “experiential education” course has the following characteristics:

  • It involves active and sustained participation by the student.
  • It is a kind of experience that the student has not had before.
  • It requires the student not only to do something new but to stand back from the activity, assess its significance, and draw conclusions about it.
  • It provides opportunities to test these conclusions (or, in the case of a skill-oriented course, to demonstrate increased mastery).
  • It has as a major goal some modification in attitude or outlook, some change in personal perspective, and some deepening of insight regarding oneself and others or oneself and the world.

Within the guidelines, experiential education courses are quite diverse in type. They include exploring a creative process, developing new physical skills, living for a time in an alien setting, or trying out a field through a "hands-on" approach. Courses having to do with service projects, life-enhancing activities, or new leisure skills and interests are especially appropriate. Some experiential learning courses assess fees that vary with particular offerings each year.


Experiential Opportunities at MC

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Community Engagement

Maryville College offers numerous opportunities for students to become involved in volunteer service. The Director of Community Engagement coordinates a broad program that includes tutoring, adult literacy, work in social service agencies, environmental projects, and many other possibilities. More information can be found in the Center for Community Engagement section.

Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont

The Great Smoky Mountains Institute is located in the National Park just 20 miles from Maryville College. The program focuses on environmental education and on the natural and cultural history of the area. A variety of opportunities at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute are available to Maryville College students. The Institute offers programs for college credit. Internships, practicum experiences, and postgraduate work opportunities are also available. Interns and staff members work principally as instructors for the wide variety of groups that visit the Institute. Further information is available from the Institute Director. (www.gsmit.org)

The Great Smokies Experience is a partnership between the GSMI and the College which provides a one-of-a-kind, credit-bearing, college class experience for high school students entering their junior and senior years.  Get more information from the GSE pages →

Hult Prize

The Next Wave of Social Entrepreneurs

Since 2015, Maryville College has competed in the annual Hult Prize, an international contest that has been called “the Nobel Prize for Students” because of its vision to harness the intellect and creativity found on college and university campuses to address global social challenges.

Get more information from the Hult Prize page → 


Internships and other types of practical experience are available in nearly all major fields. They provide excellent opportunities to gain practical experience in field settings. Details may be found in the catalog and under the course listings for academic programs of study.

Mountain Challenge

Mountain Challenge takes students outdoors. Area mountains, lakes, rivers, and woods provide the setting. The seasons, each one distinct in its own right, provide the agenda. In the fall and winter it may be panoramic views of changing leaves high in the mountains or cold mountain mornings shared with fellow travelers over hot drinks. Spring and summer may bring trips to appreciate the wildlife and beautiful plant life of the mountains. The agenda might include hiking, rock climbing, canoeing on one of the beautiful mountain lakes, or climbing the Alpine Tower. Whatever the situation, the Mountain Challenge program is a chance to face challenges head on, to struggle through some difficult and unfamiliar tasks, and to experience the thrill of achievement. The Mountain Challenge program is an opportunity for people to explore the self while exploring the outdoors.

Many of the events in the Mountain Challenge program require neither experience nor special equipment. The only requirements for these events are a willingness to try new experiences and a commitment to do ones best. Some events in the program do require experience and/or proper equipment. Experience can be gained through participation in other program events, and the College will supply needed equipment. Interested persons may sign up for Mountain Challenge trips at Crawford House.

Students who participate in five different Mountain Challenge events may register to receive one (1) hour of PHR activity credit. Up to three (3) hours of PHR credit can be earned through Mountain Challenge. 

Nonprofit Leadership

The Program for Nonprofit Leadership affords opportunities for a variety of internships in nonprofit organizations such as YWCA and YMCA, Habitat for Humanity, the Urban League, organizations which focus on environmental interests and international non-governmental organizations. The Certificate in Nonprofit Management is awarded by Maryville College in partnership with Nonprofit Leadership Alliance to students who fulfill a prescribed set of competencies. The full program is described under the Nonprofit Leadership Certificate heading in this catalog.

Oak Ridge Associated Universities

Since 1990, students and faculty of Maryville College have benefited from its membership in Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). ORAU is a consortium of 109 colleges and universities and a contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) located at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. ORAU works with its member institutions to help their students and faculty gain access to federal research facilities throughout the country; to keep its members informed about opportunities for fellowship, scholarship and research appointments; and to organize research alliances among its members.

Through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), the DOE facility that ORAU operates, undergraduates, graduates, and postgraduates, as well as faculty enjoy access to a multitude of opportunities for study and research. Students can participate in programs covering a wide variety of disciplines including business, earth sciences, epidemiology, engineering, physics, geological sciences, pharmacology, ocean sciences, biomedical sciences, nuclear chemistry, and mathematics. Many of these programs are especially designed to increase the numbers of under-represented minority students pursuing degrees in the science- and engineering-related disciplines. A comprehensive listing of these programs and other opportunities, their disciplines, and details on locations and benefits can be found on the ORAU website. Further information is available in the Division of Natural Sciences.

Scots Science Scholars Program

The Scots Science Scholars (S3) program provides enrichment and support for select students who are interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) fields at MC. Get more information from the Scots Science Scholars pages →

Student Literacy Corps

Through the Maryville College Student Literacy Corps (MCSLC), students contribute to educational efforts in the greater community. The Literacy Corps combines traditional academic work and real-world experience to enhance student learning and enable students to make meaningful contributions to the community beyond the campus. In a campus-based component, students investigate and analyze the complex issues surrounding literacy education in the United States.

In a community-based component, students participate in tutor orientation and training sponsored by the Maryville College Student Literacy Corps and then work as tutors in community literacy education programs. Tutor site placements include the Adult Basic Education Center, the Tennessee Department of Education, and local foundations, agencies, and religious organizations. Arrangements for the granting of credit may be found under Academic Procedures and Regulations in the Catalog as well as from the Office of Academic Affairs.

Study Abroad

The Maryville College study abroad program gives students the opportunity to earn academic credit while participating in life-changing study abroad programs.  Our programs offer students the opportunity to live and learn alongside locals and build real connections, and gain a true understanding of what it is like to live in another culture. Students will be part of an international community of over 300 institutions that work together to provide students with study abroad experiences and have access to affordable, high quality programs.

Students can study abroad in on a travel study program with MC faculty and students, or can stay for a few weeks during the summer and take classes on a language or specific topic.  Students can even spend a semester or year taking classes one wouldn’t normally get a chance to take. Study abroad is an amazing opportunity to become intimately engaged in another culture by living it everyday, and to also reflect on one's own values and ideas.

Get more information from the Study Abroad pages →

Study Away – Domestic Travel Opportunities

May-term offers Maryville College students the opportunity take courses that travel to different parts of the United States. These are courses that students may use to fulfill major-related, core or elective requirements depending on the nature of the course.  Learn More »

Washington Experience

For the student who wishes to study or work in the nation’s capital, many options are available. Maryville College’s Career Center assists students in exploring a range of possibilities, including semester-long programs, summer internships, and work opportunities. Career Center staff are available and experienced in working with students to identify programs related to their interests, regardless of major.

Undergraduate Research

The Senior Study is a key element of the Maryville College experience. This Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression Program is a distinctive part of every student’s studies. Every degree candidate completes a Senior Study in the major field, under the personal guidance of a faculty mentor. The Senior Study facilitates the scholarship of discovery within the major field and integrates those methods with the educational goals fostered through the Maryville Curriculum.

Get more information from the Undergraduate Research pages →