experiential learning - The University of Tulsa

experiential learning

Civil wars and enlightened eras: Role-playing through it all

Engaging students through role-play


A break from listening to a professor lecture, a fun incentive to participate and the ability to forge connections between a course’s subject matter and students’ real-life experience are only a few advantages of experiential learning. Having recently implemented role-playing into her lesson plans, Assistant Professor of History Nicole Bauer is a firm believer in the benefits of changing things up in the classroom: “When thoughtfully incorporated, role-playing can create a more relaxed environment where students are having so much fun they forget that they’re learning.”

Enlightened bounty hunters

Nicole Bauer
Nicole Bauer

One of the courses in which Bauer is deploying role-playing this semester is HIST 3343: The French Revolution. During one recent class, Bauer herself played the Star Wars character Boba Fett. Meanwhile, her students adopted the role of French Enlightenment writer Voltaire and answered Fett’s (Bauer’s) questions about philosophical and political concepts central to the era. This, in turn, allowed Bauer and her students to teach one another the key takeaways from the assigned readings that week. “Sometimes I even have students play different characters without revealing their identities,” Bauer noted. “Based on the way they answer questions, their classmates try to guess who they are.”

While Bauer often schedules role-playing into her course syllabi, sometimes opportunities for a bit of classroom theater emerge spontaneously: “It’s dependent on the mood of the students, but at times I might start an impromptu improv, so to speak.” In cases like these, Bauer and her students will play different characters from the day’s readings, the time period under scrutiny or even contemporary pop culture in order to better engage with the topics at hand.

Sometimes, Bauer remarked, the back-and-forth banter leads to entertaining conversations too enriching to cut short, so the exercises can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. “In moments like these, even making mistakes can prove to be a valuable lesson for everyone involved,” she said.

Creativity unbound

Carson Bowels is a freshman who, in addition to taking Bauer’s Honors Enlightenment course this spring, is also in her HIST-2403: Modern Europe course where students discuss events that shaped Western Europe. One activity that Bowels took part in recently was a discussion on the practice of torture. The class attempted to explain to Boba Fett why certain tactics worked more effectively than others in the context of the Spanish Civil War. “It made class special, and it made what I was learning come to life in my mind,” Bowels said; “I think the classes in which we engage in role-play learning are the best and most fun classes of the entire semester.”

While role-playing might seem a bit intimidating at first, Bauer reported that she and her students try not to take themselves too seriously. “We’re all there to learn, myself included,” she commented, “and I’ve noticed that many students perk up and become more engaged than during a traditional lecture or classroom discussion.”

Even more timid students eventually succumb to the enjoyment found in breaking away from routine. “The key is to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves and to include as many participants as possible,” said Bauer, “and to compel students to tap into their creative side.”

Interested in learning about history in fun and meaningful ways? Check out TU’s history program!

Chapman Professorships allow faculty to innovate for student engagement 

The University of Tulsa has announced recipients for its new Chapman Professorship award, established to promote student learning and faculty enrichment across campus.

A total of 38 full-time resident faculty members from all five of TU’s colleges received the $5,000 grants made possible by the Chapman Trust Funds. They will be recognized as Chapman Professors for the 2019-20 academic year and have the potential to renew their awards for up to three years.

The initiatives, activities and programs proposed by this inaugural group of applicants reflect faculty who are eager to provide students with creative avenues of instruction and research. Most universities, especially larger state schools, lack the financial means to support faculty on such a personal level. At TU, administrators and the Board of Trustees agreed professors deserve additional resources to further enhance the college experience. The $5,000 awards encourage professors to think outside the box and engage with students in ways that inspire academic ambition.

“These grants represent the university’s commitment to funding novel ideas that promote learning and research,” said President Gerard P. Clancy. “Providing resources to professors who are seeking to further empower their students inside and outside the classroom is money well spent. I’m thrilled we could offer an award to every eligible applicant, and I look forward to seeing their projects develop throughout the academic year.”

Studio visits in the art industry

Teresa Valero, director of the TU School of Art, Design and Art History, plans to use her Chapman Professorship Award to expand curriculum content and help students embrace emerging practices they will encounter in the design industry. Specifically, the funds will support travel to the Dallas Society of Visual Communications conference in April 2020 where students can compete in graphic design events, participate in portfolio reviews, represent TU in an exhibition and network with industry professionals. While in Dallas, students also can visit a design studio and marketing firm to experience the day-to-day operations of agency life.

“These visits give them a sense of where they’d like to go, it gives them a goal,” Valero explained. “They can imagine themselves beyond TU and say, ‘I know what I want to do, and this is how I’m going to get there.’”

Chemical engineering in the kitchen

Tyler Johannes, Wellspring associate professor of chemical engineering, intends to use his award to pique the interest of current and prospective students in science and engineering and incorporate hands-on demonstrations that involve modern cuisine techniques into the curriculum. The funds will help develop cuisine modules for TU’s ChE 1011 course and teach students about the field in a fun and interactive way while increasing enrollment and improving retention in his department.

“The complex field of chemical engineering is often difficult to explain to high school and first-year students,” Johannes said. “Food production processes are a safe and easy way to introduce them to chemical engineering. Demonstrations will focus on films, foams, coffee and spheres to help students understand the concepts of material balances, dehydration, fluid flow and reaction kinetics.”

Expanding Project Commutation

Law Professor Stephen Galoob is a founder of the Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform’s Project Commutation, which helps lessen the sentences of prisoners whose crimes were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors by Oklahoma State Question 780 in 2016. He helped supervise 30 TU Law student interns who have staffed Project Commutation since it launched in 2018. These students have benefited greatly from participation in Project Commutation, refining their skills in legal analysis and advocacy while developing new tools critical for criminal law practice. Galoob’s Chapman Professorship award will fund a formalization of this experiential learning opportunity that ultimately convinced Gov. Kevin Stitt to overhaul the Pardon and Parole Board in support of the TU students’ work.

“Some of the funds will be used to compensate a student who is working on a project to secure the commutation of sentences for approximately 65 people who are serving 10 years or more for low-level property crimes, many of which are no longer even felonies under Oklahoma law,” Galoob said. “Other portions of the funds will be used to reimburse our students as they travel across the state to meet with applicants in nearly every correctional institution in Oklahoma.”

Data mining in health care

Chapman funding will also prove useful for faculty in the Collins College of Business such as  Kazim Topuz, assistant professor of operations management and business analytics. His vision for the grant is to partner with a group of students to develop an online course, analytics programming, that will connect students to the R and Python data analytics community. Topuz plans to invite those same students to work on a couple of his health analytics projects, one of which includes predicting graft survival after liver transplantation.

“In existing organ transportation literature, only a handful of studies utilized data mining approaches in predicting graft survival,” he said. “The overall goal of this study is to contribute to the advance of matching algorithms for liver transplantation. Students will have hands-on experience in data science and will have published conference proceedings and recognition very early in their careers.”

A campaign for student health

chapman professorshipsProposals from the Oxley College of Health Sciences include a plan from Eric Wickel, associate professor and chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitative Sciences, to develop a university leadership team to implement Exercise is Medicine® On Campus (EIM-OC). “Despite reported benefits of physical activity on chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease, about half (54%) of college students do not meet current physical activity guidelines,” he said.

The EIM-OC campaign will promote physical activity as a vital sign of health and conduct surveillance studies among students to assess daily physical activity and unique sedentary behavior. “Implementing EIM-OC through TU’s Department of Kinesiology and Rehabilitative Sciences will facilitate student engagement projects across campus, such as 5K runs and daily health and fitness tips, to promote health and wellness and provide valuable mentorship opportunities,” Wickel said.

The university congratulates all of the 2019-20 Chapman Professorship award recipients:

Kendall College of Arts and Sciences 
Miriam Belmaker – Anthropology
Mark Brewin – Media Studies
Emily Contois – Media Studies
M. Teresa Valero – Art, Design & Art History

Collins College of Business 
Meagan Baskin and Timothy Hart (joint) – Management & Marketing
Meagan McCollum – Finance, Operations Management & International Business
Rob Moore – Energy Economics, Policy & Commerce
Eric Olson – Finance, Operations Management & International Business
Kazim Topuz – Finance, Operations Management & International Business

College of Engineering and Natural Sciences 
Kimberly Adams and Amy Schachle (joint) – Mathematics
Mark Alan Buchheim – Biological Science
Dustin Donnell – Mechanical Engineering
Laura Ford – Chemical Engineering
Tyler Johannes – Chemical Engineering
Gabriel LeBlanc – Chemistry & Biochemistry
Peter LoPresti – Electrical & Computer Engineering
Tom Rendon – Mechanical Engineering
Dale Schoenfeld – Computer Science
Robert Sheaff – Chemistry & Biochemistry
Akram Taghavi-Burris – Computer Science

Oxley College of Health Sciences 
Samantha Beams – Kinesiology & Rehabilitative Sciences
Tedi Courtney – Nursing
Lori Davis – Communication Sciences & Disorders
Cassy Abbott Eng – Nursing
Greg Gardner – Kinesiology & Rehabilitative Sciences
Rachel Hildebrand – Kinesiology & Rehabilitative Sciences
Brandon King – Nursing
Angela Martindale – Nursing
Sheryl Stansifer – Nursing
Suzanne Stanton – Communication Sciences & Disorders
Eric Wickel – Kinesiology & Rehabilitative Sciences
Nicole Wilkins – Kinesiology & Rehabilitative Sciences
Laura Wilson – Communication Sciences & Disorders

College of Law 
Chuck Adams
Stephen Galoob
Gina Nerger

Lone Star externs: TU Law grads reflect on their final semester in Austin, TX

On Friday, May 3, University of Tulsa College of Law students Demi Allen and Mitchell Lovett took part in the college’s hooding ceremony, thereby officially transforming into TU Law alumni. During the final semester before they wrapped up law school and embarked on their careers, TU Law’s externship program enabled them to live and work in Texas’s vibrant capital, Austin.

Here, in Allen and Mitchell’s own words, are first-hand accounts of their experiences. They also generously shared with us two short videos they shot down south on the banks of the Colorado River.

Demi Allen — “never a dull moment”

“During my last semester at TU Law, I externed in Austin at the private family law firm Kirker | Davis, LLP. I have always wanted to pursue a career as a family law attorney, and I could not have found a better fit for myself. Within my first month, I was drafting settlement agreements and final decrees, helping to prepare attorneys for court hearings and sitting in on client meetings. There was never a dull moment while at Kirker | Davis, LLP.

“Over the course of my time with the firm, I formed friendships with my fellow colleagues and learned more than I could have ever hoped. Each partner, attorney, paralegal and operations team member jumped right in to help make me feel welcome and never shied away from my many, many questions. The more I learned about family law, specifically the divorce process, the more diverse my tasks became. During the close of my time as an extern, I was drafting everything from the welcome email sent to a client to the conclusion of representation letter and everything in between. I assisted with depositions, mediations and court appearances. No task was ‘too important’ or ‘too big’ for me to at least take an initial stab at, and the experiences taught me a lot.”

Demi Allen (JD '19): Family Law


“The partners at Kirker | Davis, LLP, truly wanted me to learn how to become the best family law attorney I could, and their doors were always open. I cannot recommend them enough to anyone who is interested in family law. The firm is fast paced and full of brilliant attorneys who provide a welcoming and fun environment for attorneys and law students alike. I was given the freedom to work on any case I was interested in and pick up any task I wanted to learn more about.

“I absolutely loved my time in class at TU, but I never could have imagined the opportunities the externship program provided. I start full time as an associate attorney, pending licensure, with Kirker | Davis, LLP, this October and cannot wait to see what my future with the firm holds!”

Mitchell Lovett — “no better way to complete a legal education”

“Over the course of my last semester at TU Law, I opted to extern at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in Austin. My externship exceeded my learning expectations and helped me wrap up my legal education in a practical and worthwhile experience. I easily recommend the EDF to other students looking to work in environmental law.

“The work I did at the EDF was varied. I completed multiple long-form research projects that required drafting, cross-disciplinary teamwork, intense research and legal analysis. These projects revolved around how a toxic byproduct is affected by the constraints of water law, federal land management, endangered species and the oil and gas industry’s federal and state requirements. My larger projects taught me the importance of pace and taking one’s time when working on seemingly insurmountable tasks. After all, ‘Rome was not built in a day.'”

Mitchell Lovett (JD '19): Environmental Policy and Law


“Thankfully, I did much more than two projects. My supervisor allowed me the opportunity to entangle myself into any area that sparked my interest. I accompanied senior personnel to legislative meetings at the Texas capital, reviewed upcoming bills and I was lucky enough to attend a Groundwater Protection Council conference in Fort Worth.

“I also dove into administrative law and participated in administrative filings for multiple state agencies, which was an incredible experience. I learned how to pull the legally important language out of technical regulations and integrate technicalities into prose in order to persuade. Separately, I helped deconstruct technical regulations to develop base standards for future action, and that project is the bedrock for a regulatory framework. The EDF invested in me and at each step of the way. I felt included, which is worth more to a young professional than most realize. Ultimately, there is no better way to complete a legal education.”


Mitchell Lovett (JD '19) and Demi Allen (JD '19) in the TU Law library
Mitchell Lovett (JD ’19) and Demi Allen (JD ’19) in the TU College of Law’s Mabee Legal Information Center