Feature Stories

Pivotal moments

Abhyjit Kheepal has big plans for his future. The University of Georgia sophomore has ambitions of working in a finance consulting firm, and thanks to a scholarship from the university's newly created Experiential Learning Endowment Fund, he will spend this summer putting his classroom knowledge to work in the financial capital of the United States.

The UGA Experiential Learning Endowment Fund was established in the 2016-2017 academic year. To date, 79 students in 36 majors have received scholarships that allow them to participate in internships around the globe, conduct research and engage in service-learning off campus, and study abroad.

"Through experiential learning, I will be able to know what it is like to be in a professional setting and get firsthand experience in one of my top career choices," Kheepal said of his plans to participate in an eight-week internship in New York City with Deloitte, one of the largest financial consulting firms in the world.

But the cost of living in New York City can make it difficult to gain such a valuable learning experience, said the finance major from Blairsville, pictured above.

"This scholarship makes it financially possible to explore this career opportunity in a booming financial center like New York," he said. "Experiential learning allows me to get a feel for what this career entails by placing me in the heart of the operations and giving me an outlet to communicate with current partners to gain a deeper understanding of the field."

Research has shown that experiences such as service-learning, internships, undergraduate research and study abroad enhance academic performance and better prepare students for employment or graduate and professional school. To ensure that all students benefit from experiences such as these, in 2016 the University of Georgia became the largest public university in America to require students to engage in hands-on learning prior to graduation.

Contributions to the Experiential Learning Endowment Fund are part of the Commit to Georgia Campaign, which strives to raise $1.2 billion by 2020. Gifts to this endowment fund will support two of the three campaign priorities — eliminating financial barriers for students by increasing need- and merit-based scholarship support, and enhancing the learning environment to develop experienced leaders who will tackle tomorrow's greatest challenges. Donors may contribute to the endowment fund online at give.uga.edu/commit and choosing "Causes" and then selecting "Experiential Learning."

"The generosity of our alumni and other donors is helping our students put their classroom knowledge into action," said Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Pamela Whitten. "Through experiential learning, students gain the kind of critical thinking skills that foster a lifetime of success. Whether they've completed an internship, engaged in service-learning, conducted research or studied abroad, our students consistently look back on their hands-on learning experience as a pivotal moment in their college careers."

Mariah Elliott, a second-year student majoring in international affairs, will be using her scholarship this summer to study in Marrakesh, Morocco.Mariah Elliott, a second-year student majoring in international affairs, will be using her scholarship this summer to study in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Student Mariah Elliott said she believes her upcoming summer in Marrakesh, Morocco will provide her with the skills and understanding she needs to reach her goal of working as a humanitarian or diplomat.

"By supporting my study abroad to Morocco, the EL scholarship has provided a vessel through which I can expand my knowledge," said Elliott, a second-year student from Buford, Ga. who is majoring in international affairs.

Elliott's summer study abroad includes religion and Arabic courses, cultural excursions and other experiences. "I will be able to broaden my personal and global reach," she said. "Without the experiential learning scholarship, I would not be able to have this kind of learning experience."

— Camie Williams, Office of the Provost

Published Sunday,