Experience is a Catalyst for Growth


Davidson College has a long history of providing students with immersive experiential learning opportunities. Since our founding in 1837, students have been empowered to engage in service, cultural exploration, research in the sciences, social sciences and humanities, and professional development. This requires intellectual curiosity, a willingness to work outside one’s comfort zone with respect for all worldviews, and the desire to have a positive impact on the world — all facets of our Presbyterian heritage.

In the 21st century, these qualities are more imperative than ever and highly sought after by graduate and professional schools, employers, global organizations and community leaders. In a world that increasingly requires global knowledge, technical expertise, and mindfulness for community, “high impact” experiential learning has become a cornerstone of the Davidson experience. Such experiences supplement the importance of the liberal arts curriculum with exposure to professional work environments, different cultures, and the practical skill-sets needed to change the world. What sets Davidson apart is not that our students can engage in one of these experiences, but that they can engage in all of these experiences. We are focused on giving all students access to these life-changing adventures.

Catalyst is a collaborative initiative that centralizes resources for “high impact” experiential learning, including undergraduate research, internships, education away, and community-based learning. Students can utilize a centralized webpage – www.davidson.edu/catalyst – to learn application information and deadlines, as well as explore potential funding opportunities. Both internal and external opportunities are highlighted throughout the year. The site also points students to the appropriate on-campus offices, such as Civic Engagement, Career Development, Education Abroad, The Jay Hurt Hub@Davidson, the Center for Teaching and Learning and more, that can advise students on how to best take advantage of these critical opportunities.

Freedom School

Families can support their students by viewing the Catalyst website themselves. Get to know more about these experiences and encourage your students to do the same. Exploring these opportunities as early as possible allows students plenty of time to work with pre-major and academic advisers to create the best plan. Families can also be involved in the initiative by providing experiences for students. From hosting an internship to sponsoring a community-based project with a nonprofit organization to mentoring a student during the summer job shadowing program, the Davidson network opens up the doors to “high impact” experiences for many of our students.

David Pottenger ’79, is the proud father of two Davidson graduates (Tatum ’14 and Megan ’19). Since 2015, Dave has hosted nine students for one-day job shadowing experiences at his Durham, NC Morgan Stanley financial advising firm. In the summer of 2019, Dave wrote about his experience: “Extraordinary experience this time. Kaye was a delight and I look forward to remaining connected in some way as she continues her journey.”


About Author

Jamie Stamey is the executive director of the Center for Career Development and serves on the Task Force for Experiential Learning. Stamey joined Davidson in 2014 as the Career Center’s assistant director for internships, soon helping secure new foundation support and an increase in internship placement. She moved up to the position of associate director for employer relations three years later and now serves as executive director.

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