Speaker helps student leaders get practical experience

Heather Bryant / Sun Star Reporter
April 12, 2011

Charles Allen speaks with Jack McKillip during the ice cream social that followed McKillip's presentation. Allen is a graduate student who works with the student investment fund and wants to see more opportunities for students to apply their classroom skills to the real-world. April 5, 2011. Heather Bryant/Sun Star

Approximately 60 students and teachers gathered in Schaible Auditorium on Tuesday, April 5 for speaker John “Jack” McKillip. McKillip is a retired professor of applied psychology. He ran a consulting firm within the department of psychology at Southern Illinois University. Applied Research Consulting (ARC) is a required practicum in which students transferred skills from classroom learning to real world applications. Clients of the firm included groups such as Microsoft, the U.S. Navy Medical Services Corp, and the Illinois Board of Education.

McKillip’s presentation explained the aspects of ARC and the benefits and responsibilities of the participating groups.

“The whole point is to learn what it is to apply their classroom experience,” McKillip said.

Graduate student Charles Allen attended the speech to learn about how the program works.

“My main draw tonight was that he was talking about experiential learning like the student investment fund we have here,” Allen said. “I would like to see more of that in the university.”

Students in the ARC program had to find and interact with clients. They researched what clients wanted, developed estimates, bid on the client’s project, and developed a contract. If they landed the job, they then had to do all the work, make a presentation and deliver a written product.

“In the schoolwork, they learned a lot of what you do once you have a problem and how you research that problem. But they didn’t have a lot of experience interacting with people that weren’t in school,” McKillip said.

An important part of the learning experience was turning the research into something easily understood by the client. “You can understand it as a researcher,” McKillip said. “But then you have to explain it to whomever you’re working for.”

Professor Nicole Cundiff, director of the Northern Leadership School, was one of McKillip’s students.

“Jack is one of the most influential people in my career,” Cundiff said. She participated in the ARC program for three years while obtaining her doctorate.

Cundiff credits a group of students for getting McKillip to come to Alaska.

“It was a group of students that had come and talked to me several times about their interest in developing some type of program where they would be able to use what they are learning about in the classroom in applied settings,” Cundiff said. “ They wanted to be able to use what they are learning in accounting, human resource classes and other classes like that to help the community.”

Student Paul Miranda, a senior, attended the speech after learning about it in Cundiff’s leadership class. An emergency management major, Miranda liked that the program offered the chance to apply classroom skills.

“I thought it was interesting how he talked about the advantages to the students, like the skill development and the interaction between academics and real-world experience,” Miranda said.

Following the presentation, attendees gathered in the lobby for Hot Licks ice cream. Allen took the opportunity to speak with McKillip.

“I wanted his input as to how we could actually make this happen for the university, so the different departments are talking to one another and utilizing the resources that students can provide,” Allen said.

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