Experiential Learning

When a student learns through their involvements outside of the classroom, they receive a different and very valuable learning experience.

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Horizons - Fall 2017

September 21, 2017

The next several pages spotlight a handful of current Graceland students who have seized opportunities available to them through experiential learning. Graceland recognizes these experiences as an important piece of students’ liberal arts education. Faculty, staff, alumni and friends all play an integral part in opening doors for experiential learning. Classes abroad, internships, job shadowing and mentoring are all learning components that make significant contributions to student success.





Bardha Maloku

Bardha Maloku ’18 is a senior in Khiyah House, majoring in computer science and technology with minors in business administration and mathematics. She is a smart, determined woman who wants to help other women reach their goals — to slap the stereotypes that keep them out of the computer science field and claim the success that comes from the world of technology. 

Bardha knows the benefits from experiential learning and has four internships racked up already. Her freshman year, she interned with McClain Enterprises, working with their businesses on the Independence Square. “It helped me so very much — opened my eyes to the business field. The second year I interned with Smith and Associates in Houston in computer science, programming for seven weeks, and then I worked again for the McClains. It made the summer go so fast!”

Twice for the McClain Enterprise business internship in Independence and twice with Smith and Associates computer science internship in Houston, Bardha said every experience was different. She worked on different projects with different people, and each internship had its own challenges. “They welcomed us, offered housing, paid us well and taught us so much. The connections we made are really wonderful. I was awarded the Ackerley Scholarship as well, and I am so grateful.”

An ambitious advocate for women, Bardha is determined and making the best of her time on campus. There are not as many women in the computer science field, and she is set on helping other women claim their talents and recognize that computer science and math are where more women should focus their attentions. She has reinvigorated the ACMW (Association of Computing Machinery for Women). The club used to exist but died out due to a lack of membership, and Bardha has reorganized it on the Lamoni campus.

“The club is very welcoming for women who are majoring in computer science, or minoring, or just want to be friends and want to know more about the field. We now have 10 women in the club. It is a hard field that has been dominated by males, so the pressure as a female can be difficult.”

The club meets every week. They support each other and have fun too. “As a senior, I know how hard it is — I’ve been in those classes, and I want them to know that I’m there for them and will encourage and help them.”

Club members will attend a conference in Kansas City this fall called MINK WIC (Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas Women in Computing.) The faculty advisor, Kevin Brunner, has coordinated the registration and lodging, and they are sponsored by the Ackerley Foundation with all expenses covered. Bardha and the Graceland ACMW will network with successful computer science women from all over the Midwest. “It is such a great opportunity for us!”

Bardha shared that the best thing about Graceland is the people — the community. “Since I am an international student, I don’t have anyone here except my little brother  — the youngest of the Malokus. Graceland has become our new home, and we have so many host families who have opened their homes. Faculty too – they are there for us. We get to talk with them, and they really care about us; they want us to succeed in life.”

“Bardha is a quiet and reserved young lady. But don’t let that fool you, because she has a deep desire to succeed and do her best. She took the initiative to apply for a Grace Hopper conference scholarship. She won the scholarship and attended an inspiring event. She leads with a quiet strength.”

– Kevin Brunner, PhD
Professor of Information Technology

Zacary Stetzel | Kinzey Nicklaus

Zacary Stetzel ’18 from Panora, Iowa, came to Graceland for a college visit during 

Jerry Hampton ‘52 found out Zac was interested in criminal justice, so he introduced Zac to Kansas City Police Department Deputy Chief Bob Kuehl who was attending homecoming with his wife, Bobbie Hampton ’78 Kuehl. Kuehl offered to introduce Zac to the KCPD, and he was able to do a few “ride alongs,” where he really got the feel of what a day in the life of a police officer is like. Those experiences shaped his decision to major in criminal justice and set him on course to be one of the two students chosen to participate in the new internship program.

“Dr. Bradley Brewster, Assistant Professor of Sociology, told me about the internship, and I did the background check and paperwork for it. It was two weeks jam-packed full, and I learned a lot. It was a blast. Because of the previous ride alongs, I knew the basic rules, so the police officers were able to share with me their feelings and hopes of things they’d like to change. I actually stayed at Deputy Chief Kuehl’s house, so it never shut off. I saw what affects it has on the family environment.”

The internship gave Zac opportunity to see the wide array of specialty areas within the KCPD and the criminal justice system. “The sociology part of it really came into context — like the culture there and the demographics of people, and how that affects community policing,” explained Zac. “There’s a lot of things I hadn’t thought about, even during the ride alongs, like the politics behind policing and the bureaucracy and things like that. It made me aware of other positions; not just being a patrol cop or a detective — they have SWAT, K-9, helicopter, bomb and arson … We got to see a lot of different places there, and we got to talk to them about their jobs.”

“I’ve always wanted to help people, whether it was a firefighter or police officer, or counselor or whatever, and when I came here and learned about the criminal justice program, I jumped on it. I’m glad I’m getting minors in psychology and sociology — that will round out my education for any other related careers.”

Zac is an executive board member of Graceland’s Student Athletic Advisory Committee. He is on a subcommittee focused on connecting Graceland athletes with Lamoni schools. One of their new initiatives is the School Bus Walk program. It is a mentoring and safety program where student-athletes meet with elementary students two days a week and walk with them to school.

With a major in criminal justice and minors in psychology and sociology, Zac plans to graduate in just three years with a solid base. His internship experience moved him forward, exposed him to new experiences and helped him understand the field of criminal justice in a way the classroom alone could never do.

Kinzey Nicklaus ’19 from Griswold, Iowa, is good friends with Camryn Kuehl ’19, and Cameron told Kinzey about the KCPD internship possibility.

Kinzey contacted Dr. Brewster for more information and began the application process. The internship was during May, was for two semester credits and gave her two weeks of intensive exposure to the KCPD and its possibilities for her career.

“I loved the internship! We were the pilot program, and I would say that two weeks wasn’t long enough. It was so concentrated — all summer would have been better!” said Kinzey. “We did something different every single day. The schedule was packed — one night we were supposed to be done at 5, but we didn’t get done until around 11. I really liked learning about the many different departments and units. I learned a lot in those two weeks.”

Kinzey is on track to graduate with a double major in criminal justice and human services. She got a head start and came to Graceland with 15 college credits she earned while in high school.

Police work as an option for a caring career was an idea instilled in Kinzey when she was young. “I wanted to be a cop when I was little. When I was about six years old, my dad knew an Iowa State Patrolman, and he gave me a ride around the block in his police car. I got a T-shirt and was obsessed with being a cop,” explained Kinzey.

“As I got into high school I wanted to be a counselor, but I wanted to still be in the criminal justice area. I volunteered with the Salvation Army and worked with an after-school program in a rough neighborhood in Waterloo that provided food from the food pantry. All these underprivileged kids were able to go to fun places and get food, and it was well organized.” These experiences have instilled a purpose for Kinzey and have directed her decisions for higher education.

“I want to be in a juvenile setting, where I can really make a difference in their lives. I want to be that person who helps them turn their life around. I know I can’t affect all of them, but even if I can help one or two get on a better path … I hope to one day become a juvenile probation officer.”

Graceland’s Division of Social Sciences redesigned the criminal justice program and added a concentration in criminology to the sociology major.

To help support this, Graceland hired Assistant Professor of Sociology Jessica Ziegler. Her areas of concentration include violent victimization, neighborhoods and crime, corrections, substance use, families and crime, mental health, and quantitative methods and statistics.

In addition, a pilot internship program was initiated in May. Kansas City Police Department Deputy Chief Bob Kuehl has been a Graceland supporter for years and knew an internship with the KCPD would be a valuable experience for students. Kuehl and Bradley Brewster, PhD, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Graceland’s Lamoni campus, collaborated to design the internship, and two students were selected to pilot the program, providing experiential learning.

“The internship pilot was really successful. Zac and Kinzey were excellent students to begin the valuable opportunity for Graceland students to experience careers that can help them make a difference in the world.”


– Bob Kuehl
Deputy Chief, KCPD

“I was very impressed with the journals that Kinzey and Zac kept as part of the program. They really were able to transfer knowledge that they learned in the classroom and apply it to their internship experiences. We were fortunate to have outstanding students to put through the pilot program. I hope the internship program finds the support to ensure it persists well into the future.”

– Bradley Brewster, PhD
Assistant Professor of Sociology


Stephanie Herman

Stephanie Herman ’18 was part of the Graceland University group that traveled to Dunfield House in England for May Term 2017. Graceland has a tradition of providing life-changing opportunities to experience intercultural learning, one of the high impact practices the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) has determined to help bring about student success.

Traveling to another country in itself is a learning experience that broadens the perspective and contributes to a global outlook. Stephanie took Dr. Steve Glazer’s class on European history. It was the first time she had ever traveled outside the U.S.

“It was an amazing experience to see the differences in customs and dialects,” shared Stephanie. “Dr. Glazer’s class gave me the opportunity to see WWII in a different way; he presented viewpoints from the European lens. I’m passionate about social studies and excited about being able to provide my future students with a different perspective and outlook from another country. Traveling with the group also helped me branch out and make friends with people other than the volleyball team and my housemates. It was such a great opportunity.”

Stephanie will student teach in the spring in Mount Ayr, Iowa, adding another experiential learning opportunity to her skillset – one that is built into the education curriculum. “Practicum is a guided experience toward professional development, and I’ll be doing my student teaching at the same time. My classes were set up so that I could play volleyball and still fit everything in. I’ll have my coaching endorsement for volleyball as well.”

A senior from Las Vegas, Nevada, Stephanie is an elementary education major with a minor in communications. “I fell in love with the community and met a House president when I came to visit. She gave me the low-down on the House system and encouraged me to be involved as much as I could.” Stephanie took her advice and was on House Council, the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and is a captain of the volleyball team.

“The best part about Graceland for me is the education I’ve received. The professors have really shaped the person that I am today. They’ve challenged me academically, given me new perspectives and shown me who I am capable of becoming. They’ve invested so much time and energy in me. I had no idea that I would actually be a partner with all these professors who really care about my future, who do whatever is necessary for my development. I am so grateful to Graceland’s professors who have modeled what a great educator is like. As a future educator, they really encourage me and give me hope.”

Stephanie is in Honors classes in English, humanities and U.S. Government. Her junior Honors seminar was about how to enhance student learning with historical fiction.

With students like Stephanie in Graceland’s lineup, our future looks bright.

“Stephanie is an extraordinary student who, in everything she does, models professionalism, high achievement and poise. Her enthusiasm, creativity and diligent work set the standard for my class at Dunfield; although, in her modesty, she would probably insist it was a team effort. It has been a privilege to work with Stephanie, from her first semester at Graceland in my World Civ. class, to her senior year as she completes her Senior Honors seminar.”

– Steve Glazer, PhD
Professor of History

Omar Navarro

Business Administration and Agricultural Business major Omar Navarro `20 completed his first internship over the summer with Sierra Gold Nurseries in Yuba City, California, just 15 minutes from his home town of Nicolaus. The nursery has been providing top-quality fruit and nut trees to orchardists throughout the western United States since 1951.

Omar was able to secure the four-month-long internship through family friends, and he gained experience in both their agricultural and business/sales departments. In the nursery’s test plots, Omar completed field work by taking inventory. On the business side, he learned the importance of building client relationships by shadowing a sales person on visits to current customers. The internship made such an impact and helped Omar discover what he truly wants to do when he graduates.

Based on his hard work and success at Sierra Gold Nurseries, Omar was recommended to two other companies and has his business internship for next year secured with 115-year-old High Liner Foods based in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Omar admits it was a little tough at first finding a university that would accept his ACT scores. He had a rough start in high school, but with a state championship his senior year and the desire to continue playing football, Omar received several scholarship offers from recruiters in the Midwest. Discovering the high ratings of the C.H. Sandage School of Business and national qualification of the ENACTUS program, Omar and his family believed Graceland was a good fit.  Not only did Graceland offer better academic and football opportunities, the small community was also a plus. The transition was easy.

He credits being a member of the Yellowjacket football team with teaching him how to transition and adjust to competition throughout all aspects of his life. It has helped with prioritization. After a visit to a much larger university to see some of his friends, he discovered though they have very nice sports facilities, the class sizes and size of the campus made college life impersonal and distracting. Omar has an appreciation for Graceland’s small class sizes, incredibly helpful faculty, and friendly and personable student body as the best positive learning environment to keep him focused on his studies and achieving his goals.

Omar admits it he feels overloaded at times, but he gets through it. He has turned to Cathie Hosie and the TRIO Center for help and support on several occasions. He expresses, “Ms. Hosie and her team are wonderful, amazing. I honestly don’t know what I would do without their guidance. They have helped with finances, books, classes and personal stuff.”

When he graduates, Omar will be a first generation college graduate. “That’s very cool, and I feel very proud about that. When times get tough, I just remind myself of that, and it gets me through.”

Omar is a recipient of a Leadership Grant from the Bruch Family Scholarship Fund for Agricultural Business majors. Graceland is proud to shine the spotlight on Omar and his accomplishments.

“Omar Navarro is a leader and is becoming a global professional in agricultural business and business administration. Omar’s consistency in the classroom and in athletics has earned him the respect of his professors, his classmates, and his teammates. Most importantly, Omar is using Graceland’s Essential Education to build confidence in himself to be a global professional who makes the difference in our world one action at a time.”

– Max Pitt, MBA
Associate Professor of Business

Brandy Bachtel | Hannah Miller

Brandy Bachtel ’18 always knew she wanted to go into the health care field, but she didn’t know exactly where she wanted to focus. After high school, tragedy hit. She lost her dad and made the decision to spend a year with her mom, helping her through the transition.

Life continued, and she met her husband and had two beautiful children. “When I was pregnant with my daughter, the nurses were so helpful, and the care they gave me was inspiring,” shared Brandy. “I knew I wanted to go back to school and become a nurse. I realized how personable it is and how much you get to spend time with people. You get to care for the patient as a whole rather than just treat their medical diagnosis.”

When her daughter started kindergarten, Brandy took some prerequisite science courses from Truman State University. “When I started looking at nursing schools, my advisor at the community college told me about Graceland. I loved that it was an accelerated program at a faith-based school and not a huge campus. When I went to the interview, I knew I didn’t want to apply anywhere else.”

Brandy’s favorite class is pharmacology, and she really felt a connection with her professor, Sharon Little-Stoetzel. “I’ve always loved chemistry, and I thought I’d be a good pharmacist, but you don’t really get a whole lot of time with people, and I crave that,” explained Brandy. “Later, I would like to get my doctorate and become a nurse anesthetist.”

Talking with people, connecting on a therapeutic level is her forte. She just finished a four-week mental health clinical experience at Research Medical Center in Kansas City. “It was such an amazing experience. Not ever being in the health care field, starting off in psych was great because I got to figure out how to make that therapeutic communication with patients. It was once a week for 10 hours; we were in different parts of the hospital every week. I found my niche talking with people in those therapeutic conversations.”

Brandy plans to travel with the Graceland nursing group to Guatemala next summer, adding another experiential learning opportunity to her skillset. Professor Sharon Little-Stoezel has participated in the trips to Guatemala for several years, cementing the connections between Graceland and the people who live there. The experience has made a difference in the lives of Graceland nurses and hundreds of people in Guatemala and has become a valuable connection for Graceland’s nursing program.

While searching on the internet for nursing schools, Hannah Miller ’18 asked a friend about Graceland who said it was “a great program that was intense.” That sounded just right for Hannah, who shared that Graceland’s nursing school is perfect for people who are ready to focus. “There’s no time to be lazy or undecided; it is intense and fast paced.”

It’s great for people who want to graduate and be a nurse, which was appealing to Hannah. “I want to get right into the career.” Hannah’s original plan was to be a doctor, but she really wanted to have more time actually caring for patients. “I definitely knew I wanted to take care of people, so I went to UMKC for three years and took all my prerequisite classes. I was ready to get into something specific.”

I’m in a sorority at UMKC, and I’ve already recommended Graceland to the undergraduates, especially if they live in the KC area. Why would you go anywhere else? There’s so many great things about Graceland – the staff, the fact that the campus is small and it just feels like the whole place is ours. The staff is so focused on us, we feel pampered, and we have support in so many places. I can’t see myself being anywhere else, and I tell everyone that!

I’ve had a great experience in the nursing school so far. I’m so much more focused in the classes because they’re especially concentrated as opposed to the less specific prerequisite classes. Learning the skills, learning what to do and seeing how to be a nurse – I’m so excited to be in nursing school.

When asked about a favorite class, Hannah said she really likes her fundamentals class because “it is so hands on, and we are actually learning nursing skills as opposed to the theories and bookwork. Both are necessary, but I’m a hands-on learner.”

Favorite teacher? “They really are all great teachers,” she shared, but she listed her clinical instructor, Assistant Professor John Wood, as her current favorite. “We’ve been in the hospital clinicals together, and we’ve been able to sit and talk together about experiences that are real-life situations.”

Hannah shared that Clinical Fundamentals of Nursing teaches them how to put in catheters, how to give a shot and other needed nursing skills. A group of six nursing students go to CenterPoint Medical Center in Independence with Assistant Professor Wood once a week. “We are there for a 12-hour shift, just like the nurses working there. We get assigned a nurse and a patient for the day, we give them a head to toe assessment and then chart what we find. We create care plans for them, check diagnoses, learn their medications and why they’re taking them, and try to create nursing interventions to help them feel better while they are in the hospital,” explained Hannah.

Hannah hopes to work at a Kansas City area hospital for a while, then go back to school and become a nurse practitioner specializing in dermatology.

Graceland University’s nursing program has been providing the world with well-equipped nurses for generations.

Nursing is one of the Graceland majors that requires experiential learning; students are placed in hospitals to learn and experience the very jobs they’ll be doing after graduation.

Getting beyond the theory in classrooms and textbooks and into real-life situations provides students with critical thinking and psychomotor skills. Graceland graduates are highly regarded and sought by local health care facilities across the nation. There is an urgent need for nurses in our nation’s health care system, and that need continues to grow. Graceland University School of Nursing offers the highest quality nursing education to prepare students to meet new and exciting roles in the health care field through experiential learning and an amazing academic program.

“Brandy is a very serious student and is always engaged in class. I really appreciate her work ethic, and she is a pleasure to have as a student. She is motivated and will make an excellent, caring nurse – one Graceland will be proud to graduate.”

– Sharon Little-Stoetzel, PhD
Associate Dean, Professor of Nursing

“A dedicated student, Hannah Miller will be the type of nurse that Graceland can be proud of. She cares for people and is determined to do her best.”

– John Wood, MSN
Assistant Professor of Nursing

Joe Sprunger

By: Tabi Miller `17

Joe Sprunger ’18 is a publication, writing and design major. In anticipation of his senior year, Joe took advantage of the summer to combine two of his passions, photography and soccer.

Joe found an internship with a soccer team in Des Moines. While this internship was a lot of hard work, he also found it left him with many good memories.

Who was your internship with, and what was your title?

“Des Moines Menace, and I was a soccer operations intern.”

What were a few of your duties during the internship?

“One of the coolest things I had the opportunity to do was travel with the team. It wasn’t just a vacation though; I was the only front office staff on most of these trips. On the road, I had to plan all the meals, stops and hotel arrangements. If something went wrong I had to figure it out, and while this was all going on I’d be running the social media accounts. I also had a few game day roles to fulfill. First thing on my plate was making sure we had all of our equipment. Myself and one other person would then take care of the locker room set-up. As soon as all that was sorted I’d have to switch into game mode. While the game was going on, I was the Promotional lead as well as the photographer.”

How did you end up making the connections that led you to this internship?

“I think the biggest factor in me getting this internship was just being friendly. I was initially involved only to watch a few of my friends from GU play against them. After the game, I offered to help a guy carry some boxes to his car. I learned he worked for CISN, and after hearing that I liked to take photos, he invited me to take some at the next game. While shooting that game, I found myself behind the post in the right place to capture the game winning goal. The general manager of the team asked to see it, and he liked it so asked me to come back for the rest of the season to take photos. After that, it was staying in touch with the management and helping wherever I was needed.”

What are some of your favorite memories from this summer?

“Honestly, the entire summer was amazing. I made so many new friends and fun memories. One particular memory that sticks out was playing cards with the players in a laundromat in Winnipeg, Canada. There was this massive ordeal to convert all my American money to Canadian coins, run to the supermarket to buy detergent while the players were waiting with the laundry, then sit and wait for the laundry to finish. We sent out a message to the rest of the team in a group chat, and four more players showed up to play card. This memory sticks with me because of how quick the players were to lend a helping hand and just how normal it all seemed to be sitting there with the boys in a strange new town doing laundry.

I was also able to meet Ivan Rakitic. As a club, we were able to bring in the Barcelona player to help run a weekend camp. It was amazing to see him work with our youth program and cheer on our team during our game Saturday night.”

What did this internship teach you for the future?

“It taught me how important it is to be independent on the job. What’s in your job description isn’t necessarily what your job is. When you are working with a small staff, your job is whatever needs to be done. I found myself in a lot of high stress situations where I didn’t have time to ask questions. Even if I did, everyone else had their own job to do. I learned how important it is to manage your time. Everything is based off of your priorities; every day you need to go in and make list of what needs to get done. If you just focus on things as they come you are never going to make it.”

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