In a Class By Itself: CI Learning Takes Students Out of the Classroom and Into the Real World

Much of the learning at CI takes place outside the confines of a classroom. Courses offer students opportunities to travel, help others, conduct and present research, create art and exhibits, perform and compete, impact the environment, preserve history, and make meaningful contributions not only to their own education and success but also to the world. From collecting oral histories of the Braceros to learning how to run a museum to restoring wetlands, CI students are active participants in their own education.

“At CI, I loved having a learning experience that wasn’t focused on sitting in a lecture hall and memorizing data,” said CI graduate Cristina Miranda. “It’s about actually applying what you learn in a real-world setting. You come to see your education as something of value.”

“All of our programs and courses exist to empower students and help them become contributors to our region and the world,” said Dr. Dawn Neuman, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Students and community volunteering on Entrance Road project

Building on that effort, CI is planning for a new bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and certificate programs in Entertainment Studies and Social Business this year. The new programs allow students to cultivate skills needed in today’s job market.

“Anthropology is a great addition to our majors,” Neuman said. “Ventura County has a rich anthropological history that will offer students chances to conduct research on Santa Rosa Island and study the Chumash. It’s a liberal art that leads to diverse career opportunities in environments from international corporations to museums.”

Professor Ching-Hua Wang and biotechnology students

The Entertainment Studies certificate will capitalize on CI’s proximity to the entertainment capital of the world. The Social Business certificate is offered in conjunction with CI’s California Institute for Social Business, which promotes the vision of business goals aligned with social responsibility.

Students in lab

All CI programs are designed in collaboration with the community, so students can have a bright job outlook and employers can find a talented workforce. The University offers 23 undergraduate degrees, six graduate degrees and 19 teaching credential programs. As state funding becomes available and enrollment grows, CI’s Academic Master plan calls for the addition in future years of bachelor’s degrees in such broad areas as Health Science and Global Studies, as well as graduate degrees in Public Administration, Nursing and Coastal Sustainability.

CI has recently launched innovative partnerships with Cottage Health System and Santa Barbara City College to expand educational opportunities in the Santa Barbara area. Students living in the Santa Barbara area can obtain a CI bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Early Childhood Studies, Business, and Nursing, as well as a fast-track B.S.-to-MBA or MBA, without the need to commute or relocate.

Graduate students 

All CI courses are built on the mission of a student-centered education emphasizing international and multicultural perspectives, with interdisciplinary and experiential/service-oriented learning. Courses are designed with a creative approach that combines disciplines like art with science, history with business, or literature with psychology.

Nursing student 

Students also have ample opportunities to step outside the classroom and experience subjects in a real-life context. For example, students in an Environmental Science & Resource Management course traveled to Louisiana to restore wetlands, monitor water quality, create community food gardens and experience local culture. Chicana/o Studies students interviewed, translated, preserved and exhibited the stories of Braceros, the largest guest worker program in U.S. history.

Students from UNIV 392: Science and Technology in Japan

Art students taught art to underprivileged children in a local public housing community. And students in the nationally recognized dual-degree M.S. Biotechnology/MBA program found a competitive edge by combining technical scientific knowledge with business expertise.

Performing Arts students

“We’ve got a strong and well-rounded curriculum to support the local economy and we’re teaching students in ways that support our 21st Century needs,” said Dr. Therese Eyermann, Chief of Staff to the President.

The CI undergraduate experience culminates in a capstone course, in which graduating seniors use the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired to execute and present a project with real-world value. Students have tackled problems ranging from solar power integration to homeless women in Ventura County to developing therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.

Professor Jack Reilly and Art students

About 50 percent of graduating seniors participate in some form of research or creative activity with CI faculty or with community partners ranging from Amgen to the Ventura County Crime Lab.

“It’s the involvement of our talented faculty and students that helps us be visionary,” Neuman said. “Channel Islands is flexible, creative, challenging, and innovative. We believe in and accomplish the impossible.”