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Jump into experiential learning as a freshman

January 24, 2017

One of the advantages of a small university is that you don’t have to wait until you’re an upperclassman to get access to the unique opportunities your school has to offer. At NNU, freshmen can jump into hands-on learning experiences across the curriculum. Check out some of the ways you can start pursuing your passions from your first year on:

1. Hone your musical talent.

"Freshmen in my circles can manage a musical tour (kinda cool) for an ensemble, perform in a traveling jazz combo, and produce music in a recording studio,” says music professor Dr. Casey Christopher.

NNU offers many ways for musicians to get experience both on and off campus. Freshmen can jump right into groups based on their talent level and can even be playing paid gigs as new college students.

2. Compete with a research team.

As an engineering student, you can join a research project like the VEX Robotics team. Although many of the research groups in the department are senior capstone projects, others are open to underclassmen. With VEX, you can take robotics experience you may have had in high school—through organizations like FIRST Robotics—to the next level. Work with a team of students to build and compete with your original designs.

“I chose to be a part of the VEX Robotics team so that I could get hands-on experience with some of the basic engineering concepts and apply some of those things that I have been learning through my studies here at NNU,” says Cole Logemann, now a senior, who has been involved with VEX for several years.

3. Help make a film.

The Film School at NNU gives students in its department significant hands-on training with all aspects of making movies. Freshmen begin working on Hollywood-style film crews their very first semester and continue all four years. Freshmen also help build huge movie sets like submarines and subway stations, and often work with professionals from current TV shows and movies.

Film School alumnus Austin Thomas says, “This year the department film is directed by a local professional. Freshmen (and all students) get to practice working on a set, working with a large crew, learning various crew positions and being part of a real movie crew. The crew this year also included a Hollywood makeup artist, Director of Photography, gaffer, and First A.C. to help train students.”

4. Get out in the classroom.

NNU education majors have the unique chance to see what it is like in a real classroom as early as their freshman year through a field experience in Intro to Teaching. Getting placed with a teacher in a local classroom your freshman year is not logistically reasonable at many large schools, so having that extra experience early on can give you a professional edge.

“I helped in a sixth grade classroom for 30 hours of field experience during my Intro to Teaching class. Working with the students, interacting with the teachers, and applying strategies from my NNU classes helped me to shift my perspective from that of a student to that of an educator. I didn’t have to wait until my senior year to affirm my choice of major and to discover the challenges and rewards of this profession,” says education alumna Anna Lee.

5. Show off your work.

“The Juried Student Show (Night of the Arts) is a great example of ways NNU freshmen can get involved in the art department right away,” says graphic design professor Mike Bartlett. You can submit your art work and earn a place in a show in NNU’s beautiful Friesen Galleries alongside the work of upperclassmen.

If you are writer, regardless of your major, you can enter your work into the Bertha Dooley Writing Contest sponsored by the Department of Literature, Language, and Culture. Get feedback from faculty, earn some bragging rights and opportunity for prizes and publishing.


Challenge yourself to take your learning beyond the classroom as soon as you start at NNU. In addition to academic opportunities, freshmen can get involved in student government, ministry clubs and social activity planning. At NNU, you can begin making the most of all aspects of your education from the moment you step on campus.

Learn more about the unique opportunities available at NNU→


Photo courtesy of NNU alum Vladimir Imakaev.

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