Journal on Empowering Teaching Excellence


High-impact educational practices (HIP) such as Common Intellectual Experiences (CIE) enhance student engagement and positively affect student learning. At Southern Utah University we created a new HIP-focused program to enrich our students and faculty: Semester in the Parks (SIP). Students lived outside of Bryce Canyon National Park in the gateway community of Bryce Canyon City while they worked for Ruby’s Inn Resort and learned about the national parks. Faculty commuted to this off campus venue and redesigned their courses to incorporate national parks thinking and experiential learning opportunities. The CIE of a national parks-focused semester enhanced student engagement and developed the pedagogical ability of faculty. Program assessment revealed positive gains in student and faculty self-report measures but also identified the need for other assessment tools and comparison groups. We conclude that CIE, even those set in nontraditional classroom locations, have great potential to enhance student growth and faculty professional development.