An interview with Dr. Dawn Henwood Nickerson, Mount Allison’s manager of experiential learning
1. This is a new position both for you and Mount Allison. How is it going so far?
It’s been great. I work as part of the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies out of the Avard-Dixon Building. It’s been both exciting and rewarding to take on the internship and mentorship programs that were started in the RJCBS and work to formalize and further develop them to meet the needs of our students.
Our main focus is on Commerce but many of the programs and opportunities are proving to be cross-disciplinary, particularly the mentorship program, which is exciting for the entire campus.
We’re also working to expand the ‘Made for Mount A’ internship program, which provides work-integration training for students, as well as specific criteria for employers to fulfill when they design positions. We hope to build on this model to create more internship opportunities both on and off campus, across disciplines.
2. What did you do before coming to Mount Allison?
I have a PhD in English Literature and started my career as an English professor. I eventually switched to teaching writing and communications and then started my own business focusing on writing training for adults. From there I continued in the private sector, designing writing programs and other kinds of training for a wide range of companies. These were both in-person and online training programs.
I find both these experiences, as a professor and working in a business environment, have been helpful in this position. I am familiar with the challenges students face at university but also recognize what businesses are looking for in their interns and new employees.
3. Why do you think experiential learning opportunities are so important for students?
Certain kinds of knowledge or skills can only be developed in context; you need to be immersed in the environment to grow skills such as writing, applied accounting work, and team building.
The nature of the workplace is changing, and one way to help better prepare students is to provide a variety of experiential learning opportunities. These opportunities, in partnership with or as part of, their classwork help students get a better sense of what’s required in the workplace.
4. How can students make the most of what Mount Allison has to offer in experiential learning?
Start looking early in your degree for courses founded on experiential learning principles. Also start thinking early on about what you might want to do as an internship or other experience. In addition to our existing opportunities, we’ve had some successful ‘create your own’ internship stories at Mount A.
Don’t be shy about asking your professors or me about alternative ways to include experiential learning in your degree. There are many ways to add to your education, whether through an internship, an alumni mentor, independent study, or additional special events like guest speakers and workshops, etc.
5. Can you share some upcoming programming/plans in your office for the school year?
We’ve got an exciting line-up, in particular relating to entrepreneurship, this coming year. Some dates to mark include the Business of the Arts Workshop taking place Sept. 28-Oct. 1, and in September guest speaker Rick Colbourne, a Mount Allison alumnus who is an expert in Indigenous entrepreneurship and has had a fascinating career journey, which has included time as a professional musician and as a software designer.
This summer our RJCBS intern Keifer Bell is working to develop a virtual entrepreneurship centre, which will mark all our entrepreneurship programming, and resources offered elsewhere, available in one place. Stay tuned for more on this.
Find out more about experiential learning at Mount Allison at:mta.ca/experiential/ as well as upcoming events and opportunities on the Ron Joyce Centre for Business Studies Facebook page: facebook.com/RonJoyceCentre