Experiential Learning Center for Entrepreneurship & Civic Engagement

Experiential Learning Center for Entrepreneurship & Civic Engagement

OUR GOAL: To enable students to emerge as civically engaged, skilled and adaptable leaders, ready to take on real-world challenges. More.

the Akron City "Hack N Akron" Civic Hackathon

Learn more and sign up

Beacon Journal article: "Hack N Akron isn’t your father’s civic volunteerism; it aims to change the city"


UNCLASSES: Experiential learning classes with community-engagement themes

"Consequences of Caring"

This course invites students from all disciplines to join in a study of the impact of UA students’ care-giving responsibilities on their attendance, resources, and ability to succeed at in college. This course will involve designing and conducting research, analyzing data and sharing findings.

Course number: 7400:485-004 or 7400:4850-004

Faculty of record: Pamela Schulze, Family and Consumer Sciences

"Reinventing Place: Place-making and the University-City Interface"

W 2-5:00  168 Bierce for first meeting

This course invites students from all disciplines to join in an exploration of the boundaries between UA and the city of Akron in an effort to identify and understand sources of separation/isolation and opportunities for greater integration/synergy. Students will work with community partners as a part of this class.

Course numbers: 3100:495-003/3100:695-003 or 7100:489-003/589-003

Faculty of record: Peter Niewiarowski, Biology and Matthew Kolodziej, Art

"Skills for Community Engagement"

Our class meets T and Th from 10:45am to noon with location TBD.

People often feel they have to “go it alone.” This class focuses on skills to empower individuals to act productively within their communities by becoming more centered and self-aware through mindfulness, better at connecting with others through active listening skills, and more adept at advocating for change. Students will engage with community partners to explore the application of these skills.

Course numbers: 3850:365-001 or 3750:480

Faculty of record: Jodi Henderson-Ross, Sociology and Charlie Waehler, Psychology

How to sign up

You can sign up for one of these classes either under the ST (Special Topics) numbers, you may need to contact the professor for permission.  You can also take the class by signing up for an independent study (IS) in your own or another department (see specific department for IS guidelines), or for Honor Project credit (with the approval from your Honors advisor).

Contact Carolyn Behrman at the EXL Center (behrman@uakron.edu) or the faculty members above to learn more, or for assistance in getting involved.

Overview of EX[L] activity

Experiential Learning

Through Faculty-Driven Initiatives, a dozen faculty from as many disciplines delivering innovative experiential learning opportunities in five classes this Fall. These initiatives are the foundation for multiple grant proposals (NSF, Clark Morgan Foundation, GAR Foundation, and Knight Foundation) and serve as launch opportunities for future student research. See EXL activity related to Experiential Learning since our Launch in March 2016.


Letter from Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan

Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan supports the EX[L] Center.

  • Faculty-Driven Initiatives (3 interdisciplinary initiatives involving 12 faculty, 6 courses)
    • Experiential learning for UA students on the Pine Ridge Reservation with Lakota teenagers (15-20 undergraduates and 3 graduate students)
    • Experiential learning for UA students in cross-disciplinary classes with community partners (3 classes of undergraduates and 2 graduate students)
    • Experiential learning in the context of an ongoing research project for 2 classes and 6-8 graduate students)
  • EXL Summer Scholars - 9 transcripted community-based internships
  • The Currency of Compassion academic conference and product development
  • Monthly Faculty Advisory Council, Community Advisory Council and Student Advisory Council  (20-30 members per council)
  • Faculty Fellows Program (6)
  • The creation of our Resilient Communities Working Group with students and faculty from UA and Kent in engineering and the social sciences

Civic Engagement

Faculty, students and staff from UA intensified and expanded our capacity to support productive problem solving conversations in NE Ohio, including intensive outreach and recruitment efforts touching hundreds of the best High School students in the region and beyond.

  • What’s Your Problem? Immersion Week (5 Public/Private High Schools Participate), co-sponsored by the Maynard Family Foundation & Roger and Judith Read
  • FAIL SAFE 24-hour Hackathon, co-sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (grant support through Spring 2017)
  • EXL leadership and students partnering with BRAIN Program in Akron Public Schools
  • Summit County Executive Russ Pry, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan & Akron City Council President Marilyn Keith speak at New Leadership and Vision in a 21stCentury Akron
  • EXL leadership and 4 Summer Scholars partnering with community organization for the Middlebury Better Block
  • Ongoing collaboration with the Akron Public Schools (APS/IIA Middle School Summer Debate Camp; White House initiative (see Entrepreneurship))


Building on existing, expanding, and deepening UA partnerships with industry and social entrepreneurs through Hack-A-Thons, White House and UN recognition, and trainings like the Entrepreneurship Learning Initiative that involved twenty faculty and staff, because EX[L] leadership chose to create the center in an entrepreneurial way—focusing on collaborative problem solving.

  • Spring Training (25 Faculty from 6 different UA academic colleges participate over three full days with the Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative
  • Presidential Proclamation at the White House National Week of Making recognizing EX[L] (1 of 50 programs recognized nationwide)
  • United Nations Global Entrepreneurship Program Director Jeff Hoffman introduces EX[L] to140 Nations at International Forum
  • EXL Leadership presentations and subsequent partnership with Akron Council of Engineering and Scientific Societies
  • EXL partnership with city and county in TechHire grant proposal development
  • BLUprints to EX[L] monthly community leadership gatherings

Highlights from our Innovation Awards ceremony in July

Story: Former Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic helps University of Akron’s new EXL Center kick off Innovation Awards

FAIL SAFE 24-hour Hackathon

A Problem-Solving Revolution Led by Akron’s HIPSTERS, HUSTLERS, HACKERS & WILD CARDS

On Friday, April 15, we invited Akron’s hipsters, hustlers, hackers and wild cards to come together for 24 hours, to crack away at the best ideas brought to the table and to compete for $3,000 cash, prizes, office space, professional development and mentoring from some of Northeast Ohio’s most respected business minds. 

The FAIL SAFE 24-hour Hackathon was co-sponsored by the Burton D. Morgan Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and hosted by EXL Founding Director Jeff Hoffman.

Recap of EXL's 24-hour Hackathon

Ohio.com: "Akron’s young entrepreneurs fly safe with a net: 24-hour hackathon aims to spur innovation"



WE ASKED YOU to come up with ideas to help address the challenges and opportunities of our times.

We received many great ideas, and now faculty members are working with department chairs to convert some of them into “Unclasses”—experiential learning opportunities focused on finding local solutions to globally relevant problems.


Akron Beacon Journal: Former Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic helps University of Akron’s new EXL Center kick off Innovation Awards

Akron Beacon Journal: UA’s EXL program gets kudos from President Obama

Akron Beacon Journal:High school students tackle community problems at EXL Center at University of Akron

Akron Beacon Journal: University of Akron launches Experiential Learning Center

WKSU-FM (NPR): University of Akron launches new Experiential Learning Center

Crain's Cleveland Business (subscription): University of Akron's new EXL Center will help match students to hands-on work experiences

Buchtelite: EXL's 'Launch Week'

Buchtelite: EXL Launch Week day one: introductions, millennials

Contact us!

Get to know how the EXL Center can help you. Contact Ian Schwarber at IanP@uakron.edu to today.


Review of experiential learning at UA

The EXL Center is new to UA, but experiential learning has a long, deep history!

Here are some examples of what UA faculty and students have been doing.

If you have an example you’d like to add, send a PowerPoint slide like one of these to behrman@uakron.edu.”


Tell us how we're doing: exlcenter@uakron.edu.

Join the EXL Experience!

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Center leadership

Jeff HoffmanJeff Hoffman, Founding Director and Executive-in-Residence | Bio

Dr. Carolyn BehrmanCarolyn Behrman, Faculty Director of Collaboration | Bio

Ian SchwarberIan Schwarber, Resource Director | Bio

Sarah Urbank
Creative Communications Assistant
Sarah is an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in Women's Studies. She is a local from the Akron area. Sarah is working to develop and coordinate programs for experiential learning and problem solving and writing content for the EXL Center.

Shilpa Pai Kalsank
Communications and Data Assistant
Shilpa is a graduate student in Information Systems Management. She is an international student from Bangalore, India. There, she received her Bachelor of Computer Science from the Global Academy of Technology. Shilpa is working on the EXL Center's database and managing communications and marketing.

Akhil Tej Reddy Dandu
Data Analyst
Akhil is a graduate student in Information Systems Management. He is an international student from Hyderabad, India. He received his degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Technology. Akhil is working towards gathering and analyzing data on experiential learning to better assist students and faculty.

John Beach
Student Liaison
John is an undergraduate student in Biomedical Engineering. He is from Garrettsville, Ohio. He is a Student Liaison as well as working to gather data for the EXL Center, and coordinate leadership opportunities for students in experiential learning programs.

Three locations to serve students and faculty


ONE: Career/EXL supports students in their development of resumes and interview skills, and connects students to internships, co-ops and a wide array of potential employers.


TWO: Create/EXL supports faculty efforts to give students course-based and co-curricular experiences in teamwork, critical thinking, leadership, data analysis and more.


THREE: Connect/EXL seeks to be deliberately collaborative, opening immersion opportunities for students and future community partnerships.