The EXL Center at The University of Akron Experiential Learning Center for Entrepreneurship and civic engagement


On this page: 


Dr. Carolyn Behrman, Co-Director, or 330-972-5477

Professor Annal Vyas, Co-Director, or 330-972-6789

Office: 330-972-8153

Located at 168 Bierce Library. (See Bierce on a map)

Mission and Goals

The mission of the EX[L] Center is to help students emerge as civically-engaged, adaptable leaders, ready to join in the enterprise of building strong and sustainable communities by promoting hands-on, community-based, problem-centered learning.

To address this mission, EX[L] seeks to:

  • support, expand, and create new experiential learning programs on campus,
  • assist faculty with barriers to innovative, interdisciplinary, experiential teaching,
  • be a resource for students reaching out from their curricular homes to explore interdisciplinary or other innovative pathways, and
  • sustain existing, and develop new community partnerships that bring UA students and local business and non-profit change-makers together.


Carolyn Behrman, Ph.D. Carolyn Behrman, Ph.D.
EX[L] Co-Director,
Associate Professor of Anthropology

Annal Vyas, J.D.Annal Vyas, J.D.
EX[L] Co-Director,
Visiting Professor of Law


Christina AronhaltChristina Aronhalt
EX[L] Communication
Undergraduate in Political Science,
Spanish Minor,
Certificate in Conflict Transformation
and Social Entrepreneurship

Corey CargillCorey Cargill
EX[L] Graphic Designer
Undergraduate in Graphic Design

Mitaya CollinsMitaya Collins
EX[L] General Programs Assistant
Undergraduate in Anthropology
Women's Studies minor

Julie AichingerJulie Aichinger
EX[L] Assistant Program Manager
Undergraduate in Technical Expert Computer Engineering
Biology minor

Sarika Reddy SunkiAnish John Jacob
EX[L] Programming and
Industrial Specialist 
Graduate student in Mechanical Engineering

Julian CuretJulian Curet
EX[L] Programming/ Community
Internship Specialist
Undergraduate in Anthropology and English

Megan DeLongMegan DeLong
EX[L] Advertising amd Communication
Undergraduate in Sociology, Criminology and Law Enforcement
Women's Studies minor,
Information Systems Management

Savannah Sprankle Savannah Sprankle
EX[L] Programming/ Entrepreneurship Events Specialist
Undergraduate in Marketing and Graphic Design

Faculty participation

The EX[L] Center operates with a Faculty Steering Committee.

Faculty Steering Committee, 2018-19

Name Field Term
Parizad Dejbord-Sawan Modern Lan. Spring 2020
Amanda Booher (co-chair) English Spring 2020
Juan Xi Sociology Spring 2021
Hunter King Polymer Sciences Spring 2020
Peter Niewiarowski Biology Spring 2019
Sarah Hamilton ZipAssist Spring 2021
Rob Peralta Sociology Spring 2020
Andy Platt CBA Dean's Office Spring 2019
Terry O'Sullivan Political Science Spring 2021
Christin Seher (co-chair) Dietetics Spring 2020
Gopal Nadkarni Mechanical Engineering Spring 2021
Jacob Farrar Taylor Institute Spring 2021
Jodi Henderson-Ross Wayne Campus Spring 2021

Faculty Steering Committee, 2017-18

Name Field Term
Parizad Dejbord-Sawan (chair) Modern Lan. Spring 2020
Amanda Booher English Spring 2020
Curtis Clemons Math Spring 2018
Hunter King Polymer Sci. Spring 2020
Peter Niewiarowski Biology Spring 2019
Deb Owens Business Spring 2018
Rob Peralta Sociology Spring 2020
Andy Platt Business Spring 2019
Pam Schulze Family Sci. Spring 2018
Christin Seher Dietetics Spring 2020
Dick Steiner Statistics Spring 2020
Don Visco Engineering Spring 2018
Deb Wallace Pan Afr. Studies Spring 2019

Faculty Steering Committee, 2016-17

Name Field Term
Matt Lee (chair) Sociology Spring 2017
Hazel Barton Biology Spring 2019
Curtis Clemons Math Spring 2018
Parizad Dejbord-Sawan Modern Lan. Spring 2017
Brant Lee Law Spring 2017
Peter Niewiarowski Biology Spring 2019
Terry O’Sullivan Poli. Sci. Spring 2017
Deb Owens Business Spring 2018
Andy Platt Business Spring 2019
Pam Schulze Family Sci. Spring 2018
Markus Vogl Art Spring 2017
Don Visco Engineering Spring 2018
Deb Wallace Pan Afr. Std. Spring 2019

Founding Faculty Advisory Committee, 2015-16

Name Field
Bill Lyons (chair) Political Science
Matt Lee Sociology
Carolyn Behrman Anthropology
Hazel Barton Biology
Brant Lee Law
Terrence O'Sullivan Political Science
Andrew Terrence Business
Pamela Schulze Family and Consumer Science
Deborah Wallace Pan African Studies
Parizad Dejbord-Sawan Modern Languages
Peter Niewiarowski Biology/Biomimicry
Deborah Owens Business
Markus Vogl Art
Donald Visco Jr. Engineering
Matt Kolodziej Art
Rebecca Erickson Sociology
Jodi Henderson-Ross Sociology
Charles Waehler Psychology
Robert C. Schwartz Counseling
Kathryn Feltey Sociology

Faculty caucuses

In development.

Student participation

Group of UA students who are activiely involved with EXL Center

UA students representing the EXL Center during a campus visit day

Student Advisory Council

2017 -2018 Purpose Statement:

The EX[L] Student Advisory Council currently operates differently from other student organizations.  There are no traditional roles such as President, Vice President etc.  Instead, we function as sounding boards by offering ideas, suggestions, or feedback as it pertains to the operations and programs of the EX[L] Center. We also function as project managers who meet to discuss student-driven and collaborative project ideas. We offer each other advice about how to best implement those ideas. We also serve as ambassadors for EX[L] reaching out to new students and faculty. 

2017-2018 Student Advisory Council Members

EbaNee Bond
Sam Borick
Dom Bruno
Dee McCall
Corey Cargill
Whit Woodruff

2015-16 Student Advisory Council Members

Justin Cohen (co-chair)
Andrea Rupley (co-chair)
Trevor Allen (subcommittee chair: Hackathon)
Kevin Karas (subcommittee chair: EX[L] Integration)
Dylan Hansen (subcommittee chair: Internal Outreach)
Taylor Swift
Ricky Angeletti
Sterling Galehouse
Isabella Bartholemew
Akhila Gopal
Clarissa Santana

EX[L]'s origin

The University of Akron has a long history of strong hands-on and problem-based learning, as well as community-engaged activity by faculty and students; but, many of these activities have developed and function in silos. Founding Director, Jeff Hoffman joined the university in July 2015 to launch an initiative in experiential learning that addressed these silos.

Hoffman, an entrepreneur of global repute, entered the field of higher education "perfectly" according to one faculty member who continued, "He went on a listening tour, meeting with faculty in small groups, exploring the terrain of disciplines, projects, and partnerships that had evolved organically here at UA but which lacked a strong sense of identity and connectedness across campus." Hoffman and EXL resource director, Ian Schwarber, then met with the most interested faculty from across the university. Hoffman shared his impressions and enlisted their assistance in advancing the development of the EX[L] Center.

Meanwhile, Hoffman and Schwarber reached out to community and student leaders as well, eventually establishing a three-part structure for EX[L] drawing from the strengths and perspectives of student, faculty and community advisory councils. Schwarber's skill at event conceptualizing and marketing helped raise EX[L]'s profile, opening opportunities for collaborations with entrepreneurs and local secondary schools. Energetic and charismatic, Hoffman and Schwarber sparked entrepreneurial, social entrepreneurial, and community development-oriented events both on and off campus in 2015 and 2016. These included BluPrints to EX[L], entrepreneurial panel discussions held in Akron hotspot the BluJazz nightclub and an immersion week for area high school students. In 2016, they selected a faculty collaboration director, Carolyn Behrman, to join them in overseeing EX[L] activity. Having launched EX[L], Hoffman and Schwarber separated from the University of Akron in Fall 2016.

Behrman and Anoo Vyas were appointed as co-Directors of the EX[L] Center in Fall 2016. A tenured faculty member, Behrman has 18 years of experience in community-based research and service-learning linking University of Akron students with organizations and groups across Akron. At EX[L], Behrman concentrates her energies on academic-community engagement and works with faculty and students to enhance existing and foster new community-engaged experiential learning through the curriculum. Vyas employs his significant experience with business incubation, business law and creative and entrepreneurial community partners to develop new opportunities for students within the greater Akron area.