Outdoor leadership and education majors thrive at international experiential education conference

Four outdoor leadership and education majors recently attended the Association for Experiential Education international conference with Evan Small, lecturer in wellness. Through engaging sessions, insightful presentations, and valuable networking opportunities, attendees gained a transformative experience, equipping them with skills, connections and a renewed passion for advancing experiential education globally.

Students and faculty in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education recently participated in the international conference hosted by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE) in Madison, Wisconsin.

This year’s conference brought together practitioner-scholars spanning diverse fields and disciplines. Attendees, including four of Elon’s outdoor leadership and education majors, engaged in valuable networking opportunities with professionals, scholars, and employers on a global scale.

AEE, a champion of experiential education in all its dimensions, is dedicated to fostering an inclusive and accessible community for professionals aligned with the philosophy, principles, and practices of experiential education. Through impactful conferences and publications, AEE actively supports academic research, the dissemination of authoritative information, and the global promotion and advancement of experiential education.

A group of four college students standing in front of a building
Pictured left to right: Jenna Sudol ’23, Chloe Stuart ’24, Mandi Jaffe ’24, and Sam Goldberg ’23, Outdoor Leadership and Education majors.

Evan Small, lecturer in wellness, made noteworthy contributions by presenting a preconference session on “Mental Health First Aid for Experiential Educators” and a conference session titled, “Critical Experiential Education as a Frame of Practice.”

Reflecting on the experience, Mandi Jaffe ’24 expressed gratitude for the chance to immerse herself in the varied applications of experiential education. She found the sessions, “Working With the Upside of Stress and Anxiety” and “Understanding Pedagogies of Place and Education from Indigenous, Postcolonial, and Decolonizing Perspectives,” immensely valuable in broadening her perspective and building a network within the industry.

The engaging and open learning environment at AEE resonated with Jenna Sudol ’23 and she seized numerous opportunities to glean insights from others in the field. Connecting with like-minded individuals and hearing professionals share their career journeys added a layer of richness to her experience.

Chloe Stuart ’24 described the conference as “an incredible opportunity to be among passionate individuals dedicated to experiential education.” Her opportunity to network with seasoned professionals and fellow students coupled with learning facilitating and risk management techniques left her feeling more equipped as a graduating senior entering the job market. Stuart emphasized that attending the AEE conference has been a highlight of her time at Elon, instilling confidence in her abilities and readiness for the next steps in her career.

As echoed by attendees, the AEE conference was a transformative experience and the ripple effects are sure to resonate in classrooms, research endeavors, and the broader educational landscape. The Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education’s active engagement at the AEE conference exemplifies a commitment to excellence and a passion for shaping the future of experiential education.