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  • Writer's pictureREBECCA OSOWSKI

University expands connected learning opportunities

Graphic by Pat Carbone

Recently, the university has announced two new opportunities for students; a grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) and a partnership with the Boston Newton Marriott Hotel.

The MLSC grant is a capital equipment grant with the intent to purchase equipment for life sciences. According to Assistant Vice President of Workforce Development and Global Engagement Cristina Haverty, the $744,629 grant will be used to purchase virtual reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence technology that Haverty will use to create a VR lab.

Haverty said this new technology will not only change the way professors teach but change the way students learn. “For individuals that maybe are more visual and interactive in nature where they really, you know, need to interact with and see things from a different perspective…it’s also a way to learn from a teaching perspective. It actually helps us rethink how we deliver information,” Haverty said.

Additionally, Haverty said this technology plays into the university’s connected learning philosophy as it “forces,in some ways, the learner to engage with the subject matter.”

While the grant is focused on assisting life science programs, Haverty said she hopes the VR lab can be integrated into core curriculum, allowing all students to use the technology.

This is the second grant the university has received from MLSC. Last year, the university was awarded $703,896 to put towards lab equipment for biology, biochemistry, and forensic science programs.

“We are educators and we want to educate and this is keeping in the cutting edge of like science education more than anything else,” Haverty said. “I’ve not seen any other institution of our size or any of our competitors do anything with the VR technology in teaching the sciences and life sciences.”

In addition to the science programs, the university just sealed a partnership with the Boston Newton Marriott Hotel, only 0.6 miles from campus, that guarantees hospitality students paid internships every semester.

Chair of Business and Interim Chair of Sport Management Matthew Reilly said four students can intern at the hotel each semester and gain experience in food and beverage, catering, sales, room operations, front desk, and events. Students will start interning at the Boston Newton Marriott under the agreement starting next semester.

“In the School of Business, we are constantly searching for industry connections and external partnerships that will benefit our programs and students,” Reilly said. “An opportunity like this is so beneficial to our students because it allows them to gain real world experience and industry credentials while also earning college credit.

Reilly also said this partnership is a great way to extend the university’s connected learning philosophy. “I am confident that our students will learn and benefit from a challenging, relevant, and educational field experience that will provide them with a competitive advantage after completion,” Reilly said. “I expect that during this connected learning experience, they will be trained and certified in the hotel’s Property Management System, which is a transferable skill and credential. Interning at the Boston Newton Marriott should also be an excellent networking experience for our students as they endeavor to advance their careers.”

In addition to creating opportunities for traditional students, Haverty emphasized the importance of enhancing workforce development and global initiatives and engagement to attract more students to the university. Haverty said it is important to offer programs that attract not just the traditional four year undergraduate students, but students that are looking to apply their credits completed years ago to a new program, students who do not want to or cannot afford to go back to school full time, or students that are looking to come away with a certificate and possibly go back to school later.

Haverty is also looking for areas in which the university can make the largest impact, areas she said include biotech, cybersecurity and sports, as well as expanding the Lasell brand abroad. Currently, abroad programming includes a class for current undergraduate students that finishes with an experience with a professional hockey team in Ireland.

Haverty is also working in West Africa to expand their workforce development, and “upskill local African citizens” to support the expansion of the National Basketball Association and build a sports ecosystem, particularly in Benin.

“I think Lasell is an incredibly special place…I want to encourage students, staff and faculty to not lose sight of, you know, how much we’ve grown and where we’ve been and how we’ve evolved,” Haverty said. “Lasell is a pretty awesome place and, you know, I’m committed to obviously our mission, but I’m hoping that students and faculty and staff are also recognizing that where we are in a growth trajectory, even if the growth looks different than it used to.”

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