Experiential Learning

  • Students board a water taxi to tour the Boston waterfront
    Students board a water taxi to tour the Boston waterfront

    New discoveries in how people learn suggest that we acquire knowledge in many different ways. Most students learn best when they have the opportunity to reinforce lecture and reading content through additional hands-on exposure to the material. Calledexperiential learning, this kind of active learning can be obtained in many different settings such as:

    While you are a student, you should seek as many different experiential learning opportunities as you can fit into your schedule. This strategy will help you be a better student and could also help you develop a network of professional contacts that may help you pursue other experiential and professional job opportunities.

  • How do classes factor in?
    Students visit Promet Shipyard in Providence, Rhode Island.
    Students visit Promet Shipyard in Providence, Rhode Island.

    Your professors understand how important it is for students to learn by doing and seeing. Often, they will build opportunities for experiential learning into the overall four-year curriculum and also into their individual courses. These can take many different forms such as:

    • field trips;
    • field-based classes;
    • problem-solving exercises;
    • service learning experiences; and
    • laboratories.

    Students and Professor Robert Thompson meet with Richard McGuiness of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and utilize a model of Boston to discuss the redevelopment of Boston’s waterfront.


  • internshipsWorking as an intern in a professional setting can be a great way to experience how your discipline serves the community in the real world. You’ll also be able to meet and observe the professionals whom you might aspire to be, and make connections with important people in the field and people who may be able to assist you in the future. These internship experiences may lead directly to job offers after graduation and to acceptance and financial support for competitive graduate programs. Additionally, you might be able to earn academic credit that will count towards graduation for your internship experiences. Sometimes interns are even paid for their work. Marine affairs students have interned for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, the Coastal Resources Center at URI, the Metcalf Institute, and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, as well as for numerous agencies in other states, nonprofit organizations, on fishing and research vessels, and other institutions.

    To find a possible internship opportunity, consult the following resources:

    You might also explore individual company sites. Many hire academic-year and summer interns. If you don’t see an internship listed, don’t be hesitant to ask about such a program in the personnel office! Contact the person in charge of volunteers, community outreach, internships, or education, if such titles exist.

  • Have you ever dreamed of going to college in Hawaii, living in Europe or Australia, or even spending a semester on a research vessel?

    Make those dreams a reality and spend a semester or academic year studying in another state or a foreign country through the National Student Exchange and Study Abroad programs. In some cases you may even save money by paying in-state tuition rates for that semester! Any student who wants to do a Study Abroad program is strongly encouraged to consult with their academic advisor prior to starting the application process to understand how the program will fit into their course of study and if it might affect his/her graduation date.

    Additional information is available through the URI Office of International Education:

    Marine affairs students may be particularly interested in the Sea Education Association program based out of Woods Hole in Cape Cod, MA. Spend a semester (fall or spring, 12 weeks) or a summer (8 weeks) studying oceanography, maritime studies, and boat operations in Woods Hole and at-sea. Learn to sail and carry out oceanographic research on a working cruise aboard an over 130-foot long tall ship in the Atlantic (SSV Corwith Cramer) or Pacific Ocean (SSV Robert C. Seamans). Academic credit (17 cr. in fall or spring; 12 cr. in summer) will be directly applied to a student’s URI transcript. SEA representatives are on campus periodically to speak to prospective students. All students must arrange a short interview with URI Faculty Coordinator, Dr. Jacqueline Webb, in the Office of International Education prior to starting the application process.

    URI courses for which students will get credit:

    • AFS 290 Small Boats (3 cr.; free elective)
    • MAF 312 The Politics of the Ocean (3 cr.; free elective)
    • OCG 401 General Oceanography (3 cr.; required for MB major)
    • OCG 493 & 494 Special Problems and Independent Study in Oceanography (4 cr. each, in Fall/Sp.) or OCG 493 Special Problems and Independent Study in Oceanography (3 cr., in summer), [in either case, a max. of 3 cr. may be applied to the MB major as MB elective).

    In addition to the traditional SEA Semester program, “special” SEA Semester programs are now available. Some of these programs include: “Documenting Change in the Caribbean” (a social science and humanities-intensive semester), and “Oceans and Climate” (for advanced science students). Consult the SEA Website or contact Dr. Webb if you are interested in either of these special programs.

    NOTE: Enrollment in SEA Semester is open to students over 18 years of age who are judged capable by SEA and benefiting from the SEA Semester experience regardless of major. Course work assumes sophomore level competence and academic credit (as described above) may be applied towards any program of study (including majors in arts and sciences and engineering).

  • What kind of research opportunities are there?
    M.A.F. students assist with boat survey research.
    M.A.F. students assist with boat survey research.

    Discovery of knowledge is a primary goal of any university. Regardless of your field, you should seek opportunities to participate in an original research project while you are still an undergraduate student to gain important skills and learn more about the actual process of discovery. Marine affairs students who do well in their courses are encouraged to become involved in research during the academic year or during the summer with URI faculty or with researchers at nearby research laboratories (e.g., National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Environmental Protection Agency, or Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management). Research experiences provide unique skills and knowledge, and often lead directly to job offers after graduation as well as to acceptance and financial support for competitive graduate programs. To find a possible research opportunity, consult the following resources.

    M.A.F. students assist with boat survey research.
    M.A.F. student interviews a fisherman.

    Students in the marine affairs major may elect to do an independent research project or a senior thesis. Students may study a variety of topics such as:

    • coastal hazards,
    • coastal access,
    • water quality,
    • marine protected areas,
    • fisheries management, and
    • ports and shipping.


  • Marine affairs students participate in a coastal cleanup sponsored by the URI chapter of The Coastal Society.
    Marine affairs students participate in a coastal cleanup sponsored by the URI chapter of The Coastal Society.

    College is not just about what happens inside the classroom. Students learn a great deal about themselves and their studies by pursuing extracurricular activities such as student clubs. The following is a list of just some of the student clubs in which marine affairs students are active. We encourage you to get involved in your field and meet new and interesting people!

    If you don’t see a club that fits your interest, think about starting one – it’s a great way to get some leadership experience.

    Joining a national professional organization, many of which offer discounted memberships to students, is also a great idea. The most popular national professional organization for marine affairs students, The Coastal Society, offers a discounted student membership and encourages student participation in its biannual international conferences. Attending conferences like this, and even presenting at them, is a great way to network and to make connections that will be useful when it comes to finding a job.

    Outside of the University, local organizations such as Save the Bay and the Rhode Island chapter ofSurfrider Foundation are active in ocean and coastal management issues and can always use volunteers. Volunteering is a great way to get involved in the community and to participate in valuable and fun experiential learning opportunities!