Integrating Campus Experiences for Enhanced Learning


Although the vast majority of NWC undergraduate students participate in athletics, fine arts, or other campus groups, about 23% of the student body does not participate in extra-curricular activities. This is problematic for retention, as students who are involved in co-curricular activities both at NWC (and in higher education in general) have better retention rates. In addition, participating in co-curricular activities is associated with increases in undergraduate experience quality and GPA. Thus, combining curricular and extra-curricular activities to transition more students to co-curricular involvement may boost retention, grades, and satisfaction.

In addition, determining new ways in which these areas could augment each other could become a key source of innovation at NWC. Inside Higher Ed notes, “For most faculty, deans, and administrators tasked with developing a more innovative curriculum…, it’s outside the classroom where they might be able to make the most impact—and do so quickly…[and where] learning innovation and experimentation can happen in a far more unfettered way.”

Ideas from Other Institutions

Both Colorado College and the University of Kansas have programs that integrate curricular and extracurricular activities to best develop students’ abilities. In Colorado College’s Community Engaged Leaders Program, students complete coursework and complete a project in the community to “cultivat[e] students’ ability to integrate and apply learning toward solving complex social challenges”. Similarly, the University of Kansas’ Leadership Engagement Certificate requires coursework, experiential learning, and a reflection paper to earn the credential and receive an acknowledgement of program completion on their transcript.

Suggestions for Northwestern

NWC should investigate how it can combine curricular and co-curricular opportunities, via workshops, boot camps, and other programming, to create distinct programs that draw prospective students and enhance the sense of value of earning a NWC degree. In conjunction, it should consider how combinations of these activities can serve as a gateway for students to more officially and consistently participate in co-curricular activities.

One specific idea is to possibly create a ‘Christian Character’ program wherein students can earn a transcript and graduation regalia distinction to indicate completion of the program. Students could earn Christian Character credits through a combination of coursework (e.g., philosophy, psychology) and involvement in athletics, fine arts, or various campus groups.

We also believe there may be opportunities for courses to have a book club or other student-run small group activities that accompany a class. The Women in Leadership’s reading group, which was comprised of faculty, staff, and students in varying phases of their work and personal life, helped illuminate issues of privilege and limiting social structures by providing a more comfortable space for self-reflection and sharing of experiences. This reading group would have paired well with a sociology course, for example.

Strategic Plan

Goal 3.1 – Pursue strategic enrollment growthIncrease residential undergraduate enrollment to 1,050 by 2023.

Goal 1.4 – Raise the reputation of Northwestern as a leader in Christian thought, scholarship, practice, and artistic expression.

Additional Resources

Course‐Embedded Co‐Curricular Learning: