Kim Piatt Named Director of Experiential Learning
By Stefanie Johndrow
Carnegie Mellon University’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences has selected Kim Piatt as its first-ever director of experiential learning. In her new role, Piatt will provide oversight for the design, implementation and growth of experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate students in the college via community engagement, internships, service learning, study abroad and undergraduate research.
“Through a generous gift from a Dietrich College alumna and her husband, we are creating this full-time position devoted to great experiences outside of the classroom — something we now know is essential to a world-class undergraduate education,” said Bess Family Dean Richard Scheines. Kim has already distinguished herself by helping to make the Pittsburgh Summer Internship Program a success. She will be great in this wider role.”
Piatt joined Dietrich College in March 2020 as manager of the Pittsburgh Summer Internship Program (PSIP). As manager of PSIP, Piatt not only handled the logistics of the program, but found ways to enrich the experience for students by expanding professional development workshops, enhancing relationships with host sites and improving program assessment efforts.
“I always tell students that helping them unlock their full potential is my mission as a professional.” Piatt said, “And that’s what experiential learning does: it’s going to help students unlock their full potential by engaging in meaningful experiences.”
Launched in the fall of 2021, Dietrich College’s new General Education program is grounded in 15 learning areas. Among those areas is self-directed learning, which is, according to Piatt, the home of experiential learning. For Piatt, there are certain elements that make a great experiential learning opportunity: connection to academics, real-world stakes, mentorship and critical reflection. When it comes to defining the term “experiential learning” for the college, she looks forward to inviting partners from across the departments and programs to the process.
“I want people to feel that they can contribute their ideas to what ends up being the definition of experiential learning for the college. For this to be successful, we have to have all of the departments on board, and they need to see themselves in the definition of experiential learning,” Piatt said. “I am really invested in finding out all of the great work they’re doing and their views on how we can take this to the next step.”
In addition to gaining a base knowledge of experiential learning across the college, one of the first projects Piatt will undertake is the creation and launch of a fellowship program aimed at community engagement. Through this program, and the other programs coming online in this space (the Center for Shared Prosperity, Arts Greenhouse, LEAP, etc.) students will engage in community-based experiential learning with the purpose of learning to lead with social good in mind.
Piatt hopes that she can help make it so experiential learning is woven into “every single step” of the undergraduate student education, no matter what discipline they pursue.
“My long-term goal would be that students who come to Dietrich know that experiential learning is paramount to their education and is so important that we don’t have to entice them to engage in these opportunities,” Piatt said.
Throughout her time in Dietrich, Piatt has found her work with students valuable.
“My favorite part about working with students is when they develop a sense of confidence and self-efficacy within themselves to say, ‘I can do this. I am really good at this. I am passionate about this, and I can find ways to make a meaningful life with these skills,’” Piatt said.
More information about experiential learning in Dietrich College can be found on the Dietrich College General Education website. Piatt will be connecting with departments throughout the spring semester but encourages faculty who are engaged or interested in experiential learning to reach out to her.