Experiential Learning and Social Distancing

Exterior of Smith Hall with clear sky
By Daniel Klinghard, Director, J.D. Power Center

Students across the world are experiencing significant disruption in their daily lives and in their education. At the J.D. Power Center, we know that many of the students we work with in normal times are particularly hard-hit, as internships, CBL sites, and research opportunities are curtailed. Most of these opportunities thrive most in situations where students can engage with people and communities on a close-up basis—internship supervisors, community partners, research subjects, all require the kind of one-on-one contact that the current situation prohibits. These experiences often come as the result of long term planning on students’ part, and are hard to recreate.

That’s why we’re starting a blog series on experiential learning from home—to help you think through some ways that you can keep engaging in experiential learning while you are engaging in social distancing. We invite students to join us by sharing their own experiences.

In the meantime, here are some ways you can continue engaging in experiential learning:

1.) Intern remotely

In many cases, students interning through the J.D. Power Center’s programming were automatically moved to remote work along with the rest of their work sites. If you have this opportunity, keep it up. Set aside specific hours that you can focus in on internship work, and keep in contact with your supervisor. In times like this, doing good work can really stand out, and demonstrate your engagement.

If you are not currently interning, but interned in the past, consider reaching out to past supervisors to see if you can help out—particularly if the kind of work you were doing can be easily done remotely. You likely have additional time on your schedule with normal operations shut down—offer a specific amount of time that you would be willing to return to your internship duties, and see if they could use the help.

2.) Learn about working remotely

Although the world of work is undergoing significant changes as large numbers of people shift to working remotely, remote work has been a feature of the American work landscape for some time. Take some time to think about your work habits while working remotely. Research best practices in working from home (the popular press is currently featuring a number of articles on working from home), set up your own workspace with this in mind, and monitor your own habits. Write your own guide, reflecting both your research and your own experience.

3.) Learn a skill

Often, our students have ideas for projects that they do not have a technical skill to accomplish—video editing, coding, statistics packages. This is a great time to develop some skills that might help you advance future projects. Or just engage in learning something you know you’ll value down the line: master Excel, polish your negotiation skills, or learn a new painting technique. Skills like these might help you when it comes time to launching a new project or internship when things get back to normal. Sites like Lynda.com and Coursera have a wide range of online courses that help you invest in your experiential future.

4.) Seek out a mentor

Students often say that one of the best things about experiential learning are the mentoring relationships that they develop. Make use of additional down-time by reaching out to a Holy Cross alum to develop a mentoring relationship. The Center for Career Development hosts the HC Network, a completely-online guide that lets you contact alums in fields you’re interested in via email, phone, and video conference. https://hcnetwork.holycross.edu/

5.) Build your online portfolio

Too often, social media is seen as a massive time waste (and very often, it IS a massive time waste), but it can also be a useful way to both explain and reflect on your work. Think about how you can build a web presence that you use exclusively to engage with others about your work and your interests. Maybe create an Instagram account that highlights artwork you’ve studied, or a Twitter account that posts news about an issue you care about. Use your time on social media to engage in ways that help you experience the world positively. Some helpful guides to using social media in a professionally-responsible way can be found here:





6.) Work with a club

Holy Cross’s RSOs could be particularly hard-hit by the campus shut down. If you’re part of an RSO, think about ways that you can work now to prepare for starting up again. Reach out to members and plan some virtual meetings, or propose some remote projects. Are there long-avoided tasks that could improve your operations or standardize your procedures that you just never seem to get to? This could be the time to get them done.


Staying at home is going to have its highs and lows, its frustrations and its moments of peace. It is also a moment of testing, and an opportunity to learn patience with ambiguity. Don’t stop engaging!

And remember, the J.D. Power Center is here to help. You can reach us at jdpowercenter@holycross.edu.

Holy Cross Students Present at Joint Mathematics Meeting in Denver

Students, alumni, and two faculty members posing during dinner at conference
Back row L to R: Emily Devine ’21, Piotr Pogorzelski ’20, John Graf ’20, Xu (Mike) Ding ’21, Emily Winn ’17, and Prof. Gareth Roberts. Front row L to R: Patrycja Przewoznik ’21, Marialena Bevilacqua ’20, Xinyi (Elena) Wang ’21, Prof. David Damiano, Kiara Sanchez ’18, and Dr. Ellen Gasparovic ’06. Not pictured but who were at the dinner before or after the photo was taken are Ligia Flores ’18, Prof. Eric Ruggieri, Dr. Joseph Hibdon Jr. ’04 and Prof. Andrew Uzzell.

Several Holy Cross students and faculty members spent part of their winter break taking part in the annual Joint Mathematics Meeting (JMM) in Denver, CO. The group was part of the 2019 Weiss Summer Research Program, and their research ranged from predicting individual success in the National Basketball Association (NBA) to understanding differences in behavioral synchrony in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder. Not only did they get to show their findings during the conference, but some were even able to win awards for their presentations.

“Our students have a significant number of opportunities to present on campus,” said Eric Ruggieri, associate professor of Mathematics, “but it’s a whole different experience to present your work to faculty and students across the United States. I also think it’s an eye-opening experience for our students. It’s a huge community of people who are excited to hear what they have to say.”

The undergraduate poster session with over 300 posters
is the highlight of the conference for students. Students are judged based on their presentation, and can win awards depending on their success. Winning an award is not the sole benefit of the competition, however.

“A high point is the judging process itself,” said David Damiano, professor of Mathematics. “It is often the case that judges will suggest possibilities for further research. This is an especially good experience speaking to an audience of students and mathematicians from across the country. Our students invariably give polished and substantive presentations, and the experience is a confidence booster.”

For the students who attended, along with presenting on their own work, the conference was a chance to learn about other research taking place across the country.

“Each day, we would wake up and attend presentations on various topics such as Probability and Statistics, Real and Complex Analysis, and Mathematical Biology,” said Marialena Bevilacqua ’20. “I was given the opportunity to meet and talk with mathematicians and other students from many universities all over the country. This conference opened my eyes to the many opportunities that (studying Mathematics) would afford me in the future.”

“My experience in Denver was exciting and informative,” said Elena Wang ’20. “I was able to see a lot of mathematics that I wouldn’t have been able to learn at Holy Cross in a classroom setting. Being able to go to Denver gave me a taste of what mathematics is like outside of Holy Cross.”

Seven Holy Cross students presented at JMM. Their project titles, as well as any awards won, are listed below.

  1. Marialena Bevilacqua ’20 [Outstanding]
    Title: Predicting Success in the N.B.A.
  2. Emily Devine ’21
    Title: Understanding Behavioral Synchrony:  Differences in Behavioral Synchrony in Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder using Functional EEG Networks
  3. Xu (Mike) Ding ‘21
    Title: Simulating the Board Game Risk
  4. John Graf ‘20
    Title: Consecutive Increases Related to the 3x+1 Function
  5. Piotr Pogorzelski ’20 [Honorable Mention]
    Title: Predicting NCAA Basketball Games Using Logistic Regression
  6. Patrycja Przewoznik ’21 [Outstanding]
    Title: Structural analysis of the force chains within communities of particle
  7. Elena Wang ’20 [Honorable Mention]
    Title: Clairaut Surfaces in Euclidean Three-Space