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Experiential Learning and Failure

I have been blessed to work at the Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship over the past nine months. One of the things I am most grateful for is being able to apply my knowledge and skills to help real people achieve their dreams. Experiential learning is a core principle of the APKCFEE, and it offers an opportunity for all scholars and interns to grow. We can all learn from the experiences we have in life, regardless of how they may come. Our mindset is critical to learning from situations and becoming a stronger individual.

Our Executive-in-Residence at the APKCFEE is Mr. Gerald Euphalt, or as we refer to him, Jerry. During my first year at Wilkes, before I knew the APKCFEE existed, I took an entrepreneurship class taught by Jerry. During this class, we learned about the two types of mindsets that people can have: fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. Individuals with fixed mindsets believe that people are born with their abilities. They usually avoid failure and criticism and have too much pride. This is a constricted viewpoint because they are scared to grow through experience and failure. Individuals with growth mindsets believe that people have certain skills that can be developed through learning. They make calculated decisions, are inquisitive, and can build a network to complete tasks.

A common stereotype is that all successful people and entrepreneurs are risk-takers who have achieved everything on their own, which may be true to some extent. A better way to explain these individuals is that they are measured risk-takers. With any decision we make comes a varying degree of risk and reward involved. We cannot see the future to know how our decisions will play out. As individuals with growth mindsets, we want to be strategic decision-makers who are risk-tolerant and factor in time, money, and other resources into a decision. Successful individuals and entrepreneurs also rely on their networks. It is important to trust others and use their value to achieve the goals we have. The APKCFEE embodies the idea of collaboration and teamwork. The scholars and interns are students from various backgrounds with various skill sets that come together to achieve different tasks.

I am grateful to work at the APKCFEE and be surrounded by other individuals who have growth mindsets. Our scholars and interns are all great communicators who take responsibility for their work with authority. Individuals with a growth mindset operate through the act, build, learn model. We act first based on calculating decisions, learning through experience, and building on the lessons learned. There is a strong correlation between experiential learning and having a growth mindset, as it provides confidence in our abilities.

As a graphic designer, the experiential learning process has been a big reason as to why I have grown so much in a short period of time. I started my first design class in Spring 2018, and then I failed to apply those skills again until Fall 2019. Even though I have been designing for about three years, my skills have grown rapidly during my time at the APKCFEE. I have been eager to take on any projects to keep advancing my skills. There have been many times where I am working and learn a new unexpected lesson in the process. I do not consider any moment a failure because I can always learn something new. Whether it be learning a new technique in Adobe Photoshop or interacting with clients, I have had positive and negative experiences that have been valuable lessons in the long run. Understanding that failure is part of the process and keeping an open mind has helped me become a better problem-solver and better individual overall.

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