Undergraduate Experiential Learning

Experiential Learning

Case Western Reserve University offers undergraduates a variety of experiences inside and outside the classroom that are built on a process of guided inquiry, preparation, action and reflection.  Many research, internship, and employment opportunities are aligned with academic programs.  Linguistic and cultural immersion characterize the study abroad experience.  In many courses, Case Western Reserve students engage in experiential learning beyond the on-campus classrooms and laboratories.  Experiences that form the basis for reflection and synthesis under the guidance of faculty include working with hospitalized children, designing engineering solutions for a problem presented by a municipality, interning at a local media outlet, tutoring in Cleveland’s Hispanic community, gaining experience in public health clinics, studying history with “the city as classroom,” or collecting aquatic specimens from the ponds at the university’s 389-acre farm.  Courses that incorporate community service or internships into the curriculum forge links between Case Western Reserve undergraduates and schools, neighborhoods, businesses, and governmental and health care institutions in Cleveland and elsewhere.

International Experience

Case Western Reserve University encourages students to study, research, intern, and participate in service learning experiences abroad.  Students benefit personally, academically, and professionally from educational experiences abroad.  Students of all majors can stay on track to graduate while including study abroad in their degree timeline.  Many of the study abroad programs cost about the same as studying in Cleveland.  Additionally, financial aid transfers to study abroad, and many students find that they are eligible for study abroad scholarships.  Students should visit www.case.edu/studyabroad or contact a study abroad advisor at studyabroad@case.edu to find a program that meets their needs.

Semester and Academic Year Programs

Case Western Reserve University partners with overseas institutions to provide a wide selection of courses that students can take abroad.  Students should determine, in consultation with their academic advisor and study abroad advisor, which study abroad programs meet their academic and personal goals.  Students can choose from the traditional semester or academic year abroad or a shorter time abroad with CWRU faculty and students.  Students can explore different program types and offerings online.

In order to participate in programs of study or practical experience that immerse them in the culture and language of another country, students must first

  • Have completed at least 24 credit-hours of coursework at CWRU,
  • Have declared a major,
  • Be in good academic and disciplinary standing with no pending judicial actions, and
  • Be otherwise eligible to register on campus at CWRU for the proposed semester(s) (no financial holds, e.g.).

After matriculation at Case Western Reserve University, students are permitted to earn at other accredited colleges or universities or through an approved program of study abroad no more than 38 credit-hours toward the totals required for their degree, with no more than 15 credit-hours taken as part of domestic programs or as summer study in a student's home country; this includes courses taken through the cross-registration program.  Any off-campus study beyond 15 credit-hours may only be taken through approved study abroad programs.  Any additional credits earned at other institutions after matriculation at Case Western Reserve beyond 15 domestically or as summer study in a student's home country and beyond a total of 38 including study abroad will raise the total number of credit-hours required for the degree by a corresponding number.

Case Western Reserve does not require students to complete any foreign language prerequisites before studying abroad, though students wishing to study in a country where the native language is not English are advised to develop their language skills to the extent possible.  However, students studying for at least a semester in a single location where English is not an official language must take a course that advances their skills in a language of the host country during each semester of study abroad, provided such courses are available.  This may be a course of language instruction or a course taught in a language of the host country.  Students participating in study abroad experiences that are comparative in nature and visit several sites within the same semester are not required to include language study in their academic programs.

Students participating in semester or academic year study abroad must enroll in the equivalent of at least 12 credit-hours each semester in order to maintain full-time student status for the semester abroad.  Upon presentation of an official transcript from the study abroad program, transfer credit will be awarded for courses completed with a grade of C or better and determined to be equivalent or comparable to those offered by the appropriate academic department at CWRU.

Students participating in semester or academic year study abroad pay the normal CWRU tuition to Case Western Reserve University and maintain their student status at CWRU during the period of study abroad.  Case Western Reserve University will, in turn, pay the tuition costs for the student's program abroad.  Students are responsible for paying all non-tuition costs associated with study abroad to the study abroad program directly (i.e. housing, student fees, excursions, travel costs, etc.).  Students retain all of their financial aid while studying abroad.  Additional study abroad financial information is available online.

Short-Term Programs

Case Western Reserve University offers a robust portfolio of short-term study abroad options, which allow students to travel as a group with a member of the Case Western Reserve University faculty.  These programs are often one to three weeks in duration and are offered over spring break, winter break, and during the summer.  Program offerings vary each year, but recent short-term study abroad locations included China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Ghana, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Namibia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain, Uganda, and the United Kingdom.  All CWRU students in good academic and disciplinary standing are eligible to participate in short-term study abroad programs.  

Summer Programs

All Case Western Reserve University undergraduates in good academic and disciplinary standing are permitted to study abroad during the summer.  With approval, up to 15 credit-hours of summer coursework can be transferred to Case Western Reserve University.  During the summer, study abroad students pay tuition and fees directly to the study abroad program.  A wide variety of summer programs is available through the Office of Education Abroad.  

Research, Service Learning, and Internship Opportunities Abroad

Case Western Reserve University offers international research, service learning, and internship opportunities as part of a semester abroad on many of our approved programs.  Through our partnerships with Acadia University (summer programs) and EuroScholars (semester programs), students can experience a research-intensive program abroad. The CWRU study abroad advisors can help students identify and apply to these programs.  With the help of the Office of Education Abroad and CWRU faculty, students can also conduct independent research projects abroad.

Research Experience

Undergraduate Research

Case Western Reserve University is a research-intensive community with a historic tradition of involving undergraduates in research and creative endeavors.  Regardless of a student's major or academic interests, there are numerous opportunities to engage in research either on campus with Case Western Reserve faculty or elsewhere during both the academic year and the summer.  SOURCE (Support of Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavors) provides assistance to students throughout the undergraduate educational experience, including:

  • helping students identify research and creative project opportunities on or around the university during the academic year and around the world during the summer,
  • providing funding for on-campus summer research,
  • providing funding for travel for students presenting their work at regional and national conferences,
  • providing educational research and informational seminars,
  • sponsoring Intersections: SOURCE Symposium and Poster Session for students to present their work to our academic community, and
  • advising Discussions: The Undergraduate Research Journal of CWRU.

For more information, email source@case.edu or phone 216.368.8508.

In many cases, students pursuing research under the guidance of a faculty member may earn degree credit by registering for “Undergraduate Research” or "Independent Study" in the appropriate department.  These are advanced-level courses and require departmental approval.  However, students may not earn both degree credit and pay for the same work.  Students may discuss academic credit for research with their major advisor.

Work Experience 

The Center for Civic Engagement and Learning

The Center for Civic Engagement and Learning (CCEL) works to create an engaged campus by providing and supporting opportunities for community service and collective action while promoting civic awareness and leadership.  CCEL offers a variety of programs, services, and resources to accommodate different student interests and schedules.  These include one-day Saturdays of Service, flexible weekly opportunities through CCEL Serves, week-long and weekend Alternative Break experiences, and the year-long Civic Engagement Scholars program.  CCEL coordinates Cleveland excursions to explore and connect with our community and facilitates educational training about community issues, responsible engagement, voter education/registration, and active citizenship.  CCEL also provides community service advising and assists faculty and students in designing and implementing service learning courses and community-based capstone projects.  For more information, visit the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning, Tinkham Veale University Center, Suite 165.

Cooperative Education

Cooperative Education (Co-op)  is an academic program that enables students in majors offered by the Case School of Engineering to alternate classroom studies with career-based experiences in industry.  It is a learning experience designed to integrate classroom theory with practical experience and professional development.  Co-op is a paid full-time work experience designed to enhance the student’s education.  Case Western Reserve co-op assignments are typically for two seven-month periods, each period consisting of a summer and a contiguous spring or fall semester.  While participating in co-op, students maintain their full-time student status.  This program is available to students pursuing majors in all fields of engineering, computer science (BA and BS), and data science.  For additional information, contact the Division of Engineering Leadership and Professional Practice Office, Nord Hall, Room 312, 216.368.5119.

Professional Practicum

Practicum is a zero-credit experiential education program coordinated through Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education that provides students with opportunities to develop and enhance skills, insights, and knowledge related to career development.  The desired learning outcome of the practicum experience is intellectual, professional, and personal growth in an area related to a student's academic and career goals.  Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Case School of Engineering, the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, or the Weatherhead School of Management, and students pursuing entrepreneurial ventures may enroll.  (Most Case School of Engineering students participate in experiential education through the Co-op program, but may participate in practicum, depending on the duration of the assignment.)  International students are eligible for the practicum program through Curricular Practical Training (CPT).

Practicum students enroll in course sections for the semester in which they are on assignment either full-time (40 hours/week) or part-time (20 hours/week).  The duration of the program can range from a minimum of 6 weeks to a maximum of 14 weeks.  Full-time practicum students do not enroll in other coursework, but maintain full-time student status during the practicum period; part-time participants are expected to enroll in other credit-bearing coursework.  Although no credit is awarded, students who successfully complete the practicum assignment receive transcript notation.  Successful completion is determined by the Practicum Coordinator with input from the faculty advisor and employer once the required deliverables are submitted by the student.

Students interested in participating in a practicum should contact Post-Graduate Planning and Experiential Education, 229 Sears Bldg., the semester prior to the intended practicum period.


CWRU LaunchNET is the entrepreneurship gateway on campus to help students in all majors test, validate, and turn their ideas into products and services.  LaunchNET connects students to a network of mentors and peers who share an interest in entrepreneurship and innovation.  For additional information, students should contact LaunchNET in 140 Thwing Center.

Washington Study Program

The Washington Study Program provides students with the opportunity to complete a full-time, research-intensive internship in Washington, D.C.  By participating in a semester-length program during the fall or spring (WASH 2A Washington Center Internship ), students earn 9 credit-hours; for a summer internship (WASH 2D Washington Center Summer Internship), they earn 3 credit-hours.  In addition, students earn 3 credit-hours for participating in a seminar and attending a weekly lecture/discussion group (WASH 2B Washington Center - Politics and Public Policy Course) and 3 credit-hours by developing a portfolio based on their internship experiences (WASH 2C Washington Center - Portfolio).  The credits earned can be counted as general electives or applied to a student’s major or minor with the prior consent of the individual department(s).

To be eligible for the program, a student is expected to be a junior or senior and have a GPA of at least 3.000.  The program director, the student’s major advisor, and the appropriate dean in the Office of Undergraduate Studies must approve each application.  Students must ensure that their participation will not prevent them from meeting on-campus residency or other university requirements.