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Equine science, mechanical engineering partner for experiential learning

Published: 14 August 2012

For the second year, the NDSU Equine Science program partnered with the Department of Mechanical Engineering to offer equine experiential team building and leadership training to students enrolled in the Pre-Engineering Education Collaborative. The collaborative, starting the third year of a five-year program funded by a $4.8 million National Science Foundation Grant, connects NDSU with four North Dakota tribal colleges to prepare and support Native American students who want to pursue an engineering career. The goal is to improve the diversity and education of engineering graduates in the state and to expand the resource on reservations.

This year, 13 individuals – nine students, three of whom are in their second summer experience, and four tribal college instructors – participated in the equine-guided training as part of the 12-day summer session at NDSU. Equine-guided experiential learning is based on the premise that human interactions with horses are essentially pure from the horse’s perspective. Horses survive by reading the body language of other animals and consequently offer a very literal mirror of human intention and emotion. 

After participating in specially designed exercises with the horses, participants process their actions and those of their team. Differences in leadership style as well as concepts of leadership, team building and communication are addressed through post-exercise discussions. Because the insights reaped from expertly guided sessions come out of experiential learning, the retention and impact of those experiences are greatly enhanced.

Bob Pieri, NDSU principal investigator for the grant and professor of mechanical engineering, said “The students and instructors I’ve talked with say that they really saw leadership skills in a different light after the session. The horses have proven to be a great training aid. We are planning on continuing the session in the future.” 

For more information on equine experiential learning opportunities at NDSU, contact Erika Berg at erika.berg@ndsu.edu

NDSU is recognized as one of the nation's top 108 public and private universities by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education. 


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Last Updated: Sunday, August 25, 2013