Immersive Learning

Indy Chamber News Archives

By: Sarah Hempstead AIA, LEED AP, Principal, Schmidt Associates

Immersive learning, engaging the user wholeheartedly in the subject being studied, is critical for the adult learner. It allows us to develop skills, work on new ideas, and retain knowledge in unprecedented ways. Hands down, to accomplish those goals, travel is my favorite immersive learning experience. New places, new people, and new ideas, all readily available and easy to engage, it just takes getting up and going.

As I consider my various trips over the years, ranging from the very very cheap, (like a tree house commune outside of Savannah), to the heavily swanktified, the common thread is the immersive experience. In any location, at any price, when I chose to fully engage in a new environment, through shopping at the market, visiting a school, touring a cathedral, even taking an early morning walk, I always grew as a person and as a designer. 

This is especially relevant as I consider the legacy of the Indy Chamber’s Leadership Exchange (LEX) trips over the years. From Austin, to Portland, to Nashville, the trips are structured to allow for a full immersion experience. They accomplish this in a myriad of ways, but the most valuable by far include;

Having access to the best and brightest in each city lets us borrow great ideas and ask questions about failures. “What do we do better? What can we do differently? What should we ABSOLUTELY steal for Indianapolis? 

Maybe it’s the architect in me, but you simply cannot understand a city without being there. Surrounded by a new place, culture shines through, and adjusts our view of what works and what simply does not. It exposes us to the results of great (or terrible) ideas. Furthermore, it enhances the depth of our understanding of the aforementioned great speakers, by immersing ourselves (even for a short time) in their world.

Maybe the most valuable time of all, unstructured time, offers access to the rest of the people in a place, (translation- the vast majority of the citizens), and conversations with unpaid, not on the official agenda, people can inform our specific industry and interest, or allow us to look at an official solution through a new lens.

Time for analysis, debate, and processing what we saw with others, who are equally committed to the success of Indianapolis, lets new ideas stick, and grow into something better.

We are all learners and need new places, new people, and new ideas, to constantly raise the level of our own thinking. Whether you join the Indy Chamber LEX delegation or not- take time this year to immerse yourself in someplace new. It might be your best education of 2015.

As a Principal at Schmidt Associates, Sarah leads both the university and urban environments studios. Whether it’s on a college campus or in a downtown setting, she recognizes that architecture makes a strong impact, presenting the opportunity to enrich people’s lives.

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