Experiential Learning

See it. Do it. Learn it. Love it.

Hands-on, real-world experiences like co-ops and internships, study abroad, research, partnership participation, student clubs and activities, and more open the door for amazing opportunities that open your mind and expand your potential. Plus, experiences like these let you take career options for a test drive and discover the best one for you. 

Co-op and Internships

Students sitting around tables and working

RIT’s cooperative education program is a valuable part of your time here, one that gives you the opportunity to gain meaningful work experience before you graduate. It will also help you further define your career path and fully realize the value of what you are learning in the classroom.

Co-op is perhaps the most extensive and intensive of the experiential education opportunities at RIT. It is full-time, paid work experience directly related to your course of study and career interest. In addition to gaining professional work experience and developing a critical network of contacts, co-op is often the best way to develop necessary professional skills like leadership, decision making, flexibility, and independence. It may also provide you with a salary—real income you can apply toward tuition, books, and living expenses.

Learn more about co-op and experiential learning in the College of Liberal Arts

Student Research

A group of students working on a project together

Curious minds like yours are never satisfied settling with the status quo, and we couldn’t agree more. Our students are constantly asking “why,” “how,” and “what if…” of issues big and small. We explore the intersection of traditional social sciences and humanities with cutting-edge fields in health, computing, science, and engineering. This interdisciplinary research, along with an emphasis on community engagement and global perspectives, improves our understanding of the world around us and makes it a better place to live and work in for all members of society.

While building a network of connections with professors at RIT, you are encouraged to find people who are performing research in an area of your interest. You may have the opportunity to be hired as a research assistant, gaining experience, earning a paycheck, and potentially fulfilling your program’s co-op/experiential learning requirement. Each year, students in the College of Liberal Arts co-author research that is published in peer-reviewed journals and presented at professional conferences. Most degree programs also include a senior thesis or capstone project where you’ll dive into a topic of personal interest.

  1. PROJECT T.I.P.S. (Trust, Information, Programs, Services)- Initiative focused on improving relations between law enforcement and members of the communities in which they serve.
  2. The Shooting Database Project- Studying how shooting databases can be utilized to guide violence intervention programs.
  3. The Gun Debate- Collecting information and points-of-view to further the national discussion on guns, gun violence, and gun policy.
  4. Empower - Exploring the differences between what workers are taught in school/training programs and what skills/competencies are required in the 21st century workforce.
  5. POWER- Studying skills gaps present in the Rochester-area photonics industry workforce.   
  6. Economic Motivations for Software Bug Bounties- Analyzing why software and web developers offer recognition and/or compensation to individuals who detect errors or security breaches in their products.
  7. Human-Environment Relationships Throughout History- Examining archaeological evidence to determine how humans hunted and farmed, as well as how constraints in their environment impacted how they lived.  
  8. Applied Transmedia Storytelling- Telling stories of complex fictional worlds across multiple media formats, such as books, movies, comics, television, etc., to create a cohesive entertainment experience. (Think fictional universes, like Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Marvel.)

Study Away in L.A.

Transmedia Storytelling and Entertainment in Los Angeles

Open to RIT students from all majors and offered collaboratively by the College of Liberal Arts and RIT Global, this new program is an opportunity to spend a semester in L.A. learning about the power of multi-dimensional storytelling while immersed in the entertainment industry. You will take a minimum of 12 credits, participate in a professional experience, and engage in the entertainment industry in weekly excursions.

Learn more > 

Study Abroad

Students in Portugal on Study Abroad holding RIT sign

A truly global education, the kind that prepares you for personal and professional success in an interdependent world, knows no boundaries. That is why RIT maintains a comprehensive study abroad program that provides you opportunities for travel off-campus and beyond U.S. borders. You become immersed in a culture apart from your own while gaining an international perspective on specific areas of academic interest. More than that, study abroad can transform you personally, and give you a clearer view of the world at large. So get out there and explore!

International experiences allow you to challenge yourself, enhance your cultural understanding and gain key career skills.

  • Examine your field of study from a new perspective and meet global innovators.
  • Gain professional skills that will set you apart as a leader in a globalized work environment.
  • Solve problems, take on new challenges and discover something you never knew you had in you.
  • Follow your curiosity and immerse yourself in a new culture.

Liberal arts students who recently studied abroad have done things like:

  • Created an interactive art installation in Paris
  • Used the cityscapes of Portugal to create a fictional world
  • Stayed with local families in Japan to experience everyday life and enhance Japanese
    language skills
  • Examined how museums preserve and enhance cultural heritage in Paris, Rome & Madrid
  • Created audiovisual documentary pieces inspired by Spanish media pioneers
  • Wrote critical reviews and analysis of London stage performances

RIT offers more than 600 study abroad programs in 60+ countries for as short as one week to as long as a full year.

Faculty-Led Programs
Designed and developed by RIT faculty members, who lead a group of students abroad. Often short-term (between one to five weeks taking place over winter break, spring break or summer) these programs are easy to fit into academic schedules and offer hands-on, project based courses.

RIT Global Campuses
Directly enroll in one of RIT’s international campuses located in Dubrovnik & Zagreb, Croatia; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Pristina, Kosovo; Beijing & Weihei, China. Each campus offers a selection of liberal arts coursework.

Affiliate Programs
RIT partners with other universities and organizations to enhance the variety of study abroad locations and course offerings available to students

Exchange programs
Culturally immersive programs that allow you to directly enroll in a local university and are usually major specific.

International Research
Conduct research abroad at one of RIT's approved overseas partners with the guidance of an RIT faculty member.

More about study abroad for Liberal Arts majors >

Learn how to get started >

Search programs via the study abroad Compass >

Global Opportunity (GO) Grant
All College of Liberal Arts majors/double majors receive a one-time automatic $500 grant to study abroad on an RIT Global Campus, Faculty-Led, Exchange, or affiliate program.

     To receive the GO Grant you must:

     How the grant is awarded:

  • You do not need to apply for the GO Grant. The RIT Education Abroad office will automatically award the scholarship funds once you’ve been accepted and confirmed on your study abroad program.
  • The grant will post to your RIT eServices account in the term you are registered for your study abroad program.
  • Note that while you are able to study abroad more than once if you would like, the GO Grant can only be used once for a study abroad experience.

Student Travel Fund
The College of Liberal Arts Student Travel Fund awards grant money to students enrolled in liberal arts degree programs for the purposes of funding travel. Grants up to $500 can be awarded to cover travel costs associated with presenting original research papers at professional conferences nationwide and internationally, while grants up to $750 can be awarded to help fund a study abroad program.

Online In-Demand Career Skill Building

For qualified RIT undergrad students, the RIT Global Career Accelerator offers online, credit-bearing tracks that build in-demand career skills, count toward RIT degree requirements, and lead to specialized certifications. Four track options— Digital Marketing; Coding for Web; Data Analytics; and Coding for Data—are offered during the summer and fall. Applications are required, and the program is open to matriculated RIT baccalaureate degree seeking students only. Learn more >

Grand Challenges Scholars Program


The complex problems and opportunities facing humanity in the 21st century require a blend of science, technology, and engineering with a solid grounding in the liberal arts. Understanding social, cultural, psychological, and other important factors are key when developing effective and long-lasting solutions. As one of fewer than 75 schools in the world participating in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges Scholars Program, RIT students and faculty from the College of Liberal Arts and Kate Gleason College of Engineering are working together to improve life on the planet for all people by addressing 14 grand challenges:

  • Provide access to clean water
  • Advance personalized learning
  • Make solar energy economical
  • Enhance virtual reality
  • Reverse-engineer the brain
  • Engineer better medicines
  • Advance health informatics
  • Restore and improve urban infrastructure
  • Secure cyberspace
  • Provide energy from fusion
  • Prevent nuclear terror
  • Manage the nitrogen cycle
  • Develop carbon sequestration methods
  • Engineer the tools of scientific discovery      


For more information on the goals of the program, visit the NAE Grand Challenges and the NAE Grand Challenges Scholars Program.

RIT’s Grand Challenges Scholars Program is highly flexible, allowing you to customize the program to match your interests. You’ll take interdisciplinary coursework and collaborate with students majoring in RIT’s engineering programs on research projects addressing the grand challenges.  

 To participate in the program, simply let your academic adviser know you’re interested! He or she will walk you through the on-boarding process and register you for the appropriate classes. Once you join the program, you’ll work with an adviser and submit a proposal that identifies how you intend to achieve the following five core competencies:

  1. Research/Creativity – Mentored research or creative experience on a Grand Challenge-like topic
  2. Multicultural Understanding – Understanding of cultures, preferably through a multicultural/global experience, to ensure cultural acceptance of proposed solutions.
  3. Multidisciplinary – Understanding of multidisciplinary system solutions, developed through engagement.
  4. Viable Business/Entrepreneurship – Understanding, preferably developed through experience, of the necessity of a viable business model for solution implementation.
  5. Social Consciousness – Understanding that solutions should serve primarily people and society, reflecting social consciousness. 

You will be assigned a faculty mentor to advise you on your plan and progress toward becoming a Grand Challenges Scholar. You’ll also maintain an electronic portfolio of your work in the program which you can use to impress prospective employers or graduate school admissions counselors. Finally, at graduation, you’ll receive a medal and formal recognition as a Grand Challenges Scholar.

To learn more about the RIT Grand Challenge Scholars Program, contact the College of Liberal Arts GCSP coordinator Dr. Andy Herbert at amhgss@rit.edu.

Rochester area partnerships

High falls in Rochester

Connecting with the Rochester community brings a wealth of personal and professional opportunities to students at RIT. We partner with organizations in the area to extend our classrooms beyond campus and allow you unique experiences—think researching how penguins perceive the world or writing the script for a Halloween tour of a 19th century historic village. There are opportunities for research, working a co-op or internship, and connecting with leaders in the community for students in all of our degree programs.

RIT University/Community Partnerships is an on-campus resource that supports neighborhood revitalization activities in the city of Rochester while integrating community-based learning and research into RIT’s academic programs. University/Community Partnerships provides you with the unique opportunity to work on hands-on, real world projects with community leaders and neighborhood residents. Through course work, internships, co-ops, independent study, and capstone projects you can strengthen your academic and professional portfolio by partnering with individuals working to transform their communities.  Through University/Community Partnerships' initiatives, you apply what you learn in the classroom to projects identified as critical by individuals working to develop their physical environment (housing, lots, streetscape), to improve their quality of life (health, diet, exercise, art and recreation) and to enhance their skills (leadership, civic engagement, community building).

RIT and the Seneca Park Zoo work together on mutually-beneficial projects and research in areas such as animal cognition and perception, visitor engagement and education, and marketing and social media management. The zoo’s Center for Biodiversity Exploration is a direct result of the partnership with RIT—it’s an interactive experience for zoo guests of all ages to learn more about biodiversity and environmental health. Research on animal perception and cognition conducted at the zoo by RIT

The RIT-GCV&M partnership provides opportunities for you to combine historic and 21st-century techniques to innovate and enrich visitor experiences at one of the country’s preeminent living history museums. Since the fall 2016, RIT faculty, students, and staff have partnered with the museum in areas such as marketing, social media strategy and analysis, driving tourism through events, engineering a historically-accurate printing press, developing interactive digital content for visitors, designing exhibitions and curating galleries, and preparing STEM-focused educational activities. Located 20 minutes from campus, GCV&M is the largest living history museum in New York and the third largest in the United States. The museum campus contains 68 historic structures, 175 acres of nature trails, and a fine art gallery with paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures as well as 3,500 historic costumes.

Scholarships and Awards

Students dressed up, holding awards

We understand that as a student, costs can arise that are oftentimes separate from tuition.  Maybe it’s a co-op with your dream company, or a study abroad trip in a city you’ve always wanted to visit. Maybe you’re working on a research project and supplies are expensive. Whatever it is, we want to help.

That’s why we have funds set aside to help our students cover the costs associated with the hands-on, out-of-the-classroom things that make an RIT education so amazing. Your advisor will help you navigate the application process to give you the best opportunity to be selected for these funds and grants.

Read the full list of College of Liberal Arts scholarships and grants that support experiential learning and more. >