Evening & Weekend Studies

Winter 2013 Stories

Prior Learning From Experience: Applying Your Past to Your Future

By Kevin Petrie

Grant Gilmore, Ann Shiefer and Nancy Parkes Image
(left) Grant Gilmore, Ann Shiefer, Nancy Parkes

When Anne Schiefer decided to return to college after a 20-year career working with juvenile offenders, she found herself drawn to Evergreen’s Prior Learning from Experience program. “The fact that I could get college credit for my work experience was big,” she explains.

The Prior Learning from Experience (PLE) program allows students to earn credit by documenting college equivalent professional and life experience. Students begin with the prerequisite class Writing from Life, then go on to the PLE program itself, where they write essays that document their learning.

“PLE was the first thing I wanted to attempt,” says Grant Gilmore, a student returning to college at age 39 after an extensive career in business and sustainability. I wanted to figure out how my professional training and experience equates to college learning. I always regretted not getting my degree, and the time bonus through PLE was fantastic.”

Through PLE, accepted students are able to earn 20 credits for the classes they take while writing essays documenting learning, and may earn an additional 29 credits for learning demonstrated in the document itself. This can cut down “time to degree” for many students, as well as give them the validation of earning credit for the knowledge they have gained throughout their lives. Students can earn credit in business, computing, program development, cultural studies, psychology, and many other fields of study.

PLE faculty member Nancy Parkes has taught writing and public policy at Evergreen for 16 years, after a career in public policy and journalism. “What I love about this program is that it honors the knowledge these students bring,” Parkes says. “This is a true learning community. Students collaborate to produce essays and evidence that earns them college credit. Life-long friendships and business relationships begin in PLE.”

Faculty guidance is key in PLE, and recognized by students. “Nancy brings her writing experience, her incredible life experience to the class. I really appreciate that,” Schiefer says. Parkes, who only recently took over the program, has established working relationships with Evergreen’s writing center, academic advising, and career advising to help support PLE students.

The PLE program provides more than just a block of credits. Students have the opportunity to re-examine their experience while transitioning back into an academic environment, along with a diverse and supportive group of peers. “PLE has allowed me to go back and look at what I’ve done differently,” Gilmore says. “I’ve sharpened what I do at work as well. My work has enhanced my school and my school has enhanced my work.”

Prospective students interested in Prior Learning from Experience may contact the faculty at parkesn@evergreen.edu to receive a questionnaire and more information.