Founder, a director resign; EXL continues


Kristina Aiad-Toss

Students talk with EXL staff about their ideas in Beirce Library.

By Benjamin Holda, [email protected]

Ian Schwarber, the resource director at UA’s year-old Experiential Learning Center (EXL), announced his resignation from that position on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

Schwarber’s last day is on Oct. 21, but, as stated in a letter sent to interim President Matthew Wilson, he will “continue to assist or aid the EX[L] Center, if needed, on a consulting basis” through the end of the year, or Dec. 31.

This follows the resignation on Sept. 16 of the Center’s founder, Jeff Hoffman, whose last day is Sept. 30. Hoffman, in an Akron Beacon Journal article of Sept. 16, cited a lack of funding and support from the UA administration as contributing to his decision.

Schwarber, however, cites the reason for his departure as a “shift in strategy and priority of the center, itself,” according to his resignation letter.

I wish the university the best possible future with the very exciting opportunity that this new leadership presents,” Schwarber said in an emailed statement. “As a homegrown Akronite, I want only to see this place shine as brightly as possible.”

Carolyn Behrman, UA anthropology professor and faculty director of collaboration at EXL, says it is unclear what the staffing of the Center will be, as “the situation is still in flux.”

“The president and provost are working with us to figure out what will work best to keep the EXL Center running and working with faculty, students, and community partners to provide experiential learning opportunities to the students of Akron.”

As Schwarber and Behrman suggest, the Center continues to operate, running its three inaugural courses and planning future offerings.

Behrman says an “Unclass” on commuter student culture is planned for next semester. “Unclasses,” for those unfamiliar, are a new concept from EXL that bring together professors from different departments to address some pressing issue in the community and, by the end of the semester, implement a solution.

“The thought is that we are, in fact, a commuting student campus. We can try really hard to move people into dorms, but even so they still empty out on weekends,” Behrman said. “This class will allow us to describe commuter student culture and change the University to align better with the student body.”

The EXL Center is also now running its three inaugural courses, which include a community climate change “Unclass” led by Peter Niewiarowski of the biology department and Matt Kolodziej of the painting and drawing department.

This “Unclass” consists of two phases. The first, which occurred in the spring semester, involved designing how the class itself was going to be structured. Given the general theme of community climate change, students had to gauge what improvements the community surrounding the University would want, and the enthusiasm for change.

Using that, they created a structure for community engagement and presented a class proposal to be enacted in the second phase, which is currently underway and is set to run to completion during the fall semester. The proposal drafted involves the revitalization and utilization of the unused space and storefronts around the city.

The first several weeks of the class are spent talking, gaining insights and opinions from the different perspectives held by the students and faculty on the opposing ideas of integration versus separation.

For more information on enrolling in an EXL course or discovering programs, go to the EXL Center on the first floor of Bierce Library, or visit its website at:

Schwarber, despite the resignations, expressed his confidence in the future of EXL.

Grant Morgan contributed reporting to this article.