Bob Neubert: Running Life Experiments

Faculty member talking with a student at a table, in a white room.

Prof. Bob Neubert is passionate about entrepreneurship and experiential learning. His approach centers on life planning methodologies, which he finds to be closely tied to experiential learning. Read more about what he values in experiential learning and how he views it as integral to his work and his students' lives.

Bob Neubert, a professor in the School of Management and the Director of Entrepreneurship Academic Programs, is a strong believer in the power of experiential learning. You can hear the ideas running off his tongue and the passion in his voice. He almost didn’t know where to start when asked what he values in experiential learning.

“Experiential learning allows students to explore potential areas where they might find an application for their unique capabilities. It’s a great way for them to build capacities and find their life passions. I believe that the best way forward in life is to participate in many experiences and then reflect on the experiences, give them a thumbs up or a thumbs down.”

Bob is a huge proponent of life planning methodologies, where students decide what their life story is going to be. “But before they can write their stories, they need to build a library of experiences to know where they want to spend their time.” He sums it up by saying, “The biggest value I find in experiential learning is to quickly give students the chance to explore all kinds of possible life pathways or versions of their future. It’s like running lots of experiments.”

Faculty member walking, and laughing with two students on campus, during a sunny day.

One program Bob developed exemplifies this idea of running life experiments: He helped to create a new concept in scientific education for high school students incorporating experiential learning opportunities. The Immersion Science program at Fox Chase Cancer Center is a three-phase program comprised of a one-day Health Careers Symposium that exposes 150-250 diverse high school students to the array of careers available at a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, followed by a 10-week laboratory research training course and, finally, independent summer research for individual students in Fox Chase research laboratories. The program is based on decades of one-on-one training experience for new students in research laboratories that incorporates self-teaching, short lectures, and immediate entry into hands-on, inquiry-based laboratory experiments. This program creates pathways for students who had never even seen health careers as possibilities.

For Bob, it all comes back to the life plan. It acts as scaffolding, giving actions context. And experiential learning helps create this scaffolding by allowing students to test the waters and rapidly develop the confidence and skills to build their own life. As for what the university brings to the table, he appreciates the exceptional quality of the students at UB and the structure that allows him to give his students these opportunities that set them apart. “What’s unique about the University at Buffalo’s ELN is that we give students lots of opportunities to explore different pathways without major investments of time or resources.”

As for his involvement with the ELN, he shares how it has helped him make connections: “The ELN has introduced me to a wide variety of students, which allows me to develop more effective methodologies. And the support system of people here is fantastic. As an entrepreneur, developing support networks is essential to advance.” For Bob, it’s all about the network, which is exactly what the ELN is here to be.


Written by Amanda Hellwig ‘19