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REP4: Giving the next generation tools to change higher education

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The ideas for higher education innovation came from all corners of the country: Michigan, Idaho, Texas, Pennsylvania and Georgia. They originated from teams as diverse in their backgrounds as in their geography.

The common thread among the ideas: All were dreamed up by high school students at REP4 Regional Summits over the summer.

That’s the idea behind REP4 (Rapid Education Prototyping): Give the next generation of college students the tools to innovate and set them free to do it.

Events held at REP4 Alliance member schools, including Grand Valley, Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, Fort Valley State University in Georgia, Amarillo College in Texas, and Boise State University in Idaho, did just that.

Hundreds of students, many representing populations traditionally underrepresented in higher education, were introduced to design-thinking skills frequently used in business. They then used those skills to brainstorm and hone ideas for colleges and universities to develop into new ways of reaching underserved populations.

The work culminated in a national convening, hosted by Grand Valley, which highlighted some of the best ideas and provided the same students with a chance to upvote their favorite REP4 prototypes.

“The most important piece of the work is that you discover more about yourself and what you want. You understand you have power in this educational journey,” President Philomena V. Mantella told participants in the Regional Summit held in Allendale over the summer. 

Mantella watched the premiere of the virtual national convening in her office with previous REP4 participants who are now attending Grand Valley.

Jordan Bernal, from Victoria, Texas, had been part of one of the first REP4 student cohorts in 2020.

“Seeing what we did in summer 2020 turn into something like this, and to see it grow, and keep growing is exciting,” Bernal said after viewing the program. “Being apart of it the whole way makes me feel proud and honored.”

Voting on the top ideas from the national convening continued into late October with hundreds of classrooms around the country expected to participate. 

Two ideas originating with students who attended the summer summits at Grand Valley included:

Monthly Care Package: An app that allows students to select from a wide variety of basic products they need and have them delivered to their residence. Offerings may include food, toiletries and other products designed to make college life easier for those in need.

Project 180: Grand Valley State University: An app designed to reverse the perception of failure into a lesson that can be used to create positive outcomes for students. The app can also connect students to personal, professional assistance, if desired.

Students with Rep4 t-shirts smile and make a number 4 sign with their fingers in a downtown setting

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