GVSU students involved in early stages of REP4 concept enthusiastic about its impact on higher education

Two Grand Valley students who had critical roles in the early stages of REP4, the recently announced national alliance of six institutions that engages students as co-designers of solutions to higher education's challenges with equity and access, are inspired by the initiative.

Dionne Pinto-Guerra and Julian Sanders served as mentors for the learner summit held on the Allendale Campus in June 2020 that seeded the initial concept for REP4.

Their involvement has been crucial to the development of the initiative, where students are the co-designers of the education prototypes for actionable solutions to improve outcomes and remove barriers. The best ideas will be scaled nationwide through the alliance to maximize impact.

GVSU is REP4's convener and organizer. The other five founding institutions are Amarillo College, Boise State University, Fort Valley State University, San José State University and Shippensburg University. In total, the founders serve more than 100,000 students.

Pinto-Guerra and Sanders share the stories of their involvement below.

Dionne Pinto-Guerra, psychology major

Pinto-Guerra quickly realized a GVSU employment opportunity in Summer 2020 had the potential to significantly blossom.

"When they hired me and explained what the job entailed, I got a sense of how this is bigger than me," said Pinto-Guerra, who signed on to be an advisor for the Learner Engagement Challenge.

Dionne Pinto-Guerra
Dionne Pinto-Guerra

Pinto-Guerra worked with high school students for the learner summit, helping them craft a pitch to President Philomena V. Mantella on the benefits of a theme-based high school curriculum with a goal of making clear connections to careers. 

Pinto-Guerra said she is pleased that REP4 emphasizes listening to all student voices.

"I think it's an amazing concept," Pinto-Guerra said. "I think students more than anybody should have a say in how they're taught. They deserve to talk about their experiences and what they need for education."

This initiative provides many benefits for learners and their educational pursuits, Pinto-

Guerra said. Preparing high school students for what to expect in higher education and how to navigate that world will foster more success, she said.

She also believes REP4 will help institutions become more culturally and socially aware in matters ranging from providing a broader range of perspectives in subject matters such as history to ensuring those providing campus services consider the backgrounds and experiences of all students.

Julian Sanders, political science major

When he considers his high school experience, Julian Sanders thinks having a concept such as REP4 in place would have helped spur his motivation for education at an even earlier age.

Sanders, who served as a mentor as well as the technical lead for the Learner Engagement Challenge in Summer 2020, said putting a system in place emphasizing the need for a broader spectrum curriculum would help engage students from all backgrounds.

Julian Sanders
Julian Sanders

He also said REP4 is key for ensuring equity: "REP4 has really addressed equitable outcomes for learners who have faced exclusionary barriers."

He said his experience working with students showed they are eager to take advantage of the opportunity to co-design educational outcomes, giving them a chance as youths to be pioneers.

"With the questions they asked, the ideas they created behind prototypes and the reflections they would share as they wrapped up, we were witnessing how important it is to them to learn," Sanders said.

Education is fundamental to success for individuals and the country, Sanders said, making an initiative such as REP4 that focuses on equity and access even more imperative.

"I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, so I witnessed those areas with unequal access to good education," Sanders said. "I'm glad to have been part of this. It's an honor and very humbling."


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