The need for equity and innovation in public education and how the Grand Valley-led REP4 Alliance seeks to tackle that need was highlighted this week on the Better Futures Lab speaker series by Steelcase Inc.
Speaking with moderator and Steelcase Foundation President Daniel Williams, Grand Valley President Philomena V. Mantella highlighted how the learner-focused nature of the REP4 program (REP4 stands for Rapid Education Prototyping) can help level the field by creating a new invitation to higher education where diverse learners help create the future of higher education.
During the conversation, Mantella focused on five points that are critical to the future of education that REP4 is working to help address:
- Educational systems need to recognize and address the disparity of degree attainment between socioeconomic groups. Mantella noted that while more than 60 percent of those in the upper income quartile attain degrees within eight years of completing high school, only 15 percent of people in the bottom income quartile do so.
- It’s important to recognize that there isn’t a single educational system to change, but many interwoven systems that impact one another with a variety of stakeholders playing roles.
- Education is not a one-size-fits-all operation. In considering educational changes, it’s important to not think one model will work when there are so many different ways people learn.
- Future-proofing learning requires learners themselves to engage in embracing a love of life-long learning and utilizing slow-changing systems to shape their own educational journeys..
- Educators need respect and support to innovate. “We have to not only critique those within the current system that has a level of failure, but we have to support those who are willing to toil through the journey to get to a better place,” she said.
Mantella lauded Steelcase’s leadership in supporting the quest for new ways to innovate, including REP4.
“The thing that I love about Steelcase’s Better Futures community is it is focused on being a source for inspiration,” she said. “It’s focused on helping to identify models that can be scaled, that can be replicated, and that’s really what REP4 is about at its heart.”
REP4, an alliance Mantella created alongside presidents across the country with Grand Valley as the founding partner, is designed to engage first-generation and underrepresented populations through a design-thinking process that challenges them to come up with ways to make access to higher education more equitable for learners from diverse backgrounds with diverse learning styles. Long term, the goal is to find ways improve outcomes for a broader spectrum of students.
Mantella said REP4 is designed to mobilize learners as chief architects of their education. She views the program as a “National Inspiration Accelerator.” She presented several ideas that are now being developed into prototypes based on student ideas created during REP4 regional summits and that were further showcased at a National Convening held in September.
Today the REP4 Alliance consists of Grand Valley, Amarillo College, a community college in Texas; Boise State University, a Research II university in Idaho; Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU), a statewide system of higher education; Fort Valley State University, an HBCU (Historically Black College or University) in Georgia; San Diego State University, an HSI (Hispanic-Serving Institution) and AANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution) in California; and Shippensburg University, part of the state system in Pennsylvania.
The complete Better Futures Lab webcast can be viewed at Steelcase’s Better Futures Lab website.