The future of higher education and the role of the REP4 Alliance was the focus of a two-day immersive gathering in Boise, Idaho, on September 29 & 30.
REP4, which stands for Rapid Education Prototyping for Change, Learners, Community, Equity, is a national alliance founded by GVSU and other universities across the country designed to empower students from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to take their education into their own hands.
Leaders of the alliance, including President Philomena Mantella, gathered to reflect on the journey so far, and to determine how to best allow REP4 to reach a broader audience. Since its inception in 2021, REP4 programs have engaged over 850 learners, giving many students an introduction to higher education that they may not have received before.
“We're taking the hard path of transforming organizations, and enabling others to see what we have of value that we can contribute,” said President Mantella. “I've never been in a place with a community that starts in a messy space, invites others in, adapts it in their own institution and in just a couple of years we're converging on what we need to do.”
In addition to REP4 leaders, at the gathering were students from participating universities who reflected on their own experiences, and advocates for higher education from across the country, including Daniel Williams, president and CEO of the Steelcase Foundation, and Jen Wells, senior program officer of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“Student voice is at the center of this collaboration,” said Wells. “In a lot of places across the country, students are the last consideration, and the most vulnerable students in the United States are even further behind being considered and centered. Part of the reason why it's so interesting and so delightful to collaborate with REP4 is because it’s completely unique. I've never seen a group or a meeting where there are presidents and students at the same table, ever. You're putting your money where your mouth is.”