REP4 National Convening celebrates student architects of higher education change

A national alliance dedicated to transforming higher education by empowering students to shape their educations is growing and ready to showcase a dynamic year that included meeting with elected officials and other leaders on Capitol Hill.

Leaders for REP4, which stands for Rapid Education Prototyping for Change, Learners, Community, Equity, will present a National Convening at 1 p.m. Dec. 13 that highlights the progress and continued momentum of the national alliance founded by Grand Valley State University and a diverse set of learner-focused colleges and universities across the country.

The National Convening will also include an opportunity to view student pitches and prototypes designed to strengthen and transform education. Register and watch the National Convening on the REP4 website . Viewers and visitors to the REP4 website will have the opportunity to upvote their favorite pitches after the premiere.

" The solutions being created by REP4's students demonstrate the benefits of giving learners the opportunity to be architects of their educational journey and our universities," said GVSU President Philomena V. Mantella. "The confidence and skills that REP4 brings out in students will help us grow the changemakers and leaders of the future."

Nine people stand in a line in a stadium with a blue football field. They are using their hands to signal the number "four."
REP4 leaders gathered with students in Idaho to assess and discuss REP4.

Illinois Institute of Technology recently joined the national alliance, which besides Grand Valley also includes Amarillo College, Boise State University, California State University San Marcos, Connecticut State Colleges & Universities, Fort Valley State University and Shippensburg University. Together, the alliance schools serve over 200,000 learners. 

The mission of REP4 and the emphasis on student agency made it a good fit for Illinois Institute of Technology to join the national alliance, said President Raj Echambadi.

“REP4 is an inspiring model for reimagining higher education designed by students for students," Echambadi said. " I believe these student-centered innovations have the profound potential to transform the lives of learners, driving opportunity not only for themselves but also for their families, communities, and societies. As a comprehensive technology university committed to expanding and fueling student access and success, we are honored to participate in the REP4 Alliance.”

Some other key moments in the National Convening presentation include REP4 leaders traveling to Washington, D.C. to meet with Capitol Hill officials as part of the first Unified Day of Advocacy. Viewers will also see highlights from a gathering in Boise, Idaho where leaders and students assessed their work so far and discussed broadening REP4's reach. Key supporters Daniel Williams, president and CEO of the Steelcase Foundation , and Jen Wells, senior program officer of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation , also offered remarks regarding the power and potential of REP4 practices. 

REP4 has engaged more than 850 learners since its 2021 inception, giving many students an introduction to higher education that they may not have otherwise received. These students have participated in the central features of the program, including annual regional summits where learners brainstorm and develop prototypes to provide more equitable access to education.

Three people wearing goggles react during a chemistry lab experiment.
REP4 participants react to an experiment during a chemistry lab campus experience at the Midwest Learner Design Summit on the Allendale Campus.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

Some of that work is already coming to fruition.

For instance, a prototype developed and presented in 2021 has helped launch a financial literacy platform that is in testing now at Grand Valley with a plan for wider distribution. Another 2021 prototype in development is creating assessments beyond scores and grades to show a broad range of the strengths and capabilities that indicate students have a place at college.

Just as they are in REP4, student voices are prominent in the National Convening presentation, where viewers will hear about learners' ideas and inspirations as well as how important it is for them to be heard and serve as architects for the future of higher education.

Ngun Hniar, a first-year student at GVSU and a T4 scholar , said participating in REP4 has inspired a change in perspective.

"REP4 allowed us to know ourselves as creators and to think creatively and unconventionally about our educational system. The steps I took in leaving my comfort zone in high school allowed me to climb to many new opportunities," Hniar said. "I could not have imagined that REP4 could have helped me land a full scholarship, but most importantly be granted such an amazing opportunity for higher education as a Burmese immigrant."


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