The premiere of the 2023 REP4 National Convening December 13 highlighted ideas from high school students around the country who shared their ideas on how to make higher education more equitable and accessible to their peers.

REP4 National Convening celebrates the alliance's growth and gatherings in the past year

Grand Valley students and leaders gathered this week to watch the premiere of the REP4 National Convening , which celebrated 2023's accomplishments from the growing alliance and showcased the ideas of students who are at the heart of the work.

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.

The convening video highlighted the growth and accomplishments achieved by REP4 over the past year, including welcoming Illinois Institute of Technology to the alliance. This addition brings the official number of REP4 partners to seven.

REP4 also saw growth in its national profile. Alliance leaders traveled to Capitol Hill in July to meet with elected officials and other leaders in higher education for the first United Day of Advocacy. While there, REP4 leaders emphasized the importance of listening to student voices in higher education.

“We represent over 200,000 learners as institutions, and we are wonderfully diverse,” President Philomena V. Mantella said during remarks for that event, which were part of the National Convening presentation. “And it is through that diversity that we’re going to learn how innovation seeds, how it scales, how it may be supported.”

Mantella added that REP4 is about "empowering student voice for their own support, their own development, their own wonderful incredible journey, and to help us with our own institutional transformation.”

Emily Par claps after the premiere of the National Convening video.
President Mantella sits at a table with Grand Valley students and watched the convening video.

“We’re going through a paradigm shift that we haven’t seen for 150 years, and that is going from an industrial model to a knowledge economy,” said Mary Papazian, executive vice president of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, during the Capitol Hill event. “It’s part of the reason why engaging with our learners from all backgrounds is so incredibly important.” 

Alliance leaders also met in Boise, Idaho for a two-day immersive gathering to look back on REP4’s accomplishments so far, and to look ahead at the future of REP4 and higher education. 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 had before.

“We should be changing what we think about who merits access to a college education,” said Marlene Tromp, president of Boise State University. “And if we’re working together to think about how we differently serve students, then we actually change the future of higher education. That is the kind of thing that will change the world.” 

Among the speakers present in Boise were supporters Daniel Williams, president and CEO of the Steelcase Foundation , and Jen Wells, senior program officer of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation . Remarks from Williams and Wells were highlighted in the National Convening presentation, where they both praised alliance leaders for their willingness to step up and do the work needed to ensure that higher education is accessible and meaningful to all learners, regardless of their background.

GVSU faculty watch the national convening video. A screen with the video plays behind two people.

The National Convening also included student pitches and prototypes developed from past REP4 regional summits . These prototypes, including Financially Lit, a financial literacy app designed by GVSU students to teach their classmates about their own spending habits, are the result of students participating in REP4. 

The original pitches were presented at regional summits by high school students, then voted on during previous national convenings. Those chosen were developed into prototypes, and are now being implemented in their respective communities by groups of dedicated students. 

Grand Valley's 2023 National Convening watch party took place in the futureEDlab, where Mantella thanked those in attendance and gave a special shoutout to the T4 scholars present. 

“These students have demonstrated their ability to be not just college students or college completers, but leaders,” said Mantella. 

The T4 scholars are a part of a cohort made up of GVSU students who participated in previous REP4 regional summits as high schoolers. Abdul Ciise, who hosted the 2023 National Convening, mentors the group and assists in their transition from high school to college, and from college students to being REP4 leaders themselves.

Abdul Ciise smiles and watches the national convening video.
The premiere of the 2023 REP4 National Convening December 13 highlighted ideas from high school students around the country who shared their ideas on how to make higher education more equitable and accessible to their peers. Abdul Ciise, the host of the 2023 National Convening, watched the premiere during a screening party with other students and university leaders along with President Philomena V. Mantella.

“Eventually, they are going to be seniors and there’s going to be another group of students behind them,” said Ciise. “What I want to help them do is gain mentorship skills as they’re going through this process. So I help them reflect on their experiences and all the different problems they’re experiencing right now, then give them the ability to explain exactly what’s happening to them.” 

This year’s pitches are ready to be voted upon. Learn about them and choose your favorite using this survey

Visit to watch the National Convening, and to learn more about the work being done by the alliance.


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