Student Learning Academy aims to improve education

Students now have an additional opportunity to speak directly to the Washington State University administration and encourage change. The new President’s Student Learning Academy will give students a chance to voice concerns about their education and overall experience at WSU.

The academy aims to be the student’s version of the President’s Teaching Academy for faculty.

“WSU will be one of the first in the nation to have such a mechanism for student academic involvement,” ASWSU president Brea Thompson said.

“Often administrators come to me to ask my opinion as representative of all students,” Thompson said. “I realized this issue needed more voices than just one and that it had to be institutionalized.”

Academic deans and urban campus chancellors chose 16 students to represent the different colleges and programs throughout the university.

“I hope some of the problems we see now will be eliminated,” said Rachel Davis, College of Sciences representative.

“I don’t want future students to run into some of the problems and roadblocks that I have run into.”

One of the issues she hopes to bring into light is the level of preparation of teaching assistants. “You can’t not allow graduate students to teach,” Davis said. “But we need to give graduate students better instruction on how to teach — maybe even a course. We also need to make the classroom an open environment so that students feel comfortable asking questions of their TAs.”

For Tom Reinhardt, representative of the College of Business, getting professors and students to communicate more effectively is a top priority.

“I would like to see more students interact with faculty,” he said. “Faculty are more interested in teaching when they know the students on a personal level, although many students don’t put out that effort themselves!”

Both Davis and Reinhardt feel a strong need to not only train teaching assistants, but to regulate instructor evaluations as well. “We could possibly have a smaller group within each college to manage the evaluations a bit better,” Reinhardt said. “Right now, if a student is upset, he can give an irrational evaluation of an instructor.”

The 16 representatives will meet on a regular basis with Vice Provost Doug Baker. During these meetings, students aim to discuss and bring to the table issues needing attention within their respective colleges and across the university.

Some of the topics being considered for review include student orientation, advising, active engagement and undergraduate research.

“(Students) have the potential to change the culture of WSU,” Thompson said. “I just think we have been ignoring our best resource: the students!”

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