Lurie College Reimagines the Future of Education at the Inaugural Learner Design Summit

San José State’s Connie L. Lurie College of Education hosted a free Learner Design Summit to kickstart an ongoing dialogue about the future of education.

Rebeca Burciaga and Veneice Guillory-Lacy REP4

SJSU Lurie College faculty Rebeca Burciaga (left) and Veneice Guillory-Lacy (right) helped create the Learner Design Summit in July 2021. Photo by Robert Bain.

How do you design inclusive models for teaching and learning? It’s simple: Ask the students.

Last week, the Lurie College held its first Learner Design Summit to launch SJSU’s regional Rapid Education Prototyping (REP4) Alliance.

The REP4 Alliance is a powerful network of regional and national education, industry and technology leaders, led by the six founding higher education partners, including the Lurie College. This alliance brings together diverse learners to develop new ideas for higher education programming using liberatory design principles.

At the summit, a total of 25 local students, including rising 11th and 12th graders, recent high school graduates, community college students and SJSU undergraduates collaborated and designed creative proposals, or “prototypes,” to address existing challenges in the higher education system.

“A prototype is a pitch that students prepare to showcase the needs and solutions that create institutional change,” said Rebeca Burciaga, professor of educational leadership and Chicana and Chicano Studies as well as the faculty executive director of SJSU’s Institute of Emancipatory Education (IEE).

“SJSU student mentors are leading what we call ‘dream teams’ to dream up these ideas. We hope to find ways to incorporate their solutions and perhaps work with campus leaders to make those immediate changes.”

San José State President Mary Papazian kicked off the weeklong event with a message for the Spartan community.

“We believe that initiatives such as emancipatory education and REP4 support the development of equitable and inclusive educational systems that nurture the creativity and brilliance of all learners so that our diverse, democratic society can truly thrive,” she said.

“Collectively, the themes of this work are well-aligned with SJSU’s interests in advancing and transforming our educational systems, which many of us believe are in urgent need of radical change.”

The Equity Ambassadors team will be presenting their prototype on Aug. 5. Photo credit: Robert Bain.

Summit participants presented their proposals to SJSU campus leadership this week. Faculty advisors selected the top two group finalists: the Creative Connections team, which provided recommendations for pairing high school students with college mentors, and the Equity Ambassadors team, which suggested creating a career support program for low-income, immigrant and first-generation students.

Both groups will be sharing their prototypes in the online REP4 National Convening on August 5, which brings together student leaders from across the country. By presenting their prototypes to a national audience, the SJSU finalists will have the chance to have their ideas included in REP4’s online search tool for education partners. The repository will make it possible for schools to search for education prototypes that can be put into practice and lead to more equitable education.

“REP4 at SJSU gave high school students and college students alike the opportunity to dream up and reimagine what higher education could look like in the future,” said Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership Veneice Guillory-Lacy, who helped design the agenda and curriculum for the summit.

“It was amazing to witness the students come up with inclusive, equitable and transformational prototypes. We have been blown away by the ingenuity and creativity the REP4 students have displayed in such a short amount of time. We are excited for the future of higher education.”

Creating connections

The Creative Connections team will be presenting at the REP4 National Convening on Aug. 5. The team is composed of SJSU designer Joy Everson, ’22 Mathematics, SJSU mentor Vinson Vu, ’23 Business Administration, community college designer JC Jacinto and high school designers Simon Cha and Amelie Pak. Photo by Robert Bain.

“I really, really enjoyed this experience of meeting and connecting with great people,” said JC Jacinto, one of the community college design leaders. “Everybody shared what problems they had faced, and that really opened up my mind to see what we can do and what we need to change.”

High school design leader Nicole Hoang added that she attended the summit because she wanted to “solve student debt,” but decided to zero in on specific student costs.

“We were able to come up with this really smart solution of partnering with companies to pay for student textbooks,” she said. “Our presentation template and our student mentors were super helpful, and I really enjoyed this experience.”

“REP4 is directly connected to the transformative mission of SJSU and the emancipatory vision of our Institute for Emancipatory Education,” said Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College.

“IEE is founded on the principles of centering marginalized learners, partnering with community and bridging boundaries. These principles will guide our work with REP4.”

The national event will take the best ideas from regional summits to the next level and is hosted by Grand Valley State University. There, learners will present, advocate and respond to questions about their prototypes. The goal of the REP4 Alliance is to prototype, enrich, test and scale new approaches designed together with learners.

“This is a great opportunity for students to help us reimagine higher education and better serve our current and future students by creating more inclusive and equitable campus policies and practices,” added Burciaga.

Learn more about SJSU’s Learner Design Summit and the REP4 Alliance.