Sal Breiter, the faculty coordinator for the 2010 conference, worked with the conference planning committee and Donna Stasio, a speech instructor and facilitator trainer, to pioneer the program. The Partners in Learning Planning Committee members included Gregory Anderson, Karen Chow, Alicia Cortez, Mary Kay Englen, Cynthia Kaufman, Coleen Lee-Wheat, Virginia Marquez and Jackie Reza. Student facilitator trainers and mentors are Deepa Yuvaraj and Jeanne Swafford. Mike Stasio is a guest facilitator trainer.
“First, we wanted to dramatically shift the conceptual design of the conference to model student- centered and transformative pedagogical strategies in a substantive way,” says Breiter, a Humanities instructor. “Second, we wanted to find a way to centralize students in the planning for and the unfolding of the conference in a way that offered students the opportunity to take real responsibility for the training of their teachers and potentially the learning outcomes in their classrooms.”
Students receive intensive, experiential facilitator training, which builds their confidence and supports their ability to serve as influential change-makers on campus and in their communities. “What we have learned from our facilitation experience is that students who are challenged, engaged, valued and rewarded perform at very high levels,” says Donna Stasio, who leads the program. “Training and facilitating for the Partners in Learning Conference and other campus events develops our students’ skills, challenges their intellect, engages their creativity and rewards their contributions. The program not only has a powerful impact on our students’ daily lives, but also on the lives of all those they reach out to.”
In addition to facilitating each of the annual Partners in Learning conferences since 2010, student facilitators also participate in many other campus and community events. Veronica Neal, faculty director of the Office of Equity, Social Justice and Multicultural Education, includes student facilitators in the numerous campus events sponsored by the Equity Office.
Student facilitators work collaboratively with peers, faculty, staff and administrators to engage dialogue that leads to inclusiveness, increased student success and enriched college experiences. Ultimately, the most experienced facilitator trainees mentor and serve as role models for the next group of student facilitators.
Dean of Learning Resources Gregory Anderson, who served during the inception of the program as president of the Academic Senate, a key sponsor of the Partners in Learning Conference, says the facilitator project empowers students through mentoring. “At the same time, the student collaborate with faculty and staff, who are ultimately better prepared and more effective in their workshops,” he says. “Such a virtuous cycle accomplishes multiple mission-central outcomes in a high-contact, low-cost model.”
Student facilitator trainer and mentor Deepa Yuvaraj says she was honored to be a part of the program. “This program is an important milestone in my communication learning experience. I believe the reason students come back to facilitate at every opportunity is because this program transformed their communication abilities and built a strong life skill that became a part of who they will always be.”
“What I like best about facilitator training is that it gave me the practical skills I can really use in my life," student facilitator Pha Phem Nguyen wrote in an essay. "The in-class simulations were clear demonstrations of what to expect in our conference facilitations and to practice useful ways to engage conflict in any life situation.”
According to student Shelly Hendrickson, “I found myself to be most proud of overcoming my fear of standing in front of a classroom full of professors and to discover that the teachers were widely impressed with the student facilitator’s skill and comfort level.”
Innovation of the Year Award-winning projects will be featured at the League Innovations Conference in late winter 2014.