At two recent online Global Village Updates second-year student Yahya (Year 47/2022, Iraq) spoke eloquently about his experience as a member of the College Assembly (CA) at Pearson. Yahya graciously agreed to allow us to share his video observations with our entire eNews audience.

Prompted by this, we also asked other student CA members to voice their perspectives on being part of the CA. These are included after a reminder about how the CA came about immediately below.

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Hard to believe but the College Assembly at Pearson College UWC has been up and running for more than a year – during COVID! — and last month, the first planned turnover of student rep terms on the assembly and on related College working groups went without a hitch.

What began as student involvement with and input in the initially, ad hoc COVID-19 Working Group evolved quickly into a cross-student representative College Assembly (CA) that meets regularly to discuss and debate and agree on ways forward to advance student agency in all aspects of campus – not just student — life.

While the campus community owes a debt of gratitude to sibling school UWC Mahindra College in India for sharing a structure, advice and learnings gleaned from their CA experience, Pearson students worked hard to debate and agree upon how this model could best be adapted for the Pearson framework.

For this campus, that means involving students in discussions and decisions made not just in, for example, formal committees such as the Operations Working Group, but also in regular periodic meetings with departments, such as Advancement and External Relations.

It’s not just a pipeline for student input into operations and everyday decisions, but also, as Head of College Craig  Davis said earlier, “it involves students in a meaningful way in working with the administration and faculty to make decisions while instilling in students a belief in self-efficacy and a better understanding of all the considerations that must be taken into account when making decisions that affect the entire community.”

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With gratitude to the busy student writers, we’re pleased to share a few more perspectives on the CA. (Statements are lightly edited for length.)

Symeon, Year 47/2022, Belgium

“So far, I have had a very positive experience being a CA representative; I believe that we can definitely consider that initiative as a success even though there is still room for improvement for the coming generations. In a context where in-person meetings and face-to-face communications have become rarer, the CA had become a necessity for our voices and ideas to be effectively communicated to the Pearson administration, and vice-versa.  By applying student initiatives like reducing the meat-consumption in the cafeteria, I believe that the CA also gives us the tools to learn how to create change locally here at Pearson, and to further apply that knowledge later on during our lives.”

Winston, Year 47/2022, Tanzania

What’s my experience with the CA?  “My experience as a House representative and member of the experiential education committee has been amazing. Being able to actively participate in adding to the diversity of thought to decision making that affects the entire school is great, as it has improved my trust in the administrative skills of the schools, improved personal as well overall student engagement and increased trust in the administration in some respects.”

Why is the CA important (or not)? “The CA exists to give diversity of thought in decision making as well as input considering the fact that we are at an international school with students coming from over 80 different countries. The CA helps the administration see situations from student perspectives, especially from students who do not have a high English proficiency. Overall, the CA is important, however sometimes it may not seem so to many students especially when it comes to making major decisions in the school that concern critical issues such as COVID. There is a common misconception that the CA exists so that students will have an overall say in the final decisions that happen on campus however that is not the case.”

How does this give students a meaningful voice on campus decision-making (or not)? The CA Increases the surface for perspectives and views on decision making. Students from other academic settings can suggest solutions that worked in their previous schools, and we can propose similar structures to the administration and operation of Pearson, and see how best they work.

Is the CA a good model for Pearson? “So far, so good I would say! We had a rough start at the beginning with a lot of the student body complaining that we couldn’t deliver and were ineffective as far as important decision making was concerned. However, the CA did not back down and faced all the challenges in the community as the term kicked off, definitely restoring faith in the student body that the CA is indeed effective and will work to the best of its abilities in favour of students.”

Vy (Year 47 Vietnam):

“At home, I was not at all talking about Politics. Pearson really pushed me to think more well-roundedly, not just as a passive receiver of policies/information but also a critical thinker and a potential change-maker. I joined the CA because of that. I want to do more for the people that I endear. CA also paves the way for me to study Political Science in the future so that I can continue to create an impact.”

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