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One thing that Pearson College UWC students (and you too, alumni!) are generally not shy about is making their voices heard.

Whether it’s in Village Gatherings, in online forums, through creative performances or artistic ventures or stunning photos and impactful videos, Pearson students are intelligent and articulate, and often witty and, when circumstances call for it, slightly subversive!

But if you talk to Head of College Craig Davis, he’s collaborating on another plan for all that eloquence and it goes beyond voice to authentic student agency.

“It’s of strategic importance to us a school — many on campus are working to increase student involvement in all aspects of decision-making in this year of many challenges,” says Davis. “Creating pathways to involving students in a meaningful way in working with the administration and faculty to make decisions instills in students a belief in self-efficacy.”

In other words, having a meaningful voice teaches that one has the ability to, among other things, meaningfully be involved and to effect change.

Education Reimagined, a prominent promoter of learner-centred education, says it this way, “whether one believes they can act with agency actually enhances or diminishes that agency.”

In 2020, it shouldn’t surprise that student participation in the COVID-19 Working Group was one of the first examples of agency this term. Student representatives from each House attend and speak during each operational meeting to discuss and, as needed, revise campus COVID protocols.

For example, students have pushed for clarity on COVID rules and procedures on campus, COVID etiquette on trails and have advised on ways to manage mental health concerns that can be exacerbated because of the need to follow COVID protocols. For example, student reps helped push for a coronavirus-safe way of reopening the Molson Pool for recreational use by Houses on a rotational basis.

Beyond COVID, says Davis, he is looking for this group to become an operations team that troubleshoots issues around facilities, food, activities, safety and more.

“I’ve also met with a group of 10 students who are deciding on the best way of organizing a body which meets regularly with College leadership, including myself, to look at strategic decisions and improvements,” he adds. “This could include suggestions for educational programming, special focus days, input on staff recruitment initiatives, connecting to the wider UWC movement and really, any other strategic initiative.”

Issues and actions around diversity, equity, inclusion are high on that list as the College and advisors work to finalize an Indigenous Reconciliation Action Plan and student-led initiatives such as Black Author of the Month in firstperson-magazine.com online magazine and a campus Black Student Union coalesce.

Davis also recently called for students to form a social committee to specifically address developing plans for Winter Break activities. As that late December/early January holiday-season break from classes comes ever-closer, there are many COVID-conscious considerations to be discussed and actioned. Keep an eye on our social media channels and future editions of Pearson eNews for details as they are finalized.

Finally, as an Advisor with his own group of 12 advisees, Davis regularly receives direct feedback from students from Nunavut, Quebec, British Columbia, Sc’ianew (Beecher Bay) First Nation, U.S.A., Denmark, Belgium, Palestine, India, Democratic Republic of Congo and Lebanon. Most international students have been participating online which has provided a direct insight into the challenges facing both students and teachers dealing with multiple time zones.

As a member of the faculty, Davis is also teaching a Theory of Knowledge second-year class. As Head of College, he’s working to encourage all faculty to create continuous feedback loops to give students opportunities to share thoughts about their overall learning experience. In both cases, he anticipates that greater opportunities to be heard and effect change will be “educational” for all concerned.

“My own commitment is intentional, strategic and personal,” adds Davis. “Establishing credibility and authentic access for the students and faculty during meetings and conversations is critical. I am positioning the Head of College as a leader of pedagogy who places ‘students first’ in all decision making.

“This is only credible if you remain close to them, their learning and their experiences.”