In the crowded cafeteria, Pikachu tails protrude from a cacophonous congregation of cosplayers. “Go ahead,” Shawn Taylor, the Director of Student Equity thinks to himself.
“I’m so appreciative because they chose to say, ‘I don’t care, I am going to live my authentic self in this and all moments.’”
College can be a stressful step for many students, but it doesn’t have to be. Ample resources, clubs and events wait for students, but getting everyone on the same page is a challenge in itself. Taylor is on a mission to break down barriers and facilitate an updated campus model — one where every student setting foot on campus feels seen, welcomed and free to be their own kind of student.
“I don’t think people understand how much joy influences success. If I come to school and I’m having a ball, I want to come the next day and the next day and the next day,” states Taylor. He thinks part of the issue is the way the current Western model positions education, saying, “We treat school as an adversary and not as a partner.”
Cultivating a more connected community is one tactic to transform the school from opponent to ally, and Taylor has a few ideas.
First, a Canvas plugin that enables access to a campus-wide calendar. With a smattering of bulletin boards cluttered with deteriorating posters, it can be difficult for students to find clear information about clubs or events that matter to them. But with an online solution, students could peruse the entire campus schedule in one place — or draw it from their pocket.
This semester, Las Positas College also hosted a Resource Fair highlighting what the campus has to offer. The Transfer Center, Health & Wellness Center, Tutoring Center and Veterans First Program are just a few of the many resources available to students. Taylor remarked that many students were surprised to learn these resources existed. The plan is to continue this Resource Fair once a semester.
But strengthening those community bonds inside a class is another vital component. It’s possible to go all 17 weeks without knowing anyone’s name but the professor’s.
“If all the students decide to get on the same Google Doc, and all take notes in the same doc, you’d have perspectives of everyone in the room… a broader picture of what it is you’re studying,” Taylor said. This methodology not only reveals fresh insight on the same material but also provides a forum for building more personal connections with classmates.
Taylor mentioned an education model from Singapore where the entire course was project-based. Also a teacher at San Francisco State, Taylor applies this to his own class with one assignment that allows students to answer a question in whichever way calls to them, such as a podcast, video or interpretive dance.
He explains, “As long as you address this thesis question, I don’t care, I just want to know you have the knowledge. And that’s usually the assignment that gets scored the highest because people are like I can actually be who I am in the room. I don’t have to conform to be a student, I am my student, not a student. And that’s the difference.”
In the future, a new influx of teachers from different pedagogical backgrounds may infuse that blend of individualized learning and community. In the meantime, several upcoming events aim to help cultivate that campus connection.
First, a three-day Spring Fling will be hosted on campus from Tuesday, March 31 to Thursday, April 2. Tuesday’s theme is “Democracy in Action,” complete with voter registration, a student government candidate meet-and-greet, and a Town Hall where students can express ideas for campus improvement. Wednesday will feature an outdoor social study session with refreshments, while Thursday promises outdoor games and festivities in the quad.
An Intercultural Fair is also in the works for the end of April. Shahaf Dan, LPC Student Government Director of Events says, “We’re really trying to create an environment where students want to go to campus for more than just a class.”
For more information about joining the event, text @lpcicf20 to 81010.
Continuing to build a more connected campus where students feel supported and inspired to be their authentic selves may steer students on a positive academic path.
Amy Tilson-Lumetta is the managing and features editor of The Express. Follow her @AmyTLumetta.