We, the CEL Student Scholars, were invited to attend CEL’s Conference on Engaged Learning. The conference was geared towards unpacking pedagogical approaches to engaged learning, specifically regarding capstone experiences and writing beyond the university. Many of the attendees had professional expertise on the subject matter, but the conference was our first introduction to these topics. Additionally, we were among a small group of students in attendance, which gave us an opportunity to share our unique student perspective on the overall conference given our positionality. 

The session that had the greatest impact on me (Ellery) during the conference was “Using Engaged Learning Experiences to Mitigate Gendered Meanings of Leadership.”  I loved hearing about this research because it was interesting hearing a graduate student, Chadwick Lockley, present as I felt I could relate to his student perspectives! Meanwhile, Christina shared that a conference highlight for her was the keynote that Julia Bleakney and Paula Rosinski gave on the subject of Second Generation Writing Beyond the University. Writing can become a point of contention for many students as they progress throughout their academic journey as they oftentimes recognize that certain skills are far from their immediate grasp given their disciplinary focus or previous educational experience. It was an incredibly unique and important lens to keep in mind given Christina’s work with feedback, so she was thoroughly interested in the research work presented on such a matter. Lastly, Sophie shared that the pre-conference workshop, “Using Decoding the Disciplines with Students as Partners to Help Prepare Students for Successful Capstone Experiences,” facilitated by Jared McBrady, Leslie Cameron, Holly Pelnar, and David Pace, had the most impact on her because she was engaging with professors as they unpacked challenges they have while teaching. Throughout Sophie’s education, much of the focus has been the student and trying to address any of the challenges she was facing. However, this time the tables were turned, and it allowed her to see professors as well as the education system in a different, more human light. 

During the conference, the majority of the sessions had a target audience of those with professional experience in higher education; therefore, we all shared a feeling of tepidness similar to our first seminar experience. Fortunately, other attendees welcomed us and wanted to know more about our topics and perspectives. We now can think about conditions for meaningful learning, our area of study, with a touch more nuance given the sheer amount of insight that the professors provided. Realistically, hearing advanced and technical conversations propelled us to grow rather than accept that there were things we didn’t understand. 

While the keynotes, sessions, and workshops were amazing opportunities for learning, we found that the other moments throughout the conference proved to be just as impactful. During breaks and meals, we conversed with people from all over the country and from a variety of academic disciplines. Being exposed to so many great minds allowed us to open ours to more avenues and pathways of thought. Following the conference, we have been able to keep in touch with a couple of the people we met and continue conversation. Email chains following the conference promoted reflective thinking and exploration regarding the new topics introduced to us. Moving forward, we are excited to continue these relationships as we foresee them being great resources that support our application of knowledge beyond our university experience.

This experience was different from other academic experiences we have had in our education. We thought that this experience really pushed us to think beyond our level in all regards. It was interesting being surrounded by a multitude of people with different experiences and perspectives, and we learned a lot from being asked to think at this new level. We noted that although it felt like being thrown into the deep end, this opportunity was truly invaluable to our experience as both researchers and as students as we were able to develop self-confidence in both ourselves and our work. We know that this will likely not be the last time we are in a position like this. We are coming away from this experience with a goal to not discount our capabilities and to maximize our learning opportunities in every experience we are given. 

Sophie Miller is the 2021-2024 CEL Student Scholar. Ellery Ewell and Christina Wyatt are 2021-2023 CEL Student Scholars. All three are collaborating with participants in the 2020-2023 research seminar on (Re)Examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Experiences. Learn more about the current student scholars.

How to cite this post

Wyatt, Christina, Sophie Miller, and Ellery Ewell. 2021, November 23. “Through the Eyes of a Student: Attending an Interdisciplinary Multi-institutional Conference on Engaged Learning” [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/through-the-eyes-of-a-student-an-essential-shift-in-perspective.