To briefly recap our last post, we (the first team of CEL Student Scholars) detailed our experience navigating feelings of imposter syndrome within our first few days at the 2021 (Re)examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Experiences Seminar. As the research plans developed, the Elon Leadership Team sought to recenter the foci of the teams around the student experience. After a brief discussion on how to proceed, the leadership team decided to form a CEL Student Scholar panel to elevate our undergraduate voices and shift the power dynamic. Our panel would meet with each of the groups individually to help them refine their research plans. 

To set both ourselves and the teams up for success and progress, we knew we must do our best to get all three of our brains on the same page to work as one unit. However, in this, we did not want to discount our unique lived experiences and perspectives. So, we prepared by looking over each team’s work from the week and discussed what we were excited about, what we would like to see more of, and what related to us personally.

As we headed into the first meeting with one of the teams, we were collectively feeling nervous.  We felt timid giving notes to well-respected academics on research they had worked so hard on over the course of the seminar. We strived to balance professionalism with our student perspectives so that we could establish mutual respect and the teams could develop their research projects. Entering our third meeting, our nerves began to subside. We found our groove and learned to balance who was going to speak when. We only had about fifteen minutes with each group, which was quite limiting when everyone had so much to offer. Prior to the panel, we had each been spending most of our time with one specific team. When that team came to the panel, the student who had spent the most time with that team would take a step back and allow for other perspectives and voices to be heard. Additionally, some teams’ topics directly related to one of our individual lived experiences. We recognized that and gave the floor to the respective person so they could give the best insight. As we moved through the day, we recognized how having personal relationships with one another positively impacted our ability to function as a team.

Entering conversations with an open mind allows for the best discussion because more thoughts, ideas, and perspectives can be heard. While we understand the initial hesitancy that some groups exhibited, most groups were quick to adapt to the idea that as a professor, they were no longer in charge of facilitating learning but rather engaging with it as a partnered endeavor. Given our understanding of the student experience, we were able to assist teams in finding valuable avenues to pursue further. While we as students were able to learn from the development and collaboration on a research plan, we also were able to provide educational experiences to the professors who worked alongside us. To hear more about the experience of the scholars we collaborated with, see this post  written by the CEL 2020-2023 research seminar leaders.

As we went through our panel session and met with each group, we were able to meet with some groups that we had not previously worked with, which proved beneficial for all of us. One experience in particular stood out to us, as we worked with one of the groups focusing on relationships. We had some ideas about what we found impactful from their presentation the previous day and came prepared to develop their ideas more in collaboration with the group. As we met with this group, we explained our ideas on what they had been working on, and they had new updates to share. As we collectively talked through our ideas, we were able to pull out themes and commonalities. Through this method, we discussed different research avenues and came up with a research plan that incorporated both their initial ideas and our student perspectives. We walked in with preliminary connections with the group members, and we left with the team having a set research plan, as well as all of us becoming friends on social media. This discussion proved to be effective for us, and discussing and “meeting in the middle” was a helpful strategy to achieve a shared goal.

Our time on the panel allowed us all to have the support of the other CEL student scholars. This experience was even more beneficial because it provided a sense of affirmation on the experiences we had when working in our independent teams. That feeling of affirmation helped us all feel more confident in not only our own abilities but also made us feel supported and more comfortable with owning our role in the groups and the research seminar as a whole.

As a recommendation to faculty and staff, it’s imperative that you consider your students as partners given their unique insight into the work that you are looking to put forth. Although we have a lot of room for development throughout our academic career, we seek to achieve a similar goal, so partnership can provide extreme value.

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, September 30. “Through the Eyes of a Student: An Essential Shift in Positionality” [Blog Post]. Retrieved from