As the initial undergraduate Student Scholar cohorts working with the Center for Engaged Learning, we are often asked what our roles entail.  Both in the context of the research itself, as well as in our partnerships, this collaborative leadership team was developed to bring student voices to the center of the research seminars.

We bring the unique perspective of student life without the underlying power of a higher degree. Our lives contain a series of firsts and new experiences, which allows us to provide a fresh student-centered perspective. Our primary goal during the CEL research seminars is to elevate student voices at the center of the research. We provide a diverse variety of experiences, derived from our various personal backgrounds, educational and work experiences, faculty-mentor-student relationships, community service, and global engagement, among others. Through our work as students, we have gained first-hand knowledge of crucial diversity, equity, and inclusion principles, giving us the tools to center DEI throughout the seminar.

The expertise that we bring to the seminar and seminar participants in these partnerships include (but are not limited to)…

  • Various high school experiences: magnet, private, public
  • Attendance at a private liberal arts college: online, hybrid, and in person
  • Various majors and minors: psychology, education, journalism, cinema and television arts, political science, exercise science, finance, economic consulting, Spanish, communications
  • Past experiences with partnership: research mentorship
  • Work experiences: financial internships, digital communications and editorial internship with a higher education organization, on-campus student jobs
  • Community service: tutoring in local community, new student orientation, religious-oriented community service
  • Participation in student organizations: living learning communities (service, communications, leadership), Greek life, Phoenix Leaders, Elon News Network, Cinelon (student production company), University Innovation Fellows, Lumen Scholar
  • Global engagement: study abroad experience

Through literature reviews, individual research, Elon leadership team discussions, and seminar planning and participation, we have learned to navigate our positionality as students among staff, faculty, and seminar participants. When forming relationships that transcend quintessential hierarchical structures, we’ve looked toward the ideas examined by Guitman, Acai, and Mercer-Mapstone in their piece “Unlearning Hierarchies and Striving for Relational Diversity” to prompt our future interactions with participants. In this reading, we learned to question the emotions prompted by “unlearning hierarchies,” which reminded us of our learned experiences as seminar participants. Although it wasn’t always easy, productivity resulted from an open mindedness from both the student and faculty perspectives. The collaborative nature of the seminar invited us to engage with each other as learners on common ground, allowing us to approach our newfound relationships with flexibility and receptiveness.

As undergraduate students immersed in an educational context, we are in a learning mindset, therefore we are eager and ready to learn in our partnerships.


Guitman, Rachel, Anita Acai, and Lucy Mercer-Mapstone. 2020. “Unlearning Hierarchies and Striving for Relational Diversity.” In The Power of Partnership: Students, Staff, and Faculty Revolutionizing Higher Education, edited by Lucy Mercer-Mapstone and Sophia Abbot, 61-72. Elon, NC: Elon University Center for Engaged Learning.

Ellery Ewell and Christina Wyatt are 2021-2023 CEL Student Scholars. Sophie Miller is the 2021-2024 CEL Student Scholar. Gianna Smurro and Annelise Weaver are the 2022-2025 CEL Student Scholars. The Student Scholars are collaborating with participants in the 2020-2023 research seminar on (Re)Examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Experiences and the 2022-2024 research seminar on Work-Integrated Learning. Learn more about the current student scholars.

How to Cite this Post

Ewell, Ellery, Sophie Miller, Gianna Smurro, Annelise Weaver, and Christina Wyatt. 2022. “Through the Eyes of a Student: Forming an Effective and Meaningful Partnership.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. June 24, 2022.