Last year, we, as CEL Student Scholars, had the pleasure of attending the 2021 meeting of the (Re)Examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Research Seminar, in which we dealt with imposter syndrome, budding relationships with participants, and developing our own body of research. As we entered our second year, we took the knowledge we derived from our first seminar by reconstructing our approach to relationships to create balance within the overarching power dynamics. Our first-year experience could not, however, prepare us for the strenuous balance of now being undergraduate student researchers on top of being student scholars responsible for the development of five other bodies of research over the course of a week. In this blog post, you will read more about our experiences, struggles, and successes throughout the summer 2022 meeting of the (Re)Examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Research Seminar.

As we coordinated on and revised our strategies for this year’s conference, we put connection at the heart of our design. In our first blog post, Through the Eyes of a Student: An Interdisciplinary, Multi-institutional Research Seminar, we discussed the difficulty we faced when establishing ourselves and explaining our role as student scholars. Oftentimes, our phrasing would be misconstrued to mean “assistant” in the way “intern” can sometimes mean “professional coffee attendant.”  Keeping in mind the ambiguity of our role, we decided to provide a fun primer for our participants at the beginning of the 2022 seminar. As we welcomed the participants, we introduced a bingo board that included each of our respective skills, interests, and experiences and encouraged participants to compete to win a prize. Despite the overwhelming nature of the seminar responsibilities, our participants enthusiastically rose to the challenge. We urged the participants to use the bingo board to take intentional, much-needed breaks. The bingo board prompted different activities and conversations: whether it was getting coffee with one of us, exploring our favorite locations on campus, and or chatting with new people during lunch and hearing the experiences of not only us students, but each other. They were able to enrich their research and their connections within the seminar, and bring this back to their research. By the end of the conference, several people had even completed their bingo boards. They were not the only ones winning; we also left with emotionally rich connections to our participants, as well as a newfound confidence in our roles as supportive student scholars.

A bingo board, each square has items on it like: "Get a double check for including student perspectives at the center of the research"; "Ask about each student's diverse service experiences"; "Get coffee with Sophie"; "Visit Christina's favorite study spot: Sankey"; "Ask Christina about her various internship experiences"
Bingo board created for the seminar

All of a sudden, a whole year passed since we began our roles as student scholars. Applications for a new cohort were released, which filled us with excitement as we anticipated those who would be joining us in this unique role. Meet the cohort of student scholars associated with 2022-2024 Work-Integrated Learning Research Seminar. As the new cohort became integrated into our CEL Student Scholar family, we realized that we had a responsibility to them as mentors, so we reflected back to a year ago when we were in their shoes. Imposter syndrome was at an all-time high, and we frequently felt swept up in the commotion of the first summer of our research seminar. We spent much of our time sharing things that we wished we had done, including having conversations about positionality as students as partners with the seminar participants. These conversations invited a new sector of literature into our existing work that we had not yet explored: students as partners. We tackled subjects such as power, trust, and mentorship. This work helped to create a stronger foundation for each cohort as we headed into our respective summer seminars.

While we, the 2021-2024 cohort, had a myriad of advice to share with the incoming cohort, we were also excited to have an expanded group of peers to lean on for additional perspective and support. They acted as a sounding board when we faced challenges during our research seminar. Additionally, they were a helpful resource while we tackled our survey data that we had accumulated. They not only assisted us in parsing through the dataset, but they also gave fresh interpretations that we included in our poster sessions. Overall, the new cohort sparked a refreshing restart as we entered our second year. They allowed us the opportunity to reflect on our experiences, pushed us in our ideas and interpretations, and ultimately comforted us as a peer support system.  

Speaking of our research, in the spring, we conducted a survey in which we collected data from Elon students on their perceptions of feedback, reflection, relationships, and connections to broader contexts. We were able to gather responses from students, which we were eager to sift through and begin analyzing. We were able to identify major trends, which we reported on the first day of the seminar. As the teams began to work and sort through their results, we created goals regarding data analysis for our survey and plans for next steps.

However, as the seminar progressed, the conflicting responsibilities of being a part of the seminar leadership team and being researchers drew our attention away from our data analysis. Ultimately, we decided to prioritize the seminar for the week, which also allowed us the time to work on collaborative projects with the seminar groups. We were able to focus on making connections and being an accessible resource and partner to the seminar teams. We have spent the year so far making strides and refocusing on our research, re-prioritizing that as our main focus.

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

Ewell, Ellery, Sophie Miller, and Christina Wyatt. 2022. “Through the Eyes of a Student: Integration in Practice.” Center for Engaged Learning (blog), Elon University. December 20, 2022.