As defined by the Center’s website, “the Center for Engaged Learning (CEL) Student Scholar program is a three-year, mentored opportunity for students to collaborate with Elon University faculty and staff on CEL’s international, multi-institutional research on specific engaged learning topics. CEL Student Scholars will have opportunities to present and publish on their research and will join an international community of scholars interested in engaged learning.” As the inaugural CEL student scholars, we (Christina Wyatt, Sophie Miller and Ellery Ewell) have been experimenting with how our roles fit into already established CEL spaces, like the research seminars. Outside of conducting preliminary research, we began our journey by collaborating and participating in the 2020-2023 seminar, Re-Examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Experiences. Prior to the seminar, we each identified a specific condition for meaningful learning that we would explore. With those conditions identified, we then collaborated in multi-institutional, international teams. As students, we had a unique perspective to offer throughout the seminar and to share with the academic community.

Sophie: Headed into the research seminar, I felt major imposter syndrome. I just finished my first year of college and I was only a month into my role as a student scholar. However, I knew, in order to be successful over the course of the week I must look at the opportunity as a meaningful learning experience. How convenient, since the seminar was Re-Examining Conditions for Meaningful Learning Experiences. Pre-seminar, I chose to focus on reflection as a meaningful condition because I think that it would be really interesting to uncover what reflection is, how it can be most meaningful, what the benefits are, and all the different ways and forms in which it can take place. I’ll admit, while reading and synthesizing literature I felt overwhelmed by the broadness of the topic. However, the show must go on so I continued to read in an effort to prepare myself the best I could. At the seminar I became a lot more comfortable with the material as I started working with the other people on the reflection team. My new adult peers made me feel valued by listening to all of my contributions and at times even asking for my perspective. Mutual respect was developed and made the experience an extremely positive one. Another condition of meaningful learning that we identified was relationships. I saw, hands-on, how critical and important the foundation of a relationship is. I was in a position in which all of my group members were attending the seminar in person, and we started off our first meeting with time to get to know one another, bond, and build respect. Without this step, I doubt that giving and receiving feedback (a third condition for meaningful learning) over the course of the week would have gone so smoothly.

Ellery: In my past academic experiences, there has always been a power differential between the students and the professors or the “adults” in the room. As I’ve grown through college, some of this barrier has been broken down by forming relationships with professors, faculty, and other staff members. This seminar, at first, showed me a realization of that power dynamic. I was coming into a space full of academics, all with vast experiences and knowledge and, like some of my other student scholars, I felt some imposter syndrome. I was unsure of how I might fit into the space as someone with only two years of undergraduate education under my belt, and no experience doing any research on learning or education. As well, my imposter syndrome was exacerbated by my identity as a Black woman and realizing the dynamic of being one of few in the room (both as a student and as a minority). My experiences as a student and as a Black woman informed my thoughts and perspectives, but I had to learn to look at them as an addition to the conversation, not a detraction. This experience for me was refreshing—to have conversations with academics from all over, working on a common goal. I shared my experiences and perspectives as much as I thought it would be helpful, but it was also invaluable to sit back and take a look at how a research seminar functions. This research seminar or “research camp” as termed by Jessie Moore, CEL’s director, included formal small-group work time and whole-group sessions and presentations, as well as informal conversations and interactions, like those shared over dinner or a cup of coffee. Casual conversations sparked new ideas, and whole-group discussions allowed for diverse perspectives to be shared. Participating in this research seminar not only gave me new ideas on the seminar topics, but it also showed me the power of collaboration and what can come from people with different perspectives just interacting.

Christina: Although I was a touch nervous, my nerves could not suppress my excitement to participate in a research seminar alongside professors of varying backgrounds who shared a passion for my topic of study: feedback. I will admit, I felt slightly underprepared at first given that I had never attended a research seminar before, but I was confident that I had the knowledge and the ability to facilitate meaningful discussions and reap the benefits of the meaningful experiences that we had yet to create. My enthusiasm could not immediately bridge the professional divide, however, that separated me from my teammates. It was immediately evident that those in my team were incredibly quick-witted and well researched as they continued to refer to acronyms that melted away into nothing more than alphabet soup in my mind. Upon mustering courage to interject myself into the scholarly discussion, I applied my understanding of feedback to their working model. I challenged their perspectives and I felt proud of the insight that I put forth, but challenging ideas are not always welcomed with open arms, especially when working under pressure. The nerves re-entered my system as I recognized that I had to choose between defending my argument and allowing my team to continue working with minimal interjection. I utilized the confidence that I took into the seminar to persevere and defend my idea despite feeling “underprepared.” Participating in the 2021 CEL seminar taught me that my feeling of under-preparedness was just a guise for my imposter syndrome, and that I had the competence to defend, discuss, and collaborate with others regardless of their academic background.

In our next blog post, we will discuss our experience after changing our positionality within the conference where we acted as a student panel for the seminar teams.

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, July 30. “Through the Eyes of a Student: An Interdisciplinary, Multi-institutional Research Seminar” [Blog Post]. Retrieved from