Listening and Learning from Student Employees

Students stand in front of a whiteboard with sticky notes on it.

A Reflective Conversation about Student Engagement and Work

By Meghan Hurley, Student Learning Designer

My name is Meghan Hurley and I am a senior majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies: Social Studies Education with a double minor in English Education and Psychology Education. I have worked for the the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology since June of 2017. My job title is a Student Learning Designer. Now, what this means exactly depends on who you ask. My time has been largely divided into three categories: working with the Student Innovation Pilot team, supporting current Hub projects, and attending Hub events. This is the second iteration of this job position and so some of my work in all three categories has been dedicated to how this role fits into those spaces and what kind of support I (as well as students who follow me) are able to provide the Hub. This is why I have proposed a reflective event for the entire Hub staff – to come together and center student engagement in an event.

What I’ve noticed is that full-time staff of the Hub are still trying to figure this out as well, and this creates ambiguity for myself and the other student workers. Some of us have very defined roles and know exactly what is expected and how they are an asset for the team whereas others struggle to find their footing and often feel uncomfortable and unsure as to how they are “supposed to” best support. I certainly felt that when I first began working, and frequently still have moments of hesitation or confusion of why I am needed or what work is the “important work” of this position as a Student Learning Designer.

For November 17th, I have personally invited five students who each have very different experiences working with, in, and around the Hub. Full-time staff members of the Hub will have a chance to engage in small group discussions with each of these students, to learn about their experiences, their pain points, and the praise surrounding the time they’ve worked at the Hub. This way, when we come together, we will all hopefully better understand what things need our attention first.

A group of staff and students sit together working on the same project at the Hub.

In planning this events, a concern some of the students voiced was the prevalence of power dynamics – and how they may impact the conversation. Although this workplace is extremely aware and intentional about the leadership structure, this does not mean that these dynamics don’t exist. This event is an intentional space for students (who are conditioned to be dutiful and accommodating in spaces with more qualified teammates) are empowered to share honestly without fear of repercussion. In order to improve and grow, we must protect these spaces. Since I am graduating in just over a month, I may naturally feel more comfortable stating my frustrations than maybe someone who hopes to work here for the next year or more.

My goal with this event is to dedicate time as an organization to think about how the Hub wants to be interacting with Michigan State students and what we are currently doing. Do these two things align? Are there overlaps that need to be protected, or dis-congruities that we did not initially expect? These are some questions I hope our discussion begins to answer.

This event will be documented via sticky noting, my own visual notes, as well as recorded by Camisha Clair, another student worker. I will be writing a follow-up piece synthesizing some of the take-aways and outlining some potential steps the Hub will be taking in reaction. I am excited to see what we learn on November 17th, one of the best parts about working at a place like the Hub is that we are encouraged to reflect and problem-solve in this way. This is something I never hope changes.