Voices of Diversity: Rutgers Student Stories, a series of student-run panels conducted during the school year to share students’ experiences and identities with instructors, is currently accepting applications for its Student Advisory Board.
The program was created last year by the School of Arts and Sciences Office of Undergraduate Education to allow faculty members to learn about issues pertaining to students that otherwise may not come up in the classroom, said Jenevieve DeLosSantos, director of special projects at the office.
She said the board is composed entirely of students from diverse academic and social backgrounds who generate discussions for students to have with professors. Once they decide the topics, they announce them to prospective panelists and create questions for the panels.
“It's really important to me that this is coming from student voices,” DeLosSantos said. “It's the Student Advisory Board, student panelists, student questions.”
Jassie Morcos, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and former member of the Student Advisory Board, said the panels offer a safe space for students to speak to their professors without the student-teacher dynamic holding them back.
“This really gave the students a voice, and that was really nice because I don't think anyone is voiceless,” she said. “I just think people are unheard.”
Morcos said faculty members reached out during or after panels regarding revelations they had about their own conduct or ways they planned to change their approach to classes.
Jolea Crearer, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and continuing member from last year’s Student Advisory Board, said the forums lifted up minority voices and unique perspectives that are often unaccounted for in classrooms.
“We get to see students finally getting their voices heard in a space where no one can tell them that their feelings don't matter, and you can hear the relief in their voices as they share their experiences,” she said. “At the end of the panels, both students and faculty learn something, and I think it is such a positive experience.”
She said she hopes the board will host a panel on how students feel about attending in-person, synchronous classes on a full campus compared to asynchronous classes.
Samantha Tamarez, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and continuing member of the Student Advisory Board, said she would like the board to maintain the accessible and anonymous nature of the panels, should they be conducted in person. In previous online panels, participants could remove their names and faces from each recording in order to protect their privacy.
“We would have to create a way of sharing the information while allowing panel participants to remain anonymous if that’s what they wanted,” Tamarez said.
As the organization collects applications, Morcos said prospective students should stay true to themselves and make sure they understand why they are applying.
“Your face might not be on. Your name might not be on. It's greater than us,” she said. “It's something that's going to impact the University as a whole for as long as it stays, I hope.”
Regardless of whether a student would like to speak on a panel themselves, DesLosSantos said the board looks for students who share topics they believe the faculty would benefit from learning about.
The application process to join the Student Advisory Board includes completing an online form, which will remain open until Sept. 17. Opportunities to participate in panels will be announced periodically on the School of Arts and Sciences’ social media pages and in email lists for majors and minors.
“I would want (students) to know that this is really intended to be a space to elevate their voices and their perspectives,” DesLosSantos said. “Instructors are taking this seriously. They’re listening, and they’re thinking about their teaching. And so, this is already making a difference.”