FVSU Joins National Educational Alliance to Address Equity Gaps in Higher Learning

by Mechell McCrary

Posted on May 13, 2021

By Mechell Clark McCrary

Fort Valley State University announced today it is part of a national alliance with other colleges and universities to launch REP4, an initiative to change the future of education using a learner-led approach. The alliance will focus on students taking the lead in a process called "Rapid Education Prototyping" to address the urgent challenge of delivering on higher education's promise of social and economic mobility.

The REP4 alliance is established as a response to low completion rates, lack of access and racial gaps within higher education. Its goal is to remove exclusionary barriers for learners who are underrepresented and/or from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The student-led, Rapid Education Prototyping will engage the voices of learners in designing innovative, actionable solutions. Learners will co-design education prototypes, and the best ideas will be scaled nationwide through the alliance to maximize impact.

"Our university's mission has long included making education relevant, impactful and accessible for students," said Fort Valley State University President Paul Jones. "Collaborating with other like-minded institutions across the nation will provide a tremendous opportunity to shift the paradigm of how we approach learning, particularly for underrepresented communities."

FVSU is one of six founding colleges and universities in the alliance that collectively serve more than 100,000 students across the country. The other founding partners are Grand Valley State University in Michigan; Amarillo College in Texas; Boise State University in Idaho; San Jose State University in California; and Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. FVSU is the only HBCU among the founding partners. Microsoft will also participate in REP4 to support the alliance in reimagining student-centered experiences, consistent with its recent whitepaper on student-centered learning in higher education. Microsoft will help shape how technology, particularly data and AI, can empower personalized and inclusive learning experiences.

Grand Valley State University, the organizer and convener of the REP4 alliance, designed and held the first prototype last summer. The six-week Learner Engagement Challenge brought together 25 high school students, along with GVSU students, to reimagine the future of learning to meet the changing needs of the 21st century.

"We are inspired by young learners with keen perspectives on what their future can be," said Grand Valley State President Philomena V. Mantella. "These learners gave us ideas that will play a key role as we lead the national conversation on a new vision for education. Their insights will help us create a model for an education system designed for learners by learners."

Jaime Casap, former chief education evangelist at Google, echoed the enthusiasm for REP4 and said powerful change will come from leaders and learners harnessing their efforts for transformation. "I am passionate about this bold and extraordinary effort to increase quality in education by focusing on equity as the driving force for change," Casap said. "This effort is defining an approach to transformative change using openness, transparency and collaboration. The power for lasting impact for millions of diverse students comes from working together. I couldn't be more excited to roll up my sleeves and dive into the work."

Each of the founding six partners including FVSU will hold its own regional REP4 summit, with the national convening held on August 4-5, 2021 in Michigan. FVSU will host its regional summit of students in June. The alliance is intended to grow over time and other institutions are invited to become involved with REP4. See and watch video for more information.


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