Student Voice & Student Choice: How Are Today’s Student Leaders Thinking About How to Improve Education?

Concurrent Session 6

Brief Abstract

If student leaders could change one thing about higher education, what would it be? This panel of EdSurge Independent Fellows will share their learning experiences and predictions about the future of education. We’ll also talk about the startups and nonprofits they’re working on to address gaps in action.



Michael Sano is the Higher Education Community Manager at EdSurge. He has worked in higher ed supporting thousands of students in reaching their academic and personal goals. Most recently as an Associate Dean of Students, Michael has also served as a director of academic support services, director of experiential education programs, and provided direct support to students with disabilities through technology initiatives. As part of institutional leadership teams he has guided strategic planning efforts to address financial crises and helped oversee an institutional merger. He has redesigned student support systems, academic programming and communications campaigns. Michael has worked at various higher ed institutions as well as with volunteer organizations in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, government programs in Panama, and language schools in Spain. Michael holds an MA in International and Multicultural Education from the University of San Francisco where his research focused on identity politics and expression in the performing arts. He holds a BA in English from Boston College. Michael also writes nonfiction and fiction around issues of queer identity, disability identity, cultural exchange and the philosophy of place. Michael thinks a lot about innovation and affordability in higher education.

Extended Abstract

If student leaders could change one thing about higher education, what would it be? There are a lot of strong voices in the OLC Accelerate community of faculty, administrators, instructional designers and other higher ed leaders and innovators to talk about how we can best support learners. But how can we increase the voices of the learners themselves as well? At this session, EdSurge will host a panel of student fellows (and recent alumni) who are passionate about improving education to share their insights and ideas. Over the last two years, EdSurge has welcomed six cohorts of student leaders to write about their experiences and to debate and take action on those ideas to impact the future of the field. We’ll present an analysis of the trends and passion points for these student leaders and advocates. We’ll also dive into conversation with current and past cohort members about the relevant trends they see among their peers as well as the entrepreneurial efforts they’re making to address gaps they see in action.   

Since the inception of the first cohort in the spring 2017 semester, EdSurge Independent Fellows have investigated and reflected on a wide array of topics. Fellows have written about self-directed learning, the value of higher ed degrees, the importance of community college, how open education can improve learning outcomes while reducing student debt and many other ideas. Cohort members meet weekly to discuss topics relevant to their education passion points. Past conversations have asked about civic education, unschooling, diversity in MOOCs and professional learning before college - just to name a few. Many EdSurge Independent Fellows have used the cohort experience to refine what actions they want to take to improve education; alumni have founded companies, non-profits and initiatives for student advocacy. Come meet these impressive future leaders and hear what they and their peers feel are the most critical issues to address for today’s digital learners.