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Student Advisors to the Tang Institute Initiate Conversations About Teaching and Learning at Andover

Student Advisors to the Tang Institute (SATI), a group of students dedicated to initiating conversations about the innovation of teaching and learning methodologies through the Tang Institute, held its first ‘Lunch and Discussions’ event of the year on November 3. More than thirty students and faculty members gathered to discuss the current state of teaching and learning at Andover and devise methods for potential improvement in Andover’s course curricula.

According to Corrie Martin, Instructor in English, SATI’s work to include student voices in conversations about education started in 2019. Ever since, SATI has worked with the Tang Institute Faculty Fellows to create a learning environment that welcomes conversations about social justice issues in classrooms.

“There are now three faculty working on [the Ethi{CS} Project], thinking about how ethics and computer science intersect… they have hosted conferences with speakers. The Economics [classes are] working with this organization called Opportunity Insights at Harvard, which has this incredible database about economic inequality across the United States. They are using it to innovate how they teach economics here, and they’re hoping to be able to model it for other schools,” said Martin.

Martin continued, “[Emma Staffaroni] in English—she was one of the faculty that helped pioneer the all-gender housing on campus. This year, she is expanding that to look at how gender inclusion can be operated on and across campus, so not just in housing but also in teaching and in athletics. She is doing a lot of research and also doing documentation on campus [on] what we already do and where we can expand to support gender inclusiveness.”

Sakina Cotton ’24, a first time attendee, learned about the event through the Brace Center for Gender Studies. During the event, Cotton participated in a discussion on ways the Tang Institute could become involved in and give more visibility to various initiatives on campus. Cotton believes that communication with teachers would be able to make this possible.

“I would love to see the talk about having an audit for gender-neutral bathrooms on campus that Dr. Ramos is thinking about picking up. And also the talk about all-gender locker rooms, so those would be one way to have Brace initiatives be publicized on campus, and I think they’re also uplifting and giving more visibility to the Brace Center… I would also love to see more curriculums that talk about the disenfranchisement of some disadvantaged people throughout history or through English readings… I think those stories and narratives of the author should probably have a bigger space in lesson plans,” said Cotton.

Tegan Morton, Instructor in Biology, feels that a student-led gathering like the SATI ‘Lunch and Discussions’ where students and faculty can mingle together and freely discuss their ideas is an effective starting point for making change.

“It was really incredible seeing that many students there, and everyone was super excited to have conversations. The faculty were welcome but the students were leading it, and that’s what was really exciting to see. And I think for me as a faculty member, it gives me an understanding of who’s in the community doing this work that I can reach out to and have conversations with and continue thinking about ways to move forward with the ideas we talk about,” said Morton.

Brian Chica-Herrera ’24 shared a similar sentiment to Morton and believes that the event opened up discussions on the ways in which learning experiences at Andover could be further improved. Chica-Herrera expressed his appreciation for the opportunity of learning more about the Tang Institute.

“I think the Tang Institute meeting was helpful for all of us involved. It helped students provide the Institute with feedback on how classes should be structured and how we want to be taught. It also helps the Tang Institute show us what they can do for us, such as including courses that we want to take or including workshops for more popular courses. It was just a really helpful meeting for everyone involved and showed what was to come,” said Chica-Herrera.

SATI Co-Leader Erin Kim ’23 believes that continuing conversations that involve both students and faculty is crucial for creating innovative ways of teaching and learning. Kim looks forward to hosting more gatherings inspired by the SATI Lunch and Discussions event.

“Lots of great ideas were shared during the meeting, and we’re definitely planning on hosting more events similar to this one. One of SATI’s upcoming projects is to partner with the Tang Institute Faculty Fellows to facilitate a workshop for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. We’re putting together a hands-on activity—an application of the Opportunity Insights Project data—to explore intersections of social and economic inequality and paths towards addressing these realities,” said Kim.

Editor’s Note: Erin Kim ’23 is an Associate News Editor for The Phillipian.