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Student-run ExCo classes resume after a year online

Becky Roffler `22 (above) is the current ExCo coordinator and teaches a course on the art of tattooing. Photo by Isabel Torrence.

Last week signaled the start of the first round of Experiential College (ExCo) classes, courses taught and independently operated by a handful of Grinnell College students. ExCo courses provide students the opportunity to manage and teach their own curriculum in a peer educational setting. Student instructors are motivated from several different directions, whether that be a trial run of teaching or intense interest in the topic.  

 Starting during the last week of the fall semester, an initial application process asks students to propose their course themes, goals and resources. Instructors gain access to Student Government Association funding following their courses’ approval, after which they decide their number of classes, class length, class size, topic areas and collaborators. 

Attaira Prince `23 is a psychology major who teaches an ExCo course titled “The Power of Language.” Her motivation to be an instructor came from both her desire to eventually try teaching and her commitment to the subject area. 

Attaira Prince `23 (above) is teaching a course titled “The Power of Language.” Photo by Isabel Torrence.

“I was kind of thinking I wanted to get into teaching after like I’m doing right now. So I thought this could be like a way to kind of feel for what that would be like,” said Prince. “I also just feel like there’s a lot of things that people would like to talk about. Language for me is something really interesting and means something different for everybody.” 

Capacity for ExCo classes is limited to ten per course. Students seeking to participate are asked to rate their varying interest levels and are admitted on a first-come first-serve basis. In response to a conversation surrounding access and fairness, the next round of classes is planned to be built based on random selection. Due to limited class sizes, applications for joining the class can find themselves placed on a waitlist. 

“Within like 12 hours, everything was already taken, so there’s a long waitlist. I have not seen the waitlist, but we had over 200 applications,” Tess McCain `24 said. “There’s only five classes and each only can take ten.” 

Becky Roffler `22 serves as the current ExCo coordinator for this portion of the semester and will teach their own course about the art of tattooing. Alongside exploring the cultural and practical elements of tattooing, they streamline resources for the other instructors and select what makes it onto the ExCo course roster. 

“My main thing was ‘What classes would be approved by the school and would actually get funding?’ We looked at which ideas were the most fleshed out, which seemed the most feasible and which ones people seemed really into,” Roffler said. “It’s a voluntary program, so a really big part is making sure that you’re reaching out to people that are really dedicated to wanting to put time into this and wanting to do this work.” 

Shubhika Devrani `23 teaches another class, “Adulting 101,” as a way of engaging her community on undertaught, practical subjects. 

Shubhika Devrani `23 teaches “Adulting 101.” Photo by Isabel Torrence.

“I realized that I can’t be the only one struggling with this. And the more people I spoke to, the more I understood, it was just one of the unseen thoughts of the college struggle, especially as third years,” Devrani said. “I think that’s what made me kind of want to do something about it. And then I saw the ExCo class opportunity, and thought this would be perfect to do it. And to reach the people that I’d want to reach.” 

“How do we make an equitable classroom?” said Roffler. “How do we make an equitable curriculum about a topic that maybe wouldn’t be accepted in a normal school? This is the perfect intersection to practice all these things.”

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