Student-run ExCo courses resume after one year online – The Scarlet and Black
By Marcus Cassidy
Last week marked the start of the first series of Experiential College (ExCo) courses, courses independently taught and run by a handful of Grinnell College students. ExCo courses offer students the opportunity to manage and teach their own program in a peer-educational setting. Student instructors are motivated in several different directions, whether it is an attempt to teach or an intense interest in the subject.
Beginning in the last week of the fall semester, an initial application process asks students to propose their course topics, goals, and resources. Instructors have access to student government association funding after their courses are approved, after which they decide on the number of courses, course duration, course size, subjects, and collaborators.
Attaira Prince `23 is a psychology student who teaches an ExCo course called “The Power of Language”. Her motivation to become an instructor stemmed from both her desire to eventually try teaching and her commitment to the subject.
“I was thinking that I wanted to go into teaching afterwards, as I am doing now. So I thought that might be a way to feel what it would be like,” Prince said. “I also feel like there are a lot of things people would like to talk about. Language is something really interesting to me and means something different to everyone.
The capacity of ExCo classes is limited to ten per course. Students wishing to participate are asked to gauge their varying levels of interest and are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. In response to a conversation about access and equity, the next set of classes should be built based on random selection. Due to limited class sizes, applications to join the class may end up on a waiting list.
“In about 12 hours, everything was already taken, so there is a long waiting list. I didn’t see the waitlist, but we had over 200 applications,” said Tess McCain `24. “There are only five classes and each can only take ten.”
Becky Roffler `22 is the current ExCo coordinator for this part of the semester and will be teaching her own class on the art of tattooing. In addition to exploring the cultural and practical elements of tattooing, they streamline resources for other instructors and select what’s on the ExCo course roster.
“My main focus was ‘Which classes would be approved by the school and actually receive funding?’ We looked at which ideas were the most fleshed out, which seemed the most feasible, and which people seemed to really like,” Roffler said. “It’s a voluntary program, so a really big part is making sure you reach hands out to people who are really committed to wanting to put in the time and do this work.”
Shubhika Devrani `23 teaches another class, “Adulting 101”, as a way to engage her community in practical and undertaught topics.
“I realized I couldn’t be the only one struggling with this. And the more people I talked about, the more I understood, that was just one of the unseen thoughts of college wrestling, especially in third year,” Devrani said. “I think that’s what made me want to do something about it. And then I saw the ExCo class opportunity, and I thought it would be perfect to do it. And to reach the people I would like to reach.
“How can we create an equitable classroom? said Roffler. “How do you make a fair curriculum on a subject that might not be accepted in a normal school? It’s the perfect intersection to practice all of these things.