Student Voices About the Use of AI – Concerns and New Learning Strategies for Independent Studying

by Dr. Adam Lenz, Coordinator of Supplemental Instruction

As professional staff and faculty around the Oregon State University campus look to elevate conversations about the use and regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) programs like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard in course design and student work, another conversation is also taking place on campus among our students. I believe their voices and experiences are necessary for assessing what has, is, and could be attempted regarding changes to OSU’s policies, and view their insights as valuable for faculty when considering what is and is not deemed appropriate use of the technologies in their course.

The use of AI looks differently than it did a few years ago when the pandemic set many educators and students scrambling to find new and innovative solutions for learning challenging content without the same degree of support historically available in pre-COVID times. The development of AI tools is also rapidly advancing in to new iterations at an increasing rate, leaving many to feel under-or-misinformed about what is possible and considered ethical in the use of these technologies. In my own work as Coordinator for the Supplemental Instruction (SI) program within the Office of Academic Support (OAS), I have the privilege of overhearing many such conversations between students and have compiled a few salient takeaways to share below.

AI Use from the Student Perspective – What SI Table Leaders are Hearing 

Our SI Leaders have been hearing accounts of students relying on AI to help them accomplish coursework and study for exams for a few years now, increasing in frequency over the last twelve months. Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the most common examples SI Leaders overhear is that of students discussing how they used AI to help them write lab reports and essays, as well as to solve math equations and science homework that relies on fact-checking. However, the extent to which OSU students are relying on AI as part of their routine work processes seems to be highly variable. For example, one student in the Fall of 2023 told their SI Leader “I like having the AI tools as a backup in case I really can’t figure something out or I’m worried I made a mistake.” Another reported that they only used AI when they felt ‘stuck’ or ‘trapped’ by tight deadlines and limited opportunities to receive other forms of support that felt safe and available in a timely nature.

This kind of ‘safety net’ that AI can offer seems valuable to some, but there is also a growing fear by others that the use of AI leaves students open to potential repercussions without warning. A frustration point for many students right now is that faculty have the authority to decide on an individual basis when AI is allowed to be used for homework and studying, meaning that what is permissible in one course may carry heavy penalties (including risk of being reported for academic misconduct) in another. As an example, an email came to our program in Fall with a request to unregister from a study table as the student (paraphrasing) told us, “I’m dropping this course because the faculty thinks I cheated and I don’t know what else to do.” Another student reported asking AI to generate practice exam questions only for the program to generate actual exam questions from older copies of the exam uploaded elsewhere on the internet. They reported this to their SI Leader who was unsure if the faculty member knew about the leak of their content or whether they would prefer students to use old practice exams as study materials in the first place. Out of fear, the student requested that the SI Leader not disclose this to the faculty directly and instead make an anonymous report.

Student confusion about the issue of AI use is understandable given the relatively recent introduction of this challenging but opportunity-rich new technology to the wider landscape of Higher Education. The University of Oregon recently updated their guidelines and resources for faculty on their Teaching Support and Innovation website while the University of Michigan just completed an internal campus-wide review on the affects of AI on students, faculty, and staff. The executive summary of the report stated that AI would have a ‘significant’ impact on UM’s campus in Fall 2023 and ‘can not be ignored.’ The United States Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology released a report in May 2023 urging educators to consider more than plagiarism, but student privacy as well as transparency in their use of AI when designing new activities, warning that many students do not fully understand how AI algorithms actually compose responses, resulting in a need for urgent support for students in simply learning how to use these tools in the first place as a key part of future learning outcomes and workforce preparedness.

Oregon State University is also addressing the challenges that AI tools present for educators hoping to support students’ developing their own critical thinking and reasoning skills. An advisory group designated by the Office of the Provost has brought together representatives from student support services, ASOSU’s Office of Advocacy, members of the Faculty Senate, and student members of ASOSU to create guiding principles for using AI-assisted learning strategies. A second coordinating team has also been assembled to look for possible opportunities for OSU to invest in or collaborate with other AI-related programs and services, both on OSU’s campus and abroad. An OSU ‘AI Day’ is planned for later in Spring of 2024, with opportunities for campus innovators to share the unique work they have been developing related to AI and allow students and faculty to ask questions related to AI use in studying and learning.

Students’ Creative Uses of AI – Ideas and Strategies to Suggest 

While longer term campus-wide policies take careful thought and time to develop, there are unique and relatively safe ways students can use AI that we as educators might be able to offer as we work to help them come to terms with this ubiquitous new tool. Faculty and learning support staff in particular may benefit from some examples we’ve collected of students using AI in ways that did NOT break the rules of their instructors and which we saw as particularly effective or innovative. These included asking AI tools to:

  1. Suggest other online learning resources about a topic, such as government websites, journal articles, and virtual lab activities.
  2. Explain why they missed a particular question on graded assignments.
  3. Summarize a list of important topics about a subject to build the outline of a study guide they then fill in using course materials.
  4. Recommend different ways to study for exams, including asking for a schedule to follow in terms of hours spent and when to begin studying.
  5. Describe a concept in multiple ways so that students can check where they may hold misconceptions or missed ideas.
  6. Prompting the AI to ask students questions about a given topic that they then attempted to answer using course materials as a form of practice.

As always, if you are going to provide suggestions about the use of AI to a student, please urge them to check their course syllabus or contact their instructor before engaging in AI-assisted study. Oregon State University has launched a new website that includes thoughtful suggestions and resources for faculty, including ways to connect on research or course design, and can be a great resource to share with students who have questions as well. At the end of the day, what is most important is that we help our students make sense of and succeed in the future careers available to them and show them that asking questions and looking for support is its own vital learning skill to practice as well. If you have questions or concerns about how AI might be used by students in your course, I encourage you to please contact the Center for Teaching and Learning at, as their offices can provide suggestions through email or set you up with a one-on-one consultation discussion to help you strategize effective ways to incorporate language and strategies regarding AI into your syllabus and curriculum.

Postcards from Student Leaders Reflecting on the Inaugural Peer Education Conference

by Woodrós Wolford

On November 4th, a team of peer educators hosted OSU’s inaugural Peer Education Conference “For Peer Educators, By Peer Educators” in Austin Hall, courtesy of the College of Business. There were 60-70 students in attendance from more than 26 different peer educator roles across campus: many attendees met peer educator colleagues for the first time through the conference! A Welcome and Panel Session started the schedule for the day, followed by two rounds of workshops with lunch in between, and we closed our day with activities and assessment at 2 pm.

What follows are “postcard” length self-reflections from some of the approximately 30 student leaders, most undergraduates, who helped to plan and put on the event. These are the second in a series that began in the last issue of The Success Kitchen. Some postcard writers facilitated workshops, such as the specially-featured Program Specialists from CEL (Community Engagement and Leadership), who facilitated story circles as a tool for active listening with peers (supported by Delfine DeFrank.) Some were on the core Peer Educator Conference Leadership team. All helped make the conference possible (and awesome!) through their planning, leadership, and participation in the peer ed community on November 4th. Their reflections are presented alphabetically by first name.


Hi Addie,

At the Peer Ed Conference we reflected on the importance of active listening and representation in education. I think these are both really important subjects for all students but especially those of us who do peer education on campus. My main takeaway from the event was really just the importance of compassion and respect in relational leadership.


Addie Schneider | Spring 2026, Bachelors in Electrical & Computer Engineering
Co-Facilitator at Peer Ed Conference
Community Engagement & Leadership (CEL) Program Specialist


Dear Ella, 

Wow! Remember the Peer Educator Conference? That was so cool and awesome. I am so proud of you for trying something new and walking into the fog so to speak alongside so many inspiring leaders like Wren, Woodrós, and Olivia. Yes, it was a little bit hectic and at times you felt very scattered, but it was the very first time you or anyone on your team had done something like that. You connected with others over personal experiences, you felt confident in yourself and your teaching skills, and proud of your teammates because you couldn’t have done it without their encouragement and support. Keep giving back to your community, keep learning, and keep walking into the unknown.


Ella Johansen | Spring 2025, Bachelors in English & in Education
Peer Educator Conference Leader and Discussion Leader 
Beaver Connect Mentor (EOP), Resident Assistant (UHDS), and Waste Watchers Sustainability Club Officer


I really appreciated attending the peer education and learning how I can do better in my role as a program specialist at CEL. I specifically enjoyed attending Naya Jakile’s [Andi Kinaya Putri Kesuma’s] workshop on how to support international students on our campus. There were many things I was unaware of in the obstacles that international students face on our campus, such as finding job placements, navigating life in another country, dealing with restrictions that other students on our campus face, and many more. It encouraged me to think about how I can better support international students in our role, and how dialogical programming can also provide a platform for international students to share their experiences to the larger community.  


Faisal Osman | Spring 2024, Bachelors in Public Policy
Co-Facilitator at Peer Ed Conference
Community Engagement & Leadership (CEL) Program Specialist, President of OSU NAACP Chapter


Dear Ismael, 

It has been a couple of weeks since you went to the Peer Ed Conference. It was an incredible experience celebrating the power of education and collaboration with peers has left me inspired and energized. The diverse sessions shared different topics and different things on how to be a better person/leader. As I reflect on the Peer Ed Conference, I carry forward the importance of inclusivity, innovation, active listening, and more. By taking advantage of this opportunity, I learned new skills that I will be using in the future. I will also remember to keep attending these events not only for the experience and learning opportunity but for the food they provide!


Ismael Rodriguez Cardoso | Summer 2026, Bachelors in Business Administration
Co-Facilitator at Peer Ed Conference
Community Engagement & Leadership (CEL) Program Specialist, College of Business Mentor, Fundraising Chair for Association of Latin American Students (ALAS)


Dear Jocelynn,

Remember the Peer Ed conference? If you don’t, let me tell you about what I’ve learned. Starting off with the dialogue our office facilitated on active listening, it was a great opportunity to reflect on active listening not only as a peer educator but in my own personal life. Recognizing the impact of intentional active listening on my personal relationships and how it has strengthened connections allows me to see how active listening as a peer educator is important to build trust and connection with those I work with and those I do work for. In the second workshop, I learned about representation in education. I learned how big of a difference it makes for students to be able to see themselves mirrored in their learning experiences, to be able to see themselves in positions of higher learning and that they belong there.


Jocelynn Saelee | Spring 2024, Bachelors in BioHealth Sciences (Pre-Pharmacy)
Co-Facilitator at Peer Ed Conference
Community Engagement & Leadership (CEL) Program Specialist


Dear Julia,

Hey girl! Greetings from the Peer Ed Conference! What an inspiring journey it has been. The active listening workshop was a game-changer, offering valuable insights into effective communication and connecting with others while fostering empathy and understanding. There’s nothing quite like celebrating the power of attentiveness and thoughtful, intentional responses! The workshop about the value of representation within the educational setting opened my eyes to its profound significance. It’s not just about being heard but truly understood, appreciating the diverse perspectives that make our community vibrant. It is so moving to imagine children being inspired to achieve greatness when they see people who look like them in positions of power or influence. The shared stories and experiences were a celebration of unity in diversity. I’ve learned that our voices matter, and so does every unique narrative. This conference has fueled my commitment to fostering inclusive spaces. I feel grateful for these lessons and the chance to connect with passionate peers. Until next time, PEC!

Warm regards,

Julia Gilsoul | Spring 2024, Bachelors in Environmental Science
Co-Facilitator at Peer Ed Conference
Community Engagement & Leadership (CEL) Program Specialist


Hello me!

Look at where we are now! We freaking MC at a major event, which is crazy but AMAZING! Who would’ve thought that you would be a part of a team to create this event, it was amazing and smooth, you did it – pat yourself on the back. I must say my favorite part is being able to see all different peer educators teaching and learning from each other. That will always have a safe spot in my heart, let’s continue this journey of growing and learning from everyone else so that we can be prepared for the real world!

Kayla (Your proud self)

Kayla Washington | Spring 2025, Bachelors in Business Administration Systems
Peer Educator Conference Leader and Emcee
Academic Success Center (ASC) Strategist


Hi, me!

I learned that peer educators are disconnected on campus, however we do tend to clump depending on what programs we have in collaboration with each other. Not to mention who are friends and/or roommates between the student services. It’s not a bad thing, and the conference was extremely helpful to formally meet others in peer education. Much like the SEE luncheon during training right before Fall term is intended to meet other students who work under SEE, the Peer Ed Conference was a lovely way to connect.

Another aspect of the conference in the effort to understand what other orgs & offices do is that we may use the same words and have different intentions. To work better in collaborative situations, being on the same page of language, effort, and organization is a key point in executing successful projects and/or events.


Seneca Moback | Winter 2024, Bachelors in Public Health
Co-Facilitator at Peer Ed Conference
Community Engagement & Leadership (CEL) Program Specialist


🎀✨heeeeeey slay star🎀✨💅💅💅

My takeaways from the Peer Ed Conference were the impact we were able to make on the students who came. The presentations themselves portrayed passion and dedication about the topics, and it was definitely a learning opportunity for me since I have never done something like this before. The PECL team were super accommodating towards my needs and were very warm and positive during the day-of. One difficulty I encountered was the time aspect of presentations, and it was particularly challenging to implement a community dialogue format within a limited amount of time. However, I learned that there can always be different dialogical strategies that can be implemented that might best suit the timeframe given.


Tiffany Li | Spring 2025, Bachelors in BioHealth Sciences (Pre-Optometry)
Lead Workshop Co-Facilitator at Peer Ed Conference
Community Engagement & Leadership (CEL) Program Specialist


Dear William of the Past,

These past few months I got the benefit of attending and helping to run the peer education conference at Oregon State University. There I was able to attend two separate workshops, one regarding AI usage in school and the other regarding how to support transfer students. Within the AI workshop I learned a lot about its positive usages for schoolwork and how it can help students skip over some busy work without fully doing a job for them. Alongside this I learned about supporting transfer students, which was very helpful in understanding the special challenges associated with being a transfer student. Overall, the peer education conference was very helpful and informative, and I am more than happy that I got to go.

A slightly more futuristic William

William Lusby | Spring 2025, Natural Resources Major
Provider of Panel & Other Support (day of and in the weeks ahead) for Peer Ed Conference
Academic Success Center (ASC) Strategist


Dearest Wren,

Hi hi! Can you believe it’s been two months since the first EVER Peer-Ed Conference??? Kind of wild, right? Looking back, there are a lot of things that I—that you—cherish from this experience and a lot that I would want us to do differently, too!

For starters, communicate more with each other from the get-go!! We’re doing this as a team, so we need to work as a team, and it’s so much harder to reach out when you don’t know who you’re working with. Establish a place to communicate from the beginning and stick to it! Next, marketing! So much effort and love went into this conference; don’t forget to share it with others. (It’s for peer educators across campus, after all!) Lastly, trust in the team and that everything will be okay. Hijinks ensue (they always will), but everyone and everything will end up fine, I promise. You’ve got this!!

Always yours,

Wren P. Nguyễn | Spring 2025, Bachelors in Psychology
Peer Educator Conference Leader and Logistics Lead
Academic Coach (ASC) and MESS Lab Assistant

Prompts for Meeting 1:1 with Student Employees

by Clare Creighton

One-on-one meetings (or 1:1s) is the shortcut term our department uses for meeting individually with someone, most often with a direct report or supervisor. Student employees meet with their supervisor in 1:1s at various frequencies throughout the year, and professional staff meet with their reporting line supervisor in 1:1s on a regular basis as well. I love thinking about how the questions we ask open up possibilities for different conversations. I asked the team what kind of prompts they use in their 1:1s with student employees and there were a lot of thematic similarities.

In these conversations, the question below is just a starting point, from there we can ask follow-up questions and unpack responses in detail. Some supervisors give their questions to the team member in advance, and not all questions make it into every conversation. Here’s a collection:

  1. How has this past [week, month, term] been?
  2. Tell me about a highlight from this past [week, month, term]. Or What do you feel like you’re doing particularly well?
  3. What challenges have you experienced/faced? Or What’s been challenging about your work?
  4. What is on your radar as you look ahead? What’s coming up?
  5. What skills do you want to further develop this term? What types of projects do you want to take on? What areas of development do you have in mind?
  6. In general, or specific to the projects and skills above, what kind of support would you like from me? What would be helpful this [week, month, term]?
  7. Here’s an upcoming project, change, or workflow ____. What role do you want to play in that project? What do you think your strengths or contributions might be?

These prompts strike me as useful in a range of conversations – in your own 1:1s or similar conversations. I’ll add one of my favorite prompts to the list as well, which is to ask folks, “what would you like me to ask you about/check in on when we meet next?”

Absolutely Amateur: A Conversation between Anna & Sarah

by Anna Bentley & Sarah Norek

In this conversation, you’ll hear Anna and Sarah discuss what it’s been like to be in learning environments for topics and skills unrelated to their OAS and ASC work, and teasing out how the experience and what they’ve been noticing about themselves in these spaces and this learning undeniably informs their work OAS and ASC work.  

We (Anna and Sarah) decided to try recording our conversation, rather than writing about it. If you prefer to read the transcript, that’s available too, or if you want to speed it all up, you should be able to change your playback settings. In this conversation, we didn’t get into how our learning experiences feel different from something like professional development, but it’s something we started talking about afterwards too (spoiler: we think it’s related to the fact that we’re in low-stakes, ungraded environments and we’re not responsible to bring the learning back or apply it to our roles, it just ends up that we do and we can, still).

Let us know what you think of this format or any questions/things you’re thinking about related to this topic! And thanks for listening 😊.

Letter to Myself – Takeaways from a Student-Led Conference

by Woodrós Wolford

Note from the writer: After our inaugural peer education conference, I thought I’d write myself a letter with some of my core takeaways and share that letter with you! If you’re interested in speaking more about this experience – whether for something you’re planning or to collaborate on our next peer ed conference – feel free to reach out to me on Teams, by email, or by stopping by Waldo 125 or 140!

Dear Woodrós,

            Hi, it’s me. Woodrós. You know, you. Can you remember what October and November were like? No? Well, I do, so let me help you out! Here’s what I want you to remember as you work on the second peer education conference, supporting a new group of student-leaders and alongside Caitlin McVay (Beaver Connect, EOP). First of all, remember that the teams who help lead and plan the conference are the teams that will attend the conference. Plan accordingly as we expand on this first year’s reach! 

            Once those student leaders are identified, do please work with them over Zoom over the summer again (although, if you can also pull off an in-person meet up first, do it!). The collective of student leadership needs to shape the vision, goals, and vibes of the conference. In those meetings, you get to help them collaborate with one another, have a good time while getting things done, and bring their critical thinking so that the answers to the important questions are as nuanced and wise as possible.

            Also over the summer, please move on to the steps you didn’t start until September or so last year, because that wasn’t enough time, you know what works now, and you can be a better project manager now that you’re not also co-authoring a first draft. Specifically, don’t bother with sending multiple surveys collecting folks’ theoretical capacity to work on PECL. It doesn’t matter what the capacity is if they don’t know what to do! Instead, present the roles and teams to the group in a meeting, and connect with folks 1-on-1 if they’re comfortable with that to put the structure together. Those who will be point people for specific teams or for the larger student leadership group need to be able to work with you 1-on-1, so you need to build trust and relationship with one another. Those on teams and taking on specific projects might interface primarily with one of their peers, with Caitlin, or possibly with you if that is their preference.

            We had the energy to do things last year before fall term started; we just didn’t have enough clarity on what we could do ahead. Now, much more can happen during the summer while students aren’t also balancing fall term priorities.

            Now, we know that life is going to happen. Things get messy. I want to remind you that part of what worked was our grace and kindness with each other; our support for self-care and creation of a community of care. It’s important to develop a sense of mutual support and shared        responsibility, with space for that “predictably unpredictable messiness” of being a human. So, make space for the team to establish goals and values and trust around this, and show up in line with these goals. After all, this recognition of humanity was a recurring theme throughout the student-driven development of this conference concept, remember? In the topics suggested and prioritized, in planning a de-stress space and for other human complexities when considering the space and lunch logistics, having peer leaders checking in with other peer leaders’ well being, and in one of the feedback themes. There is magic in peers getting to do something for peers, and seeing one another professionally that way. You get to help establish the way of working that supports that student-centered shine.

            Sure, there are lots of other systems and concrete components that you’ll keep or refine. (QR code on the nametag, for instance, or what kinds of roles our marketing team needs to start strong.) These are important! Build on the intention and the energy we built in the first one, layering in those systems to support the well-being of the student leaders and the reach of the conference.

            Oh, and don’t forget to ask the awesome pro-staff who offered help for that help, now that you know what kind of help people can provide and what you need. 🙂 You need multilayered support as much as the students do. (Notice how that’s the last thing I remembered? Please do better and prioritize this!)

            With hope for a smoother yet totally fabulous 2nd year!


Revising a Survey Question

by Clare Creighton

For the fourth fall in a row, Maureen Cochran, Erin Bird, and I collaborated with campus partners on the questions that make up the Fall Student Experience survey, which goes out to all Corvallis-based undergraduate students to understand their experience and perspective in a few key areas of interest. The survey ran from October 23 – November 6 and I anticipate sharing some findings in a Winter issue of The Success Kitchen. In this post, however, I’m interested in a conversation I had with Nicole Hindes, director of the Basic Needs Center (BNC) as we worked on the wording of some questions in October.

We have a stock question we have asked on all the surveys that asks students to what degree are the listed items are a “Significant Concern,” “Somewhat of a Concern” “Not a Concern” or “Not applicable.” One of the listed items is “Meeting my current financial obligations” and this year, we wanted to understand more about the “Significant Concern” or “Somewhat of a Concern” responses to that question. 

In brainstorming what to ask as a follow-up question, we were considering asking about the financial concerns students were having. Was it concerns with things like paying rent or tuition or groceries? Not being about to save for unexpected expenses or keep up with existing debts? What kinds of things were they having trouble paying for?

That question felt off, but in reaching out to Nicole, she helped us understand why. At best that’s a misleading way to understand degrees of poverty and need, at worst, it’s laden with the assumption that we can make meaning of what they can and can’t afford and what that means for them. Here’s where we landed with the wording instead (it’s not a perfect fit either, but it’s better!)

You indicated a level of concern with meeting your current financial obligations.  Please indicate which of the following are relevant for you:

  • I have utilized resources previously and they helped me improve my financial strategies
  • I am currently using resources where I can go to ask for help to address some of my financial stressors (CAFE, BNC, Career Development Center, Financial Aid, Scholarship Office)
  • I intend to utilize resources to address my financial concerns in the next month.
  • I do not know what to do to address my financial concerns
  • I do not believe I can improve my financial stressors.
  • I am confident I will utilize resources to address my financial concerns if the situation becomes more challenging or serious than my current reality.
  • Other (please specify): ___________________

Nicole offers this as an explanation for the rewrite:

What I like about this reframe we did, was that it brings out more of the student’s agency and capacity into what we’re all understanding about the student’s current situation (including how we’re asking the student to understand their resources). A drill-down into the concerns really only gives us more information about a problem and functionally little information about a student’s experience with help-seeking behaviors. It’s regretfully far too common for students who are low-income to be seen by what they don’t have or what they lack, a deficit-orientation. Not ignoring the impact of systemic limitations/conditions, I generally operate from the mindset that if students use their resources, they can improve their situation/conditions and that it’s possible to thrive and graduate inside of varying levels of income/financial need.

The rework of this question does a few things. We’ll learn much more useful information from this question like how they are engaging in support resources and to what degree they see an ability to change. Those answers will help us understand where students are confident they can get help to improve their conditions and where they need invitation (from us as administrators) to engage in resources. The places we put our attention or focus create the understanding we have about who someone is or what their lives are like. The reframing of this question also brings in more of a student’s capacity to affect their situation, their ability to ask for help to address their stressors, which is a more empowering framework than drilling down into their concerns.

This conversation was a helpful one as we worked on the wording of the survey, but more broadly, I carry a few lessons forward. This question offered a great example of an instance when the wording of a question and how it’s framed have a ripple effect, on the student as they’re taking the survey and how they see themselves in relationship to their finances, on the folks who read the results and the meaning they’re making from responses. Most importantly for me, I appreciate that I’m already in relationship with Nicole as it was easy to “pick up the phone” and connect both to improve the question itself, but also to learn more about what I didn’t recognize in the original version.

Ways to Show Support for Students at the End of the Term

We have just a few weeks left in fall term. While the post-holiday momentum may carry folks toward the end of term, it can be challenging for students to maintain energy and motivation. Here are a few ways you can show support for students in your course as they navigate these last few weeks of the term:

  1. Acknowledge what students have accomplished. Name specific work that has been done so far so students recognize not just what they need to complete for the term, but how much they’ve already accomplished. Consider noting growth in knowledge, skills, thinking, and other areas you’ve observed throughout the term. Acknowledging the cognitive and emotional labor that goes into learning can demonstrate empathy and support.
  2. Thank students. Appreciate the time and effort students have invested in the course to acknowledge hard work and show understanding that many students may be experiencing a particularly stressful and busy time. Making choices related to your course that can decrease students’ stress and overwhelm can be a great way to pair understanding with action.
  3. Reach out to students. Connect with students who may benefit from completing late work or revising assignments, or who will need to do well on assignments in the last few weeks of the term. And individual invitation to connect can be a good starting point for helping students navigate decisions around the end of term and letting them know you believe they can do well. Here is a resource with sample language for outreach.
  4. Remind students of resources. Share resources in the moment to encourage resource use at the time those resources might be needed. Consider re-introducing course-specific resources (including office hours) and broader campus resources, as well as reminding students of the support they can offer each other. If you’re not sure what resources exist for a particular class or need, check out the OSU Experience website’s Student Resources page or connect with me to brainstorm.
  5. Encourage self-care. Take a few minutes to remind students of the value of self-care and to acknowledge the holistic nature of success. Similar to gratitude, pairing understanding with course actions that decrease overwhelm can be a good way to help reduce stress. Here are a variety of self-care resources to share with students.

Belonging in Absence

by Sarah Norek

This past summer, life happened for me. As in, this past summer, an unexpected life event came along and completely derailed what I’d imagined my summer – at work and outside of it – would be. It involved family, and medical stuff, and a lot of not knowing, and time. July was a particularly long-feeling month with a lot of being in the hospital with a family member.

Before the event, I had such grand plans for summer work time! There was going to be meaningful collaboration on a project, momentum and gains on another project, some thinking-ahead to a couple different projects, etc. I had a main list, and a couple secondary lists, and things were going to be crossed. Off. Stuff was going to HAPPEN. When life happened for me, it was a Sunday. By Monday, my old summer structure and plans were obsolete.

As I write this in fall, with two-ish months between then and now, things aren’t completely back to where they were, but they’re in a better place. Lately I’ve been reflecting on the part belonging and community played in my navigation of everything outside of work that unfolded and my absence at work because of it. Being in a less activated head-space, I’ve been able to name some of the choices I made that allowed for my presence elsewhere in July, and to appreciate more fully what was offered by my community:

Choices I made:

  • I said no to things/dropped things off my summer work list – summer is never long enough to do all the things anyway, but I also leaned into summer no longer being what I had imagined, and that being okay. Commitments were adjusted. Projects were dropped or moved back. I created priorities based on bandwidth and needs.
  • I asked for help & accepted it when offered – asking for help is a skill we talk with students a lot about developing, and I fully admit that I’m still in my help-asking journey. It’s hard. I don’t want to add to anyone’s plate. But it’s also their choice to say yes or no, and it was my choice to accept it (another hard thing, not wanting to add to folks’ plates).
  • I let go of what I thought I needed to do to be a good employee – I have a lot of self-judgement around what I’m doing and what I’m not doing and what that means for me and how my colleagues perceive me. Am I unique in this? Nope. But the shape and feel of my insecurities are uniquely mine, and it was hard work to let them go, and imperfect too. Removing that level of expectation allowed me to be where I needed to be completely, and only I could do it.
  • I let myself be where I needed to be – during the work day, that was often at the hospital, but also it was sometimes at work for a break from the hospital, or working while there to give my brain something else to focus on. I didn’t give myself blocks to fill necessarily, I just gave myself places to be and ways to be there and then stepped in as needed – for me and for work and for the people I was supporting outside of work.
  • I accepted summer having kind of blown up – I got to practice what I try to always acknowledge in workshops with folks, which is that life happens sometimes, and what we thought we’d do can’t happen. And that can be really hard, and it’s okay. Stay kind with yourself. Give yourself some grace. And recognize that you’re still doing a lot of hard work, even if it’s not exactly the work you expected it to be.

Things folks offered:

  • Hugs – I’m not always the huggiest person, and hugs aren’t everyone’s thing, and relationships are different. But hugs were grounding and reminded me I wasn’t swirling around in everything all on my own. Thanks folks.
  • Permission to drop things/not be at things – sometimes permission is actually needed, and sometimes it just means a lot to hear from someone else that it’s okay to not be at a place or show up for a thing. Thanks for saying it aloud.
  • Coverage – we already had summer event coverage plans in place, but when I couldn’t show up or needed to be at an appointment, and I reached out, folk stepped in, the community supported me, and I will be endlessly grateful for this. Thank you again.
  • Texts and memes and chats – ways to signal a person isn’t alone. A quick hello, a ping from the world beyond my own, which felt very small and stressful, meant so much. Thanks for those, too.

Life happening can happen in a lot of different ways, in a lot of different forms. Our teams may be very different, our approaches may be very different. My brilliant colleague, William, named what I hadn’t seen before: that I’m speaking both to community and absence, and what community can mean in absence/when absence has to happen. As apart from my team and my previous plans as I was, my choices and options were informed by my community, and my community helped shorten the distance I experienced and supported the choices I could control. That’s a takeaway for me too: that there were still things I could control, even within all that I couldn’t, and the community I’m a part of played a huge role in me getting from point A to whatever point I’m at now, and wherever I’ll get to next.

Five-Minute Feedback: Creating a Tool and Ritual for Meeting Evaluations

by Anna Bentley

Have you ever facilitated a meeting or taught a class that left you wondering, “Were they actually interested in this topic, or were they secretly bored out of their minds? Did I make any sense at all? Did they get anything out of that? Did I make everyone feel included?” Sometimes it feels impossible to read the room, and in those moments, I doubt my facilitation skills. And when you’re not sure what topics and facilitation moves are exciting for folks and which are dreadful, it’s hard to know how to adapt your next meeting to better suit their needs.

Last year was my first year supervising a small group of student employees and facilitating their weekly professional development meetings. Sometimes I’d ask student employees individually what they thought of the meeting afterwards, but I feared they were just being polite and giving me praise, being put on the spot like that. I mean, it’s hard to tell your supervisor, “Yeah, that meeting totally sucked. Your prompts made no sense, and you were way off your game. What were you thinking?!”

Tired of guessing how things landed for them, I knew I needed a system for feedback, but I wanted something that would capture everyone’s thoughts and would also be a tool for them to continue to engage with what they just learned. What I created was an anonymous paper evaluation form that both captured their thoughts and gave them a brief moment to connect what they just learned to their role. I chose a paper form intentionally, as folks integrate connections and meaning differently through writing compared to typing. I designed the form to be simple yet have lots of opportunity for optional open-ended feedback. I set aside the last five minutes of every meeting for everyone to complete this form at once, and it became a sort of ritual, something that they expected to fill out every week. As the weeks went on, I noticed they were giving more detailed responses to the open-ended questions, perhaps because they knew there was time set aside, and their peers were all doing this at the same time too.

By gathering feedback in this way, I’ve learned so much about myself as a facilitator and have made many small but reportedly impactful changes to the way I design and deliver content. For instance, I received feedback very quickly that our training agenda handouts were long and overwhelming. My colleague and I abbreviated the agenda the following week and heard that it was much more digestible. Some folks also commented that they wanted more time for group discussion after small group activities, as the time I was setting aside always seemed to get cut short. I made thoughtful adjustments and set more rigid time boundaries to honor the group discussions, and that led to much richer, meaningful closing conversations.

I’d love to share this evaluation form with you in case you’re curious about implementing something similar with your students or colleagues. Now I distribute this after every meeting I facilitate, including training sessions for new student employees and team meetings I facilitate with my pro staff colleagues. Two of my favorite items in the evaluation form that participants rate and comment on are (1) “The facilitator(s) cared about what I had to say” and (2) “I felt like I could be myself in today’s meeting.” These align with the values I prioritize as a supervisor of students. As my values and objectives evolve over time, this form will too. I hope this inspires you to adapt or develop a feedback tool that works for your values and needs!

Staff Picks: Valuable Training Activities & Topics

by Chris Ervin

Chris asks the Office of Academic Support team: What one indispensable training activity or topic do your teams find most valuable, applicable to their work supporting their peers, surprisingly helpful, or otherwise remarkable? Why?


One thing I’ve heard from Outreach Specialists that they find helpful for their workshop facilitation training is to intentionally practice different facilitation elements out loud: talking through the entire presentation out loud, talking through transitions between slides/topics out loud, talking through possible responses to prompts out loud and how they might validate and also connect what’s been shared back to the topic. Some folks also find it helpful to record their practice and to play the recording back. It can feel really different to think through slides/transitions versus speaking the words, and practicing what it might feel/sound like can help folks feel more prepared when they step into the live workshop environment.  


Sharing the Stories of Our Names! At the first meeting, I give the homework of preparing a Name Story, which means people can research, ponder, etc. and choose what they might want to offer about their names. At the second meeting, I am prepared for this “warm up” activity to take the whole meeting (but prepare an agenda so there isn’t pressure). Sharing name stories makes space for culture and context that might not otherwise be shared and encourages care with one another’s names. (Check out this page for a classroom lesson plan and name alternatives.)


ASC Strategists share that they really love visiting campus partners to learn about their services and resources. Hearing about services directly from the folks who provide them has a much greater impact than anything I could have shared with them. By physically being in a space, Strategists can better describe to students what they can expect from a service and help students prepare for their visit. Even Strategists who have previously visited a particular center or resource share that they learn something new every time we visit, and it never gets old!


I often fall back on a listening exercise that I experienced in Paul Axtell training and adapted. It’s designed to disrupt our typical approach to listening and to encourage leaving silence in a conversation to let the other person steer the conversation. One person is given an open-ended prompt and 5 minutes to speak, and the other person is instructed to use silence, non-verbals, and the occasional one-word responses to practice deep listening. Then they switch, and we debrief. There is dissonance for both in the unnaturalness of the set-up, but it also helps participants experience what it’s like to have an open invitation to speak uninterrupted and see where their thinking leads them.


Laura Rendón’s Validation Theory describes validation as “an enabling, confirming and supportive process initiated by in- and out-of-class agents that fosters academic and interpersonal development.” Rendón emphasizes recognizing the strengths and abilities students bring to their college experiences and the value they contribute to the community. When we validate, we show our support and belief in students’ abilities to be successful. In trainings, we talk through what validation is, what it can look like in context (e.g., in a writing consultation, in office hours, in a classroom), and the importance and potential impact of validation within our work.


An activity I’ve enjoyed facilitating is Francesca Helm’s Language Portrait. The activity asks group participants to draw a figure silhouette and then use different colors to indicate where and how language shows up in their bodies. This activity can be adapted to a variety of scenarios and contexts depending on desired outcome. For example, I’ve used it to focus on written language specifically, and I think it could be adapted to any held identity, concept, or form of expression. It creates a container for participants to discuss aspects of their identity, lived experiences, and positionality in relation to the given prompt. It works well as a community building activity with a new group, but it could also be used to deepen thinking around a topic with participants who already know each other.


The activity I’ve found most illustrative and engaging for a team has been a game, usually Dungeons & Dragons. Roleplaying has been my go-to for figuring out how people solve problems, where there are fault lines in a team, and where there is room for growth. Posing a radically fantastical problem, like trying to get off an airplane mid-flight before it passes a drop zone, can be enormously useful. In that example, one just jumped, risking life and limb on the guess that it’d probably work out. Another made a “glider” out of sheets. The other four took the time to find the parachutes. Getting a team to the stage where they are comfortable with a game is a separate discussion, but once there, knowing who will jump out of the plane, who will make a glider, and who will find the parachute is very helpful.


Student employees are seldom given the opportunity to assess their own understanding about inclusive facilitation and support practices, let alone in contexts where disclosing potential confusion or questions feels safe to do (e.g. scholarship or job applications). Yale’s Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning has several excellent resources regarding inclusive teaching and support practices, including a list of common implicit biases held by students and teachers in learning contexts. This list is a great starting point for conversation with peer educators about which of these they have experienced and how that made them feel as a way to encourage greater care in their own work facilitating others’ learning.


I love Russ Harris’ ACT Mindfully values checklist, which is intended to help a person “identify . . . how you want to treat yourself, others and the world around you.” This activity asks us to identify core values as well as values we don’t hold so deeply and can be applied personally or within a work context.  Completing this activity with student staff can shape our working relationships with them, as we can ask them to share their values with us and keep those values in mind as we offer feedback and engage in mentoring. For example, from the checklist an employee might select humor, creativity, and fun as “very important” and conformity (“to be respectful and obedient of rules and obligations”) as “not important.” Their values inventory can frame our feedback conversations: Knowing which values they hold, I might help the employee identify places where humor, creativity, and fun might contribute to community-building, for example, but also where humor or fun might need to be set aside during training meetings where we’re trying to get some serious work accomplished.