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Oliners Present at FIE 2020

Professor Yevgeniya (Zhenya) V. Zastavker brought two Olin students and an alum as well as a Wellesley student to this year’s Frontiers in Education (FIE) conference on Oct. 21-24. FIE is a major global conference drawing from international scholars and practitioners who ponder questions and implement innovations in engineering and computing education. The theme for this year's event was Education for a Sustainable Future.

Two Olin students, Julia Benton ’22 and Camille Girard ’21, helped co-facilitate a pre-conference workshop titled "Democratizing Engineering Education Through Contemplative and Mindfulness Practices."

To Zastavker, it is a critical opportunity for the students’ development. When bringing her students to the international stage, they are offered an opportunity to “learn how to present our work, to disseminate our findings in the language that is their own, practice presentation skills and networking, learn from others, and also meet potential graduate school representatives and employers,” says Zastavker. “Most importantly, the process of preparing for and attending a conference ­– including manuscript writing and presenting – supports students’ growth, challenging them in a caring and compassionate environment, meeting them where they are and developing non-cognitive skills including self-efficacy, habits of mind, communication, and many other competencies.”

For Camille, it was a valuable opportunity to discuss contemplative practices with people who have never experienced contemplative environments in STEM education. “I have always lived and grown up in spaces filled with reflective, contemplative people and this was an interesting experience of trying to explain and place value on these practices to new people,” she says. “I was able to experience how exceedingly difficult it is to show and explain contemplative practices. At the same time, I saw this curiosity from people who have never even practiced themselves, showing that the world is open to these new (or really old) approaches to education.”

“The biggest thing I took away from co-facilitating our workshop at FIE is how lucky I am to be not just a student at Olin, but truly an empowered co-creator,” says Julia. “Presenting to an international audience was nerve-wracking, and it felt like me, an undergraduate student, teaching content to educators was something that went against the rules of academia. But during my time at Olin, I’ve come to recognize and own the unique gifts I possess and really believe in my abilities. Working with faculty as a co-creator of this workshop reminded me how fortunate I am to be in the driver’s seat for my Olin learning journey.”

Julia, along with Vicky McDermott ’20 and Wellesley College student Ramona Smucker ’22, also presented a paper about their research with Zastavker on students' learning journeys. Despite challenges related to campus closures at the time of manuscript writing last spring and the four presenters being some of the very few undergraduates at the conference, both the workshop and the lecture received lots of positive feedback from the FIE audience. 

“Being a part of this experience allowed me to see how many people and places are trying to change education,” says Camille. “Sometimes it feels like education is this big immoveable system [but attending this conference] made me see that people are doing this work successfully and being creative around education. This encourages me to keep working in this space [sitting in the knowledge] that people do want change.”