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Program seizes student-led education

By Jennifer Case

April 22, 2004 9:00 p.m.

A few students on campus have begun to initiate their own
educations, blurring the lines between being a student and being an

This handful of students is part of a new experimental program
designed to help students start their own courses. The program,
Students Empowered to Initiate their Own Educations, referred to as
SEIzE ““ calls for students to design their own courses, as
well as instruct them.

Two courses are currently available in the curriculum: a
sustainability course through the Institute of Education and a
community service course through an Undergraduate Students
Association Council general representative office.

The program has not yet received officially recognized status at
UCLA, but program coordinators say they hope that in the near
future the organization will gain this status, which would allow it
to obtain university funding.

The program was created in association with the Academic Affairs
Commission as an extension of the diversity requirement campaign,
which calls for students to come together and participate in the
creation of a diverse curriculum.

“We’re trying desperately hard to make SEIzE an
officially recognized student organization. We want the
administration to see that we are students dedicated to engaging
our peers through designing our own courses,” said Sophia
Kozak, the academic affairs commissioner.

Through the SEIzE program, students would design their own
courses by creating a syllabus and finding a faculty member willing
to sponsor the course. The student would then contact the
registrar’s office and try to get the course scheduled.

The program was modeled after the DeCal program at UC Berkeley,
which has been in existence for more than 20 years. The DeCal
program has grown to include over 100 courses taught by Berkeley
students, with over 3,000 students enrolled each semester.

Fourth-year political science student Michael Cox has been
successful in starting his own lecture series at UCLA. The course,
Environment 185, brings a different guest speaker to the class each

“Although the course is not student-facilitated as a
discussion, it still fits the baseline of the SEIzE vision because
it was student-initiated. The class has taken off really well and
should serve as a model for future student-initiated
courses,” Cox said.

He said he obtained sponsorship through the Institute of
Education fairly easily, but that was because the coalition that
coordinated this course, the California Students Sustainability
Coalition, had already received support from the institute.

Other students wishing to run their own courses are not in the
same boat.

Second-year political science student Michelle Sassounian has a
course syllabus written out and a curriculum planned out for a
course she would facilitate, called “The United Nations and
Society.” Though she would like to begin the course in the
fall, she has received resistance from numerous professors who are
skeptical of a student-run course.

This skepticism is understandable, Sassounian said, because most
professors simply don’t have the time or don’t want the
responsibility and risk that comes with signing on to a completely
student-run course.

Sassounian’s course would include some light reading and
be more discussion-based, she said, emphasizing the group-learning
atmosphere that the class would embrace.

“I would come to the table with more knowledge, but
we’d be learning off of each other,” she said.

After going through a list of political science professors,
Sassounian’s next course of action is to pursue professors in
the education department.

But this resistance should not discourage interested students,
Kozak said.

“The fact that the program has not been officially
recognized should not impede students from wanting to get involved.
We’re still in the planning stages and need people to get
involved,” he said.

With reports from Menaka Fernando, Bruin senior staff. SEIzE
meets from 4 to 6 p.m. in 310 Kerckhoff Hall. For more information
contact the coordinators at [email protected]

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