STEP helps extend education policy discussion beyond classroom

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For Stephen Payne, the president of Students Together in Educational Policy (STEP), the goal for his student organization is to encourage education policy discussion outside of the classroom.

As its name suggests, STEP’s focus is on educational policy issues. The group tries to talk about the issues of the day, as well as general educational policy theories.

“Last night we had a meeting and we had Dr. David Post from the higher education faculty come in and talk about the connection between educational policy issues and higher education,” Payne said.

“The meeting before that, one of the members of the State College Area school board came in to talk about some of the issues they face when they deal with Harrisburg.”

It’s discussions like those that Payne hopes will swell the ranks of STEP from the 50 it currently has on its listserv.

STEP, in its current form, is a little more than a year old. It had existed a few years ago, but graduation robbed the organization of its leadership and it lay dormant for a time.

In fall semester 2012, Payne and his officers — Marcy Herr, Emily Werns, Christine O’Hare and Lindsay D’Aiuto — resurrected STEP.

Right now STEP membership consists mostly of education and public policy (EPP) majors and education policy studies minors. But Payne said policy discussions should extend beyond those who plan a career in the EPP field.

“We’re definitely interested in the perspective of education majors, elementary and secondary. Their perspective is important,” he said. “Increasing our membership is important, because we are a small major in the first place.”

It helps that Hilary Chubb, a grad assistant in EPP, serves as a co-adviser. And Dana Mitra, associate professor of education, is the adviser of the program and head of the major.

“We’re trying to establish relationships with faculty and helping them extend the classroom beyond what you do in 50 minutes,” Payne said. “I think we’re doing a cool thing in our major, trying to get that up and running and consistent.”

“I think we extend the classroom and make these issues a little bit more real to students. It’s a little less formal. It’s a dialogue and a discussion, especially to elementary and secondary majors,” he said.

“They might not have time in their schedules to take a class or two or three. The perspective they can gain from just coming to our club, from students who have taken these classes or from professors who do teach them, I think is really valuable to their experience. Policy at all levels is very important and becoming even more important as time goes by.”

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Last Updated November 14, 2013