Ryan’s journey with ECIU University is quite a personal one – once a University of Twente student, now a fully-fledged team member, he’s following his long-time dream to change the global educational landscape.
As a learner engagement coordinator, he hopes to give learners space and resources to make themselves heard – and has already begun making this plan a reality.
Even before his ECIU University journey began, Ryan Wakamiya had been hoping to change the education game – switching from business management to educational sciences and entering the University of Twente for his master’s.
'I’ve always been interested in systematic reform of education, and how we can really, fundamentally change what education is and how we approach it – he explains. ‘I wanted to understand how we can align it better with the actual needs of learners and society’.
While working on his thesis, Ryan heard of ECIU University for the first time. There was a position of student assistant open, and he decided to give it a shot – quickly realizing he might have found just what he was looking for. A way to reimagine the concept of higher education.
And so, it began. After switching across several projects at ECIU University and the University of Twente, Ryan made his next step – and started work as a learner engagement coordinator.
It was about so much more than simply engaging, though. It was about building a community that empowers learners to express themselves, share their opinions, and become part of the change – both for ECIU University and the global educational landscape.
There are several different – yet heavily connected – layers to the learner engagement coordinator role, Ryan says.
First and foremost, it’s creating a feedback loop for the student community and ensuring the students are represented in as many development processes as possible. Through the local university student unions and student communities, he is busy building the structural connections to enable this student voice to be heard and integrated into the structure of ECIU University. Another big goal is to further develop the community itself.
‘I’d like to help create an ever-growing, sustainable community that captures the essence of what it is to be part of ECIU University’, Ryan explains.
But building the community is not just raising awareness and getting students involved in the ECIU University activities. Ryan believes it comes hand in hand with the unique and challenging experiences provided by ECIU University. Bringing people from different cultures, backgrounds, and disciplines together, encouraging them to share their perspectives on common societal challenges – and thus fostering change.
‘It can be incredibly transformative when you encounter these different perspectives and through them, learn more about society, each other, and yourself. And it’s loads of fun, too! It’s the kind of community that I am proud to be a part of and want to help grow’.
He hopes to achieve just that by having more learners engage in community events, learning opportunities, and, most importantly, discussions. And while Ryan’s focus is on students for now, he means it when he says learners, not just students. In the future, he’d like to expand the community even further.
'Everyone is a learner – whether you're a member of staff, a researcher, a teacher or a student. That’s the power of continuous, lifelong learning’, he says.
Ryan’s first couple of months as a learner engagement coordinator have been quite busy – gathering opinions, reaching out to students and colleagues, and fostering connections. Part of this effort is the introduction of student ambassadors.
‘Student ambassadors are people who will help develop the ECIU University community on a local, university level’, he explains. ‘These people have already experienced ECIU University, they love ECIU University and are truly excited about helping it improve – which makes them perfect ambassadors for the initiative’.
Ambassadors from several institutions have already been chosen with a kick-off meeting having taken place in November. Ryan hopes to provide them with a space where they feel empowered to express themselves, brainstorm ideas, and have meaningful discussions about the future of education and their role in it.
‘I want people in each team to develop their own tasks, their own objectives and even projects’, Ryan explains. ‘They’ll be the ones deciding what they should be doing, and we’ll be providing them with support and direction’.
Among other things, each ambassador will help grow the community at their home institution by organizing events and raising awareness about ECIU University with their community coordinators. Ryan also hopes they’ll be able to meet face to face as often as each year – starting with the ECIU University Forum that will take place at Kaunas University of Technology this Summer.
There’s even more being done. Right now, Ryan and his colleagues are working closely with the student representatives at ECIU University board to bring each university’s perspectives to the table and open new possibilities for representing ECIU on different levels, from student unions to global organizations. They're also reviewing students’ applications for the upcoming European Student Assembly – with over 160 people already willing to participate.
Ryan has plenty of plans as well. Together with his colleagues, he wants to provide even more space and resources for learners to connect and voice their opinions. For some it might be webinars and digital spaces – so they can feel as part of ECIU University wherever they are. For others – live face-to-face events and international experiences.
All of this is united by a joint goal – to structurally embed learners’ voices into ECIU University processes and get them heard on all levels. This way they’ll be able to fully express themselves and co-create a better future for not just ECIU University or themselves, but perhaps Europe as a whole.
Moreover, Ryan is connecting with alliances that have similar positions, having already opened discussions with Una Europa, YUFE, EPICUR, and ENGAGE.EU. He hopes this will help alliances network and share their knowledge, finding inspiration in each other and fostering innovation – together.
But most importantly, he can’t wait for learners to get heard – a feeling they share.
‘The students are excited to take control and start implementing their ideas. They’re really looking forward to it’, Ryan says.
‘And there are going to be even more opportunities in the future’.
If you have any thoughts or ideas on improving ECIU University processes and learner experience, you can always reach Ryan via firstname.lastname@example.org or contact your local university representative. Find more information and contacts of ECIU institutional coordinators here: https://www.eciu.eu/about-eciu.