Principles That Support Student Agency


Empower students in ways many have never experienced before

In the Student Agency Model, students have full responsibility in the initiation, development, and running of programs and organizations. When trust, respect, and power is shared, students have a sense of community and belonging that supports responsibility and ethical decision-making.


Validate student experiences

The lived experiences of youth are rarely validated or treated as valuable. More often, young people are seen as inexperienced and students are seen as lacking in knowledge. Validating students’ experiences acknowledges that they have something to contribute to any enterprise and invites them to play active roles. 


Stand for equity 

By understanding all students’ backgrounds and experiences as valuable, the Student Agency Model gives everyone the same tools and opportunities to start with. Students who have lived through social inequality and disenfranchisement are not seen as “at-risk” individuals. Rather, they’re recognized as intentional, active, and integral agents of social change. 


Value learning over production 

Rather than focusing on the production of events or programs, the model values student activities in which students focus on process. In turn, students cultivate a stronger sense of independence, as well as a better understanding of how to make informed decisions that takes into consideration their own lives as well as the lives of their peers. 


Encourage reflection

When students are engaged in projects they have chosen reflective of their own passions and principles, they’re motivated to practice inquiry and reflection in order to meet their goals. This is a far more demanding and rewarding educational experience than rote memorization and the application of methods. 


Transform relationships of power

Although many universities include students in committees or task forces, students rarely are the majority or have final decision-making authority. Student agency organizations offer a space where students experience dialogue, debate, and decision-making amongst equals. They also experience working with staff collaboratively, each with something to contribute and each respecting the other as an equal. 


Spark inquiry and critical thinking

As students take up active roles on their campuses, they interact with a broader range of administrative offices, people, and institutional processes. Through these connections, coupled with discussion, students identify and analyze the social processes and constructions that shape their lives.


Connect students to the possibilities of social change

When students have the opportunity to oversee and implement their own programs and projects, thereby changing their campus for the better, they experience the possibility of larger social change.