How can students make a difference on systemic issues in higher education like persistent inequality? And how can someone choose where to put our time and energy?

As a university-based lab, CAT Lab trains the next generation of diverse scholars to collaborate with the public toward a world where digital power is guided by evidence and accountable to the public. So even as we consider the world outside the university, we also discuss issues that shape the present and future of higher education.

Questions of equity and justice in higher education are a recurring theme in CAT Lab’s “Big Tent” 🎪 meetings, which convene the circle of scholars who co-lead our work. Early in the semester, we discussed how ideas about what counts as good science shape who does science. This week, we’re discussing a challenge that every student has wondered about at some point: how can students make change in higher education with so little structural power?

In this guided conversation, we look at the issue of graduate student pay. In the conversation, we combine the tools of research with practices from advocacy to gain a clearer understanding of the actors and forces behind graduate student poverty—and imagine interventions that could create change.


Further references (for those who want to explore in greater depth):

Conversation Agenda

Part one: understanding the problem (15 minutes)

Discuss the readings on graduate student stipends.

Power mapping introduction (15 minutes)

Goal: by the end of this session, identify a list of actors and place them on a power map in respect to their relative power, and how much they support or object to raising student pay.

Power mapping (20 minutes)

  • In pairs, choose one actor on the power map and discuss how to maximize their contribution to change by increasing their power, influencing them to support the cause, or both
  • Report back from groups
  • Discuss what might make an effective campaign