SCUE, which stands for the Student Committee for Undergraduate Education, is the oldest of the six branches of Penn student government. Although not many people know what SCUE stands for or what it does does, the committee itself boasts an impressive amount of educational reforms. With just under 30 members, the committee is dedicated to improving the undergraduate experience, in every sense of the word. Keep reading to learn about what SCUE and the members of SCUE are like both inside and outside the GBM.
Mira Nagarajan (CW ‘18)
Mira joined SCUE as a first semester freshman and has racked up a variety of roles within the organization. Now, as chair internal, she manages many central aspects of SCUE, including planning GBMs and organizing the membership body. “We are a great community, and we’re also trying to build a community at Penn. More of an intellectual community—that’s what we do, we’re trying to craft academic policy and increase the educational opportunities for the students here.” SCUE currently is working on four main projects,including: holistic education, half–credit courses, “steal this pen(n),” and access to academic resources. Mira notes that, “It’s often very difficult to figure out who to reach out to and pitch ideas to in the administration, so one of the ways we’re trying to surmount that issue is to get a lot of student input and to see what projects are best from the student perspective. I really want to see our projects become tangible things and for initiatives to take effect.”
She goes on to explain how the strong agenda of SCUE helps facilitate the social agenda as well. Smiling, she says, “We’re all very, very close. Our membership coordinator makes sure that every person is able to add value to SCUE, but also to get the most out of it that they can. We take pride in our members and making sure they have a valuable experience,” she pauses, thoughtfully, before following up with, “The one thing I want people to know is that it’s very possible to take control of your education and change it. Tell us your ideas; we can be your forum to the administration,” and she laughs, “SCUE is a branch of student government even if we don’t look like one.”
Justin Bean (C’19)
Justin has been a member of SCUE since the beginning of his freshman year. He believes SCUE is important because “it allows students to innovate the Penn education” and because “SCUE created things that we now take as status quo,” like fall break, pass/fail grading, half–credit courses, and NSO. He currently serves as a project chair for the Holistic Education Project. He and his team members are busy crafting a “bright paper," which essentially acts as a blueprint for professors and concrete examples on how to achieve a more holistic education. “It’s really valuable to give people the practical applications of education,” he says, and one of his team’s focuses is discovering ways to “take what students learn in class and apply them to the Philadelphia community.” Some of the “bright paper” proposals include revising syllabi to be more accommodating for students, integrating more physical education courses in the curriculum, encouraging more civic engagement and applying more experiential learning into the coursework.
Although SCUE is a relatively small organization, he notes that “internally, SCUE is fantastic, with a strong support network and a diverse intellectual community that allows for legitimate but respectful debates and disagreements about educational policy,” but also a community that cares about each other. “When people have gone through hard times,” he says, “myself included, often it’s SCUE members that are the first to reach out. They’re people I feel I can be genuine with, which I think is very important at Penn. I think people often think their voices aren’t heard, but SCUE would like to hear from Penn students.” He pauses. “The razor–sharp TL;DR of it is this: We’re open to recommendations. We want your feedback. Please give it to us, and we’ll work with it.”
Aliki Karnavas (C’19)
“If I were to describe SCUE in one word, I would say it’s,” Aliki pauses, then says with a smile, “inventive.” Due to the relatively unknown nature of the community, however, she laughs and adds that, “most people look at you funny when you say you’re in SCUE.” Aliki joined this year and is already working on two main projects: “steal this Pen(n)” (a website that compiles Penn resources) and access to academic help. “A lot of people aren’t aware of all the possibilities,” Aliki says. “For example, a lot of people don’t know that there are free 3D printing lessons available or free golf swing analysis available at Pottruck. Our goal is to organize all of these resources to make it more accessible to students.”
In her academic resources committee, Aliki works with members to provide first–generation and low–income students with more resources. “We’re working with financial aid to get students access to emergency funds in order to ‘spot’ them if anything like a broken laptop happens.” SCUE also deals with issues such as health insurance and has been working with SHS to ensure every student is covered under an affordable health care plan. “Penn won’t accept Medicaid through states outside of PA, and students normally on Medicaid are forced to pay for Penn’s private student insurance, which is often very expensive,” she says. “Sometimes students even put in fake insurance information if they don’t have insurance, so our goal is to make sure everyone has coverage.”
Radhika Gupta (CW’19)
Radhika has been involved with SCUE since she came to Penn She spoke at length about SCUE’s initiative to implement more half–credit courses into the curriculum, a project which originally began as a collaborative effort with Perry World House, before it evolved into it's current state of looking at half-credit courses by themselves. “This semester we kind of turned our focus on looking at the status quo of half–credit courses at Penn. We worked with faculty and administrators to understand their perspective on half–credit courses, and we sent out a survey to students to see what their thoughts were as well,” she says. SCUE as a whole is looking at how to improve the quality and quantity of courses available. “Our goals moving forward are understanding what it would take to change things: what we need from professors, what we need from faculty, what we need from students. And how that can be brought down to us," Radhika notes. "We basically act as the liaisons between students and faculty.”
On the social side of things, Radhika states that they are all “very close. We’re super close. We all hang out. We have a really active GroupMe. We go out. We BYO. We’re really into bowling. We brunch. We do Secret Santa, White Elephant and Fling.” She pauses, then says, “If I had to describe SCUE in one word, it would probably be family.”