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What Student Partners Say

Student partners have provided valuable insight into how participating in the SATAL program has impacted their academic and professional journey after leaving UC Merced.

Hello, my name is Andrea Presas, and I was a student partner of the Students Assessing Teaching and Learning program from 2019 to 2021 during my Psychology undergraduate career. SATAL helped build my confidence in public speaking and networking. I am currently in constant contact with the public and government agencies. SATAL played a significant role in helping me connect with those around me and build stronger working relationships, which is extremely important in my daily tasks. During my time in the program, I also had the opportunity to collaborate with my peers, faculty, and staff to write the article ‘Breakout Rooms, Polling, and Chat, Oh My! The Development and Validation of Online COPUS’, which explored the virtual classroom observation findings and the tools used to gather educational data during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working as a team to create an article that discussed the positive highlights and needed improvements for online learning during this difficult time was a one-of-a-kind experience. As a student during the pandemic, making an impact on other students’ learning by gathering and presenting necessary and unique data during an unprecedented time was an invaluable opportunity. I genuinely believe SATAL has been one of the most beneficial programs for my personal and professional growth, and I hope it continues to reach more people in the years to come.

Andrea Presas

Student Partner 2019-2021

Hello! My name is Harmanjit Singh, and I served as a Student Partner in the Students Assessing Teaching and Learning (SATAL) program from 2018-2019. My journey with SATAL began during my undergraduate studies in Cognitive Science, where I explored my interest in understanding how people learn and process information through technology. This fascination led me to pursue an MBA later on, broadening my perspective on education and organizational dynamics in the professional world.

As a student partner in SATAL, I found a unique platform to merge my academic background with my passion for making a difference. Collaborating with faculty and staff, I had the opportunity to utilize my analytical skills to assess teaching and learning experiences, contributing to the improvement of pedagogical practices. Engaging in focus groups, conducting classroom observations, and collecting mid/end-course feedback allowed me to gather comprehensive insights into the student experience and provide valuable input for enhancing the learning environment. These activities not only strengthened my ability to critically evaluate educational methods but also empowered me to actively participate in shaping the educational landscape for myself and my peers.

Today, as I navigate the dynamic landscape of Product Ops/Trust & Safety at my current company (Meta), I often reflect on the foundational principles of respect, responsibility, and reciprocity instilled within me during my time with SATAL. These principles continue to guide my approach to fostering trust and collaboration within my team and beyond. From my childhood aspirations of helping others to my professional endeavors today, the SATAL program has played a pivotal role in shaping my journey. It has equipped me with invaluable experiences and skills that I leverage daily as I strive to create a meaningful impact in the lives of others. 

Nonetheless, I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of such a transformative program. It was a very enjoyable experience and I encourage all faculty and students to engage and learn more about SATAL! 

Harmanjit Singh

Student Partner 2018-2019

Greetings! I’m Brian Hoang, a bioengineer, and from 2016 to 2019, I had the honor of serving as a student partner in the Students Assessing Teaching and Learning (SATAL) program. Currently, as a Manufacturing Process Researcher at Stanford overseeing CAR T cell therapy trials, my journey with SATAL profoundly shaped my perspectives on education and research.

Program Highlights

SATAL uniquely bridges the student-faculty gap, promoting open dialogue and constructive feedback. As a facilitator, I played a key role in collecting student insights to improve the overall learning experience. 

Impact on Personal Growth

SATAL exposed me to research methods and user feedback, sparking my interest in understanding human behavior. This experience was a driving force behind my career transition into UI/ UX Design.

Key Takeaways

Collaborative Learning Environment

SATAL fosters collaboration between students and faculty, creating a supportive academic community.

Practical Research Exposure

The program offers hands-on experience in research methods, a valuable asset for career development.

Tangible Improvements

The structured feedback loop of SATAL leads to real, positive changes in the learning environment, benefiting everyone involved.

In summary, I highly recommend the SATAL program to prospective students seeking an engaging and impactful experience. As I transition into UI/ UX Design, I’m excited to apply the skills and insights gained from my diverse experiences.

If you’d like to hear insights about my experiences with SATAL, feel free to reach out with my information below.

Brian Hoang

Student Partner 2016-2019

Hello, my name is Sandy Dorantes, and I served as a student partner in the SATAL program from 2018 to 2021. As someone aspiring to work in healthcare, SATAL emphasized the significance of effective communication and collaborative work. The invaluable skills that I learned while working in SATAL have helped equip me to provide advocate care for patients in my current job role as a Care Coordinator in the mental health field.

As a SATAL student partner, I assisted with conducting classroom assessments, compiling data, presenting feedback to faculty, and aiding the research that builds a case for the significance of feedback collection through this program. While helping with feedback assessment collection, I became curious about the bigger picture of the program. I was offered a chance to become more involved in the qualitative and quantitative research related to the program. I could see firsthand the impact this program had on students feeling heard and faculty being encouraged to hear about what has helped students learn. Through my research involvement, I was able to author two manuscripts, one directly related to demonstrating how the assessment services the program offers are effective, and the other related to the impact being a part of the program has on student appreciation for faculty efforts to provide learning material in an approachable way.

My involvement in the Students Helping Students Provide Valuable Feedback on Course Evaluations research project was multifaceted. On this project, I was able to merge my learning from a psychology statistics class and apply it to analyzing what was originally qualitative data and transform it into quantitative data to assess if the feedback received from students was more helpful after SATAL student partners became involved. As a prior student myself, having had no prior exposure to this program, I was fascinated by the opportunity for students to not only provide feedback before the semester ended but mainly that they were given a baseline as to what constitutes effective feedback. Providing students with that baseline equipped them with the tools to reevaluate how they provide feedback with a new understanding of their responsibility to communicate what is working or not in the classroom environment. As student partners, we were able to share those tools for providing effective feedback in a low-pressure environment. In contrast, students sometimes feel intimidated or confused about what to add to evaluation questions.

Because I cooperated in this project, I was invited to help present at the POD Network conference, where the project received an award for outstanding research in educational development. At that conference, I was able to share with faculty and staff in the education sector who may be unfamiliar with the partnership program. It made me proud to share and be able to answer questions about a program that my university offers to enhance the student learning experience. After the presentation, a question asked me and a fellow student partner to share about the impact the program had on our experience as students. Our responses to that question led to my involvement in authoring the second manuscript related to student partners' appreciation for faculty efforts. We met a fellow student partner program leader by the name of Alison Cook-Sather at that conference, who requested to collaborate on the manuscript to share the impact of the program on student partners. It was an opportunity to merge our findings to continue to share how student partner programs can assist in obtaining effective feedback and support faculty in providing student insight.

As I navigate my current occupation, I still find myself using skills that we would implement as student partners to establish a safe environment where students, just as patients I work with, can feel heard. In my current position, I am entrusted to liaise with patients seeking various mental health care services. Similarly, how we would build a rapport with students in classrooms and faculty to improve the quality of service they receive. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to have had SATAL as my first job to establish the foundation of how effective collaborative work can improve services.

Sandy Dorantes

Student Partner 2018-2021

I'm Jose Sandoval, a Computer Science Engineer. My experience in the SATAL program has directly led to my current profession as a Data Analyst. SATAL was an introduction to Data Collection and Analysis, and I furthered this by joining the field. To this day, I use Excel and other collection tools for my day-to-day operations. I also garnered the ability to speak publicly to my peers and present my views to them as I needed to for different matters. SATAL was a gateway to a variety of other areas of my growth, and I would not have developed the same without it.

I'm Verenize Arceo, and during my entire undergraduate career (2015-2019), I worked in the University of California, Merced’s Student Assessing Teaching and Learning (SATAL) Program and gained a strong appreciation for the necessity of feedback in supporting the relationship between teaching and learning. I began my time at SATAL with a clear goal: I would graduate from UC Merced with a bachelor’s degree in history and teach high school history. Entering with that in mind, SATAL emphasized to me how crucial it was, in any work sector, to acquire feedback on how things were going. As a SATAL Student Intern, I participated in and led various services—class interviews, mid/end-course feedback, class observations, focus groups, and surveys—that drove this concept of student feedback home and carried itself with me as I changed my career goals in 2019.
Currently, I am a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During my tenure here, I have been a Pedagogy Project Assistant for one year and a Teaching Assistant for five semesters, primarily focused in classes that fulfill the university’s ethnic studies requirement. As the department Pedagogy Project Assistant, I designed and facilitated faculty, instructional staff, and teaching assistant workshops. The driving factor was “how in our department can we be more in-tune with the needs of our students in the classroom.” We identified best practices and consolidated this knowledge on a department-wide Canvas resource database. When I teach, I implement many of the services and skills that I have gained from SATAL, which has dramatically shaped my experiences and my students' experiences. I make it a point to get to know my students and observe their learning practices throughout our discussion sections. I administer my feedback survey mid-way through the semester, encouraging students to detail what works in our classroom. After assessing the results, I have a conversation with my students, and collectively discuss how to improve the learning space and what would be the most beneficial to their learning. I tell my students that instructors often want to know how things are going in the classroom, and my response to that is, “You should ask your students.” I believe this has greatly impacted the end-of-semester evaluations students complete about my teaching because many of them mention how appreciative they are that I take their feedback into consideration throughout the semester.
Additionally, my teaching has been recognized by the Department of History in 2021 with the Early Excellence in Teaching Award and by the University in February 2024 with a Campus-Wide Teaching Award for Advance Achievement in Teaching. All of this directly stems from my background work with SATAL. SATAL is an incredibly intuitive program that gets you thinking about bolstering techniques/practices that work and adjusting those that do not, all with feedback at the heart of the conversation.
Verenize Arceo 
Student Partner 2015-2019

I'm Briana Contreras. As a now professional school counselor working at a large comprehensive high school, I can say that SATAL has definitely influenced me as I have continued working in education. Data is a huge part of what we do as counselors to make sure our students are growing and learning from our interventions/school counseling lessons. The data we collect helps us improve and make changes, which is essentially what we did in the SATAL program to help support student learning outcomes. I also have to reflect on how I am presenting materials to different grade levels and tailor my work accordingly. The reflection piece reminds me a lot of when we worked with professors to help them address their teaching.

Hello everyone! My name is Tatsiana Verstak and I go by Tanya. I worked for SATAL during my biology undergraduate at UC Merced from about 2012 to 2014. I entered the workforce after graduating at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the epidemiology department, which was a smooth transition after SATAL- I surveyed cancer survivors. The experience I received at SATAL was extremely helpful in analyzing data and working on teams in my first job after college. Within about 6 months at this role, I transitioned to working as a clinical trials coordinator and went back to school online for my Master’s degree in Clinical Research Organization and Management. Again, the experience I received at SATAL was helpful for my next job working with data and collaborating with various healthcare professionals as well as patients and their families. My experience at SATAL also encouraged me to go back to school; I felt like I would have more opportunities to advance my career given how much I was able to learn- both the technical and soft skills. Throughout my second job after graduating [as a clinical trials coordinator] and with my family's encouragement, I began to think about more education, specifically earning a terminal degree. I chose pharmacy school after working with several PharmDs who had jobs in the pharmaceutical industry- I thought their jobs seemed so glamorous! 

Throughout undergrad, my family really wanted me to pursue medical school, however I was able to explore other graduate degrees through the connections I built working at SATAL. As such, when the time came for me to choose which terminal degree to pursue for my newly found greater goal of working in the pharmaceutical industry, I had a decent understanding of what MD vs. PhD. vs. other degrees [like PharmD] would entail. I graduated from University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Pharmacy in 2020 and started working at Takeda Pharmaceuticals as a Pharmacovigilance Scientist right before graduating on the same team I interned with during pharmacy school. My experience at SATAL certainly helped me understand the importance of building my network and applying to EVERYTHING- as such, I doubt I would have been able to land a "direct to industry" role, aka having a full-time corporate career, immediately after finishing my education. I recently started working at a mid-size biotechnology company, Ionis, last August [2023] as an Associate Director of Safety Surveillance and now have almost 4 years of pharmacovigilance [aka drug safety] experience ranging from early clinical development to post-marketing in various immune-mediated diseases. 

There are several skills I learned during my time at SATAL which have helped me navigate my career and education, ranging from "soft skills" such as project/ time management since I had a heavy course load and volunteered in hospitals when I worked at SATAL to technical skills from working with data and writing, given that my jobs and projects in graduate programs required me to analyze data and write reports. Most importantly, I learned the value of mentorship and providing feedback during my time at SATAL and I am most proud of all the initiatives I have taken to help students land their first internship/ fellowship/ job in the pharmaceutical industry. I also think that my experience in SATAL helped me figure out how to evaluate myself, which has been critical for all the promotions and job opportunities I have and hopefully continue to have.

Overall, SATAL is an incredible organization that truly helps UC Merced succeed, and anyone who works with SATAL is so fortunate to be able to gain invaluable skills that are transferable to any job in any industry, in addition to graduate programs.

Tanya Verstak 

Student Partner 2012-2014

Hello, I'm Topher. I am one of the founding members of the amazing program led by Dr. Adriana Signorini which was driven by the need to take UC Merced to the next level in educating its students and preparing them for their next educational or vocational endeavor. My motivation came from being a first-generation college student who struggled to understand how universities worked and how to exceed academically. What I found was missing at UC Merced, particularly as a Bioengineering Major, was our great researchers and academics were talented but lacked a strong foundation in Pedagogy (A word I learned in SATAL). As a frustrated, young student I knew I was surrounded by people who had the knowledge I desired to attain but for some reason, I couldn’t receive it properly. After talking with Adriana, I realized that many of our new Professors and Lecturers could teach their students but they unfortunately had no line of communication to relay this information to them effectively. Our current (at the time) system of rating a professor from 1-5 on a Scantron sheet turned out to be little more than disregarded nonsense that gave no information to the Professor and little reassurance to a student struggling in a class that things would be different next time.

When Adriana pitched to me her dream of providing a mechanism where students would collect feedback through a variety of methods that spanned from questionnaires to focus groups and everything in between I knew that it was exactly what we needed at UC Merced. In SATAL she made it a primary focus to teach us the importance of Pedagogical methods, to train us on how to approach professors, and how to work together as a team in a professional setting. Adriana always embodied the true “secret” factor that makes UC Merced great, empowering her students to become leaders in their communities. Through the training and experiences that you receive as a SATAL student, you begin to feel confident leading and guiding conversations with your peers. With the knowledge and guidance as a SATAL student, you will be able to talk confidently and equally with professors in any field.

What SATAL has done and I hope will always do for UC Merced is create a direct line of communication from the Educator to the Student that is vital to the success of any student, especially those like me raised outside the ivory tower. The purpose of us SATAL-ites is to be the collector dish of scattered information across the campus and process that information into a meaningful signal that our ground control professors can use to understand the vast universe of students.

After graduating from UC Merced with the skills directly obtained from SATAL, or thanks to its impact on my professor’s performance, I was able to work as a Scientist local to Merced until finding a mentor encouraging me to pursue graduate school. I was able to not only attend graduate school but receive full research funding thanks to both Adriana’s recommendation and the leadership opportunities provided from SATAL. In graduate school I was even able to travel internationally as the Student President of the Society for Biomaterials where I gave seminars on how to engage young community members in material science early on using methods learned from SATAL. I then spent a few years working in various engineering roles across many biomedical companies where my data analysis skills originally obtained from SATAL helped propel me into critical business roles. Today I now work as a Machine Learning Engineer for Hitachi Solutions where I lead Generative Artificial Intelligence development for our Data Science group. Now, more than ever, the skills of pedagogical methods, collecting meaningful feedback, and data analysis of complex human-like responses is critical for the success in my role. My current boss has said that the fact that an Engineer like me knew what Bloom’s Taxonomy made me a unique candidate among a sea of others.

Tl;dr: SATAL continues to be one of the best life and career decisions I’ve ever made, look forward to seeing more great Alumni!

Topher Partimann

Student Partner 2009-2012