University of Regina team to lead national pilot project on community-engaged learning

A new pilot project will provide $62,520 in funding for the University of Regina’s Community Engagement and Research Centre to expand community-based experiential learning programming at the U of R. The collaborative project has been funded by the Business + Higher Education Roundtable and Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada.

“One of the goals identified in the University of Regina’s new strategic plan is that all students be given the opportunity to participate in experiential learning opportunities,” said Dr. Lynn Gidluck, who is the Community Director of the Community Engagement and Research Centre (CERC). “This project will help us learn best practices in community engaged learning that will hopefully lead to increased opportunities for U of R students in the coming years.”

The project will be undertaken in partnership with Community Campus Engage Canada (CCEC). CCEC is a national organization that fosters equitable community-campus partnerships and supports a growing network across Canada that includes post-secondary and community partners involved in community service-learning projects. Dr. Magda Goemans is the Manager of Community Campus Engage Canada and will serve as the study’s project manager.

Dr. Amber Fletcher is the Academic Director of CERC and Associate Professor of Sociology and Social Studies at the UofR. She describes the collaboration as “a perfect fit for the work we are trying to promote and support through the CERC”. Students enrolled in her Winter 2021 research methods courses will contribute to the project while gaining ‘real world’ research experience – including designing and implementing surveys and interviews and doing literature reviews. They will also participate by gathering data from faculty and administrators from universities across Canada and nonprofit representatives with experience in campus-wide community service learning models.

Four students from Fletcher’s classes will also be invited to continue working with the research team during the Spring/Summer 2021 semester. These students will enroll in the Arts Work Experience Internship Program, helping to do further research, analyze research data, write reports and disseminate findings.

Tracey Mann is Chair of the Saskatchewan Nonprofit Partnership, an unincorporated partnership of organizations that collaborate to improve the nonprofit sector. “As challenging as these current times are, I believe there is an appetite from the organizations I work with to collaborate with post-secondary institutions to ensure students are ready for the workforce when they graduate”, she says. Robyn Edwards-Bentz, CEO of United Way Regina, is also pleased to be contributing to the project. “We welcome the opportunity to work with the University of Regina and Community Campus Engage Canada to develop meaningful and mutually beneficial learning opportunities for students who are our future community leaders”, she says.

“Often university programs are developed without adequate consultation with the communities, organizations or people they aim to help”. She adds, “We have developed a trusting relationship with the Community Engagement and Research Centre and know they will incorporate a ‘community first’ approach to the program or programs that result from this research initiative.”

And Donna Zeigler is Executive Director of the South Saskatchewan Community Foundation. Like Mann and Edwards-Bentz, Zeigler sees great value in such experiential learning opportunities – both for the students and the community organizations that engage them.

Says Zeigler, “Students can provide energy, enthusiasm and ‘fresh takes’ on the complex issues community-based organizations, coalitions and networks are working on. We are particularly pleased that this initiative is focusing on providing service-learning opportunities for undergraduate students that will be incorporated into their course work. Often traditional co-op placements and full-time internship or practicum opportunities unintentionally exclude less privileged students who are unable to take time off from their degrees to attend these types of programs.”

The pilot project represents a real opportunity to influence national experiential learning programming, explains Magda Goemans, She says, “It is our hope that this pilot at the University of Regina will inspire expanded and enriched community-engaged learning programs at universities across Canada’.

For more information, contact: Lynn Gidluck, or (306) 533-5634.

21 January 2021
Story by Dr. Lynn Gidluck