Ten year anniversary marks major changes for the former Community Research Unit - including a new name and a new Academic Director

July 2020 has marked an important milestone for the former Community Research Unit (CRU) – a time to celebrate ten years of connection and collaboration with Saskatchewan’s community based organizations, and a time to celebrate major new changes.

As of July 1, the CRU officially became known as the Community Engagement and Research Centre (CERC), a change that, according to outgoing Academic Director Dr. Michelle Stewart, more accurately reflects the unit’s mandate and programming. “This name change better reflects the wide range of programs and services offered by the CERC,” she explained. “The CERC looks to build connections in a variety of ways – facilitating community-initiated research projects, for instance, as well as enhancing student engagement with community-based research through learning opportunities like the Arts Work Experience Internship Program.”

Though the CRU was formally established as a faculty-based research centre in 2010, its origins date back to 2003, when the idea was first proposed to develop a unit within the Faculty of Arts that would serve as a bridge to connect the research needs of community organizations with the research interests and capacities of faculty members and students.

The last ten years have seen the CRU spearhead an impressive range of university/community partnerships, including: 48 collaborative research projects; relationships with 84 community partners, 66 University of Regina faculty/staff members, and 37 student researchers; and overseeing a total of $92,977.81 in research grants. A recent operational review of the unit concluded with unanimous praise for the work of the CRU, emphasizing the tangible positive outcomes these partnerships have had on local organizations.

Dr. Richard Kleer, former Dean of the Faculty of Arts (now retired), has seen the CRU flourish over the past several years and welcomed the renewal of its mandate and funding as an acknowledgement of the value of university/community collaboration. “Over the last few years I have seen the Community Research Unit taken to new and better places,” he said. “In particular, Community Director Dr. Lynn Gidluck and Academic Director Dr. Michelle Stewart, while operating on a shoe-string budget, have turned the soon to be re-named Community Engagement and Research Centre into an organization with a very promising future, well-positioned to continue growing in mandate, resourcing and profile.”

Dr. Stewart, who is also a professor in the Department of Gender, Religion, and Critical Studies, has served as Academic Director/chair of the CRU board of directors since 2013. This July, Dr. Amber Fletcher, professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Studies, has stepped into this role, joining Community Director Dr. Lynn Gidluck and a seven-member board of directors.

Gidluck can’t wait to see what the next ten years have in store for CERC. “Every day I am inspired by people whose common goal is to work together to improve the communities they live in and associate with,” she says. “I sincerely thank the Faculty of Arts for taking a leadership role at the University of Regina in funding, promoting and facilitating community-campus engagement to lead to a more equitable and just society.”

Posted 13 July 2020.