Partner Profile: University of Calgary

Posted:January 17, 2014

University of Calgary Context

The University of Calgary is a large (approximately 31,800 student), comprehensive university. The University’s Integrated Framework for Teaching and Learning (2011) highlights a move toward developing co-curricular, service, community and experiential learning. This framework also outlines a commitment to the development and implementation of a plan that would enable deeper community-based partnership in all faculties and schools across the university, including through the encouragement of innovative teaching (encompassing community-based teaching). Accordingly, connection with the community appears in the University’s Strategic Research Plan (2012) as a key research priority. The plan is designed to be responsive to societal needs at local and national levels. The university’s Community Report (2013) places an emphasis on working toward full integration of university and community, including through increased transparency and direct engagement with the community in developing plans for the university such as the Eyes High strategic direction (Academic and Strategic Research Plans). The Centre for Community-Engaged Learning (CCEL) works toward the implementation of this commitment to community engagement, through offering service-learning programs both curricular and co-curricular to students.

Challenges and Opportunities 

The University of Calgary has a particular commitment to service-learning, and has had structures for service-learning in place since 2005. The Faculty of Social Work has a history of engaging with the community, through research, collaboration, and knowledge mobilization with diverse community agencies. The Community Health Sciences department comprises representation from both academy and community, and offers training opportunities with a strong orientation toward “collaborative, relevant research.” Several faculty members regularly conduct community based research. The office of Equity and Professionalism in the Faculty of Medicine established a Social Accountability Committee that surveyed faculty members in 2011 about their involvement in community. Other units involved in advancing community engagement at the University include the Patient and Community Engagement Research (PACER) research training program, housed in the Institute for Public Health, which recognizes the value offered by stakeholders across institutions, agencies, and communities. The Institute for the Humanities and the Language Research Centre also have a history of facilitating university-community dialogue. The Faculty of Nursing also emphasizes knowledge translation, partnerships and collaboration in its Strategic Plan (2012-2016), and several professors in this faculty have a particular focus on community-based research. The Faculty of Veterinary Medicine also partners with a number of government and community agencies to provide its Distributed Veterinary Learning Community. Faculty in Veterinary Medicine have done community-based research in the Arctic.

In conjunction with the University of Calgary’s membership in the National Community Engaged Scholarship partnership, parallel working groups were formed including: an Institutional Assessment working group; a Faculty Assessment working group; and a Faculty Development working group.

The Strategic Research Plan 2012 includes seven major research platforms, one of which is Translation.  The VP Research has called for the development of an advisory committee responsible for actively identifying collaborative opportunities for the University of Calgary to encourage and improve academic knowledge engagement.  This Advisory Committee on Knowledge Engagement brings the fields of Knowledge Translation and Community Engaged Scholarship together in a working partnership that includes academic researchers, community leaders, and students and is co-chaired by a member of the CES working group, Dr. Gayle Rutherford.  The first meeting of this Advisory Committee will take place early in 2014.

Focus on Reward and Development

Among initiatives toward institutionalizing community-engagement since the inception of the CES Partnership in 2010, the University of Calgary has strengthened its policies and procedures around community-service-learning in particular, through its Centre for Community-Engaged Learning (CCEL).

  • The Faculty of Education’s Annual Distinguished Lecture hosted Dr. Darren Lund, who spoke about the importance and challenges of community-engaged work
  • In 2010, the university worked to further expand its community-engaged orientation through offering a number of new opportunities, including:
  •  “Teaching Innovation Grants in Service-Learning and Student Engagement” to support faculty involved in providing service-learning opportunities
  • Developing of ucalgarycares international, a non-credit service-learning program offered to students wishing to work in rural Costa Rica
  • Formalizing the Volunteer Calgary partnership, which helps to identify community-based projects for the University of Calgary
  • In 2011, increasing staff capacity and implementing a peer helper program, as well as re-organizing the CCEL’s physical and online space
  • In 2012, partnering with the Student Union to expand the international service-learning program, as well as building on course offerings

For more information please contact: Gayle Rutherford by email: [email protected] or W.E. (Billie) Thurston by email: [email protected]

The challenge of tenure and promotion procedures should not be permitted to unduly limit the growth of the movement for community-university engagement in Canada. A dialogue for action on this issue should be launched and sustained until this obstacle is permanently removed.*