Partner Profile: University of Guelph

Posted:December 4, 2013

Photo of Johnston Hall clock tower, University of GuelphUniversity of Guelph Context

The University of Guelph is a mid-sized university (approximately 20,000 students) with seven colleges, and several campuses, known both for research intensiveness and for being a comprehensive university that is student centered. In its most recent integrated plan, the University of Guelph reasserted a commitment to the development of students both inside and outside of the classroom, including through fostering engagement with community, through the strategic research plan (2012-2017) and other documents emphasizing engagement and knowledge mobilization towards particular research themes, including food, health, environment, and community.

Challenges and Opportunities

As with almost all Canadian universities, the University of Guelph has a number of historical and current initiatives towards better community engagement. Efforts by research, teaching, and support units at Guelph working on community engagement practices and initiatives include co-curricular work in Student Affairs, Learning Circles and other opportunities for innovative community-engaged pedagogy from the Centre for Open Learning and Educational Support (OpenEd), the long-standing extension and outreach work within and beyond the Ontario Agricultural College (and in the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, more specifically) and the Guelph and Ontario Ministry of Food and Rural Affairs Partnership Knowledge Translation and Transfer programs which deeply link and exchange new knowledge opportunities with community and university constituents. The Community Engaged Scholarship Institute (CESI) within the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences has drawn on this rich context to develop more specifically capacity for the scholarship of community engagement, participating in efforts toward greater recognition of community-engaged scholarship (CES), including through promotion and tenure structures and scholar development in this partnership. The College of Social and Applied Human Sciences has clearly articulated an ongoing commitment to addressing relevant social issues through college research themes highlighting key research areas of faculty research strength and through engaging students in research and community engaged learning that addresses local and global societal issues.

In work towards institutionalizing engagement practices, challenges include recognizing efforts and integrating across a number of largely autonomous colleges, units and stakeholders that approach engagement from different perspectives, ideologies and preferred outcomes. Efforts toward a university-wide strategy for knowledge mobilization are crystallizing: a vision for building capacity for local and global engagement through a school for civil society and engagement was completed in spring 2013.

Focus on Reward and Development

The College of Social and Applied Human Sciences has been a leader in these efforts. Various opportunities and support towards CES have included:

For more information on efforts at the University of Guelph, please contact Linda Hawkins, Director of the Community Engaged Scholarship Institute or Belinda Leach, Associate Dean Academic, College of Social & Applied Human Sciences 

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.*