Posted:July 24, 2014
The University of Saskatchewan, established in 1907, is the largest university in the province of Saskatchewan, with a student enrollment of approximately 20 000. Versed in a long history of extension and applied research, the University of Saskatchewan asserts a commitment to engaging with issues relevant at local, provincial, national and international levels in its Strategic Directions (2002), updated Strategic Directions (2010) and Integrated Plan (2012). The university’s second integrated plan, entitled “Toward and Engaged University” explicitly addresses a desire and plan of action toward increased community engagement and collaboration. The Office of Community Engagement and Outreach helps to facilitate the university’s efforts toward community engagement. As outlined in its Foundational Document (2004), this office uses a number of strategies to effectively engage, including: service-learning, community-university research partnerships, economic development, technology transfer, and knowledge creation, scholarly dissemination, lifelong learning and continuing education, and international outreach and education. In an Engaging with External Partners Report (2012), a working group comprised of faculty and staff at the university follows through with the commitment outlined in the 2012 Integrated Plan to deepen relationships with various stakeholders. This document lays out specific strategies for engagement with external partners, naming these as key to advancing research and teaching at the university.
Challenges and Opportunities
Community engagement has a long history at the University of Saskatchewan, and recent moves toward deepening this commitment to engagement as outlined in the plans mentioned above are being carried out across campus. The Community-University Institute for Social Research (CUISR) helps to build and facilitate campus-community connections and is based in the principles of community-based research, including authentic partnerships and mutual benefit. Community-engaged learning (CEL) is one of the university’s major foci. Among CEL support, the Centre for Discovery in Learning works toward advancing quality teaching and learning practice, including through the advancement of community-engaged learning. The Gwenna Moss Centre for Teaching Effectiveness also provides a number of resources for community-engaged learning, as does the University Learning Centre. The Les and Irene Dubé Community Service-Learning Program (CSL), run through St. Thomas More College, connects students with community partners and projects through coursework and service-learning experiences. Engaging with Aboriginal communities is another area of focus outlined in the university’s integrated plan, taking shape through curriculum and research. Other examples of the University of Saskatchewan’s commitment to engaging with the community include:
- The Department of Community Health and Epidemiology (CH&E) partners with community agencies and organizations to provide graduate programs oriented toward learning and research of community relevance
- The Department of Academic and Family Medicine collaborates with community health agencies to provide Northern Medical Services in the unique northern rural areas of Saskatchewan
- The Student Wellness Initiative Toward Community Health connects students to faculty mentors and professional staff to provide wellness and health care after hours at the Saskatoon West Side Community Clinic
- The Kamskénow Science and Mathematics Outreach Program provides engaging, hands-on science and mathematics activities to schools to increase science literacy, with the long-term aim of increasing the participation of Aboriginal people in the sciences.
- Law students participating in the Community Legal Services for Saskatoon Inner City program take on client files providing legal information and basic legal services to people who do not have legal counsel.
Despite strong efforts toward a culture of community engagement at the university, challenges have included sustainability of promising practices of CES, a coherent and all-encompassing strategic plan with commitments to achieve identified outcomes per timelines, and approved tenure and promotion standards in place that recognizes and rewards CES scholarship. While these challenges continue, there appears to be new resolve and commitments from different levels of the university, to overcome these challenges.
Focus on Reward and Development
Since joining CES Partnership in 2010, the University of Saskatchewan has made a number of steps toward supporting a culture of community engagement among faculty, staff and students. Among these moves, the University of Saskatchewan:
- Hosted the Canadian Alliance for Community Service-Learning Conference 2012: Impacts of Community Engagement
- Hosted an October 2012 workshop on CES that featured international CES expert Barbara Holland who led workshops on best practices in doing CES, preparing community-engaged faculty for academic careers, and assessing CES. http://www.usask.ca/ces/index.php
- In May 2012, opened the off-campus Office of First Nation and Métis Engagement in the English River business complex owned by the English River First Nation. It is a centre for prospective students, researchers, employees, and members of First Nation and Métis communities to learn about the University and its programming for employment, research and business development opportunities.osted
- Opened Station 20 West in October 2012, a “co-locating” centre for University of Saskatchewan and community partners and collaborators; faculty, staff and student researchers working on community-based research and/or curricular projects can apply to access space to work in the community engagement office; teaching support for community-engaged learning is also offered. During the 2013-2014 academic year, Station 20 West hosted Community Engaged Scholar Discussion Groups that included a focus on how to prepare for tenure and promotion.
- Hosted a workshop on ethical health research and aboriginal communities in October 2013; the University’s Research Ethics office released a Community Engagement Workbook for the event
- Offers funding for faculty, staff and students involved in community-based projects through teaching, learning and research
- CUISR offers a Brown Bag Lunch Series highlighting community-university partnerships
- CUISR also offers another lunch series, Community in the University/University in the Community which brings community partners to the campus in celebration of their significant contributions to university research
- CUISR also hosted a May 2014 conference “Quality of Life: Towards Sustainable Community Futures” that showcased local, regional, national, and international research, community, and other initiatives to enhance quality of life and create sustainable futures. http://www.usask.ca/cuisr/node/93
- Launched the Engaged Scholar Journal, a new multi-disciplinary, peer-reviewed, online journal that aims to serve as a venue for reciprocal and meaningful co-creation of knowledge among scholars, educators, professionals, and community leaders in Canada and worldwide. http://www.usask.ca/engagedscholar/
- Established an Award of Distinction in Community-Engaged Teaching and Scholarship, given at the commencement ceremony.
For more information please contact:
Director, Community Engagement and Outreach
334 Thorvaldson Building, 110 Science Place
Saskatoon SK S7N 5C9
Email: [email protected]