Community Engagement a “two-way street”

Exchange is at the heart of community engagement.  That was the theme of the third annual forum, Community-Engaged Education: An Idea Exchange, held recently at McMaster.

The event brought together participants from across McMaster and the Hamilton community to share ideas and best practices to facilitate student learning through community-engaged courses and experiences.

“Exchange of ideas, exchange of relationships, exchange of strategies; community engagement is not a one-way offering of wisdom or experience, it’s a two-way street,” says Sheila Sammon, McMaster’s newly appointed director of community engagement. “When McMaster shares its resources with local communities, it also benefits from local knowledge. Those who live and work in the community know how to make this community a better place. We welcome these ideas to help us move forward.”

Participants discuss ways to include the community voice during Community-Education: An Idea Exchange

Participants discuss ways to include the community voice during Community-Education: An Idea Exchange.

Throughout the morning, attendees participated in a number of round table discussions on topics ranging from the scalability of community engagement in teaching to building sustainable community partnerships.

The event also featured guest speaker, Kelly Anthony from the School of Public Health and Health Systems at the University of Waterloo, who shared her experiences with community-engaged education in her lecture, Universities and our Communities: Tales of Putting the Town in the Gown.

Peter Self, assistant dean, Graduate Student Life and Research Training in the School of Graduate Studies, attended the event and says the Idea Exchange provides a valuable opportunity to initiate and grow campus-community partnerships.

"The Idea Exchange is helping to build and deepen the relationships that are so vital to our efforts to connect great people in the community with our students and our employees,” says Self.  “I anticipate a couple of real projects developing as a result of interactions at the exchange."

A number of Hamilton community partners attended the event including Dean Waterfield, director of Housing and Homelessness Services at Wesley Urban Ministries. Waterfield facilitated a discussion on including the community voice in community-engaged education.

“Whenever I collaborate on community based research or have students do an internship in our programs, they bring in ideas we may not have thought of and that’s important to maintaining our program’s dynamism,” says Waterfield. “We benefit immensely from this and we feel we have something to offer to learning institutions as well. Students learn concepts in the classroom, but we can show them how those concepts actually play out in the community.”

The Idea Exchange is consistent with McMaster’s new model for community engagement outlined in the recent document, Global and Community Engagement at McMaster: Where FWI has brought us, and where we are going.  This document outlines structural changes that will allow the University to foster and sustain community-engaged education and research while facilitating closer links between McMaster and the surrounding community.

Read more about community engagement at McMaster:

New model to guide community engagement

New Director of Community Engagement appointed

Building McMaster’s capacity for community engagement