Featured Article - January

Featured Article

Reimagining Community Engaged Learning in the GTA-West

By: Alysha Ferguson

Over the last decade, the Centre for Student Engagement has been partnering with the community to create opportunities for students to volunteer, gaining co-curricular experiences while learning and giving back to the communities around UTM, in the GTA-West. Known as Community Engaged Learning, these programs are a “form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs, together with structured opportunities for reflection designed to achieve desired learning outcomes” (Jacoby, 1996c). In the past these programs included short term: Day events, Alternative Reading Week, Civic Workshop Series and long-term: Action and Innovation projects- allowing students to find their fit either through the projects or with the organization they most wanted to volunteer alongside. However, in the last couple of years, the Centre for Student Engagement has been reviewing research and reimaging how community engaged learning impacts both the community and UTM students, to have a better idea of the programs that need to exist to benefit the community, UTM students and youth in the GTA-West.  The outcome has meant new program development and innovating previous programs to ensuring UTM students and community partners are involved and supported every step of the way.

New Program Development

Youth Day Events; In partnership with the City of Mississauga’s Youth Advisory Council, The Dam Youth Drop-in Centre, Global 180 and the Erin Mills Youth Centre, the Centre for Student Engagement has been developing a curriculum and begun hosting events for youth at UTM in partnership with the Office of the Registrar, Athletics and Recreation and Student Organizations to develop workshops, activities and campus tours for youth to connect with current UTM students and staff to learn about the value of post-secondary.

Community Youth & Parent Nights; In partnership with the City of Mississauga Community Centre’s and the UTM Office of the Registrar; this program allows parents to attend a one-hour workshop with a UTM staff member while their child attends a one-hour activity-based workshop with UTM student leaders. Both workshops support youth and their parents with asking questions and exploring the value of post-secondary education.

Indigenous Youth Day and Indigenous Language Exhibit; in partnership with Cat Criger, UTM’s Indigenous Advisor and the Equity and Diversity office, UTM Centre for Student Engagement has partnered to develop youth days and a language exhibit at UTM for Indigenous youth and UTM student volunteers to learn and explore Indigenous teachings.

Women in Sport; Girl Guides of Canada; in partnership with Athletics and Recreation, the Centre for Student Engagement will host a one-day workshop for Girl Guides of Canada youth (aged 10-15) for activities focus on women in sport alongside Varsity women athletes to promote the value of sport and its impact on post-secondary education involvement.

Pathway 2 Post-Secondary (P2P) Mentoring Program, in partnership with the Global 180 Drop in Centre, Erin Mills Youth Centre and The Dam Youth Drop-in Centre; the Centre for Student Engagement is currently developing a curriculum to recruit, train and develop UTM student volunteers as mentors for mentees in the drop in centre’s located in the Peel Region for a 4-week program to launch February-March 2019.

Innovating previous programs

Alternative Reading Week (ARW); takes place during the February Reading Week from February 19th – 21st allowing over 150 UTM students to volunteer and develop skills in community engagement, leadership, social change and community development. This year, community organizations were offered to host their initiative either at their location or here at UTM, allowing students to utilize the resources on-campus to work on a project and present their work on February 21st in a showcase hosted at UTM. To learn more or register to participate click here: https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/utm-engage/volunteering/alternative-reading-week

Social Innovation Projects; in October the CSE paired a team of UTM student volunteers with a community organization and hosted a one-day design thinking and innovation day to establish the program of focus for the 2018-2019 year. Over a 16-week period, the organization and students worked to develop an achievable solution. In march the SIPs will be invited to present their solution to the Board of Directors of each community organization and hopefully approved for implementation by the community organization in the future. Each group was given an opportunity to request funding to support the initial stages of their project and over $25,000 will be given back to the community through this program.

Indigenous Spirit Journey (ISJ); an experiential journey involving land-based activities founded on Indigenous philosophical cultural teachings. In partnership with Riverwood Conservancy and the Experiential Education Unit, UTM students volunteer as mentors to prepare strategies for their youth mentees, aimed at developing strong community leadership skills, an understanding of the importance of fostering inter-cultural inclusion, respect for diversity, connection to one’s own culture, and a deeper understanding of their role in the community. 

Day Events by Request; in 2018-2019 the CSE has been running day events by request for UTM departments such as the Athletics and Recreation Unit as well as for student organizations interested in hosting a one-day event for their members and/or executive teams. Interested in hosting your own day event with a community organization? Contact engage.utm@utoronto.ca to learn more!

The Centre for Student Engagement’s Community Engaged Learning unit is always open to learning and growing alongside the community, with input and innovative ideas from UTM students to explore what programs should change, grow or be re-structured to best meet the needs of our community, campus and students. Never hesitate to visit us in DV3125 to find new opportunities, explore ways you can give back and build your co-curricular record.

If you are interested in volunteering for these initiatives or other volunteer opportunities with the CSE we encourage you to check your Better Impact account weekly for upcoming events and sign up requirements. If you don’t have a better impact account with us yet, sign up for an upcoming volunteer training: https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/utm-engage/community-engagement/volunteer-us

Or maybe you want to work as a student staff member for our office and lead these initiatives in 2019-2020? If so review information here before the February 8th deadline (Job ID: 135177): https://www.utm.utoronto.ca/utm-engage/about-us/work-us