A celebration of community engagement

The Office of Experiential Education in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies held an event recently celebrating community engagement and the wide array of projects that were available to students this past year.

“As we had hoped, our celebration doubled as a networking opportunity,” says Joëlle Reid of the Office of Experiential Education and organizer of the event. “We know this from a number of new partnerships being formed for next year.”

AdelaColhonAdela Colhon

A total of 75 people attended, including 17 external partners from local business, public agencies and community organizations. The partners represent groups that participated in the Experiential Education Program providing York students with valuable work experience as “junior consultants” or volunteer interns.

Among the speakers were community partners Adela Colhon, general manager of the national and provincial programs of the YMCA of Greater Toronto, and Wanda MacNevin, director of community WandaMacNevinprograms for the Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre.

Wanda MacNevin

She praised the program for creating an opportunity for the YMCA to work with York marketing students, saying that “we always talk about the power of one”, but we can accomplish so much more “with partnerships such as this”. To watch her speech in its entirety, click here.

One of the founding staff members of Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre, MacNevin has seen many projects with York since a student designed their logo when they opened in 1976. Pleased with the latest collaboration with a social marketing class, she praised: “As a person who is really busy working in an organization, I didn’t feel [the project] took a lot of my time. These were practised [marketing] students who were keen on an idea.”

 The organization now looks to implement the devised marketing plan to recruit isolated single mothers in the area for their Women Moving Forward poverty-reduction program. To watch her speech in its entirety, click here.

One of the highlights of the event was a series of brief testimonials offered by five participating students who shared their experiences with the program.

  • Luiza Jaroszek spoke on a consulting project she and her teammates did with Holt Renfrew in a French course for business students, The Culture of Negotiation in French. Her speech can be seen here.

Two students from the human rights course Indigenous Resistance in Global Contexts shared their respective experiences doing public outreach on the painful legacy of residential schools in Canada.

  • Nana Nkanzah focused on raising awareness of the issue among high school students in the area. His speech can be seen here.
  • Monica Krawczyk shared her experiences participating in public forums alongside residential school survivors. Her speech can be seen here.

Two communications students from Children, Media, Education & Change presented two different projects in collaboration with The Spot, the youth program at the Jane/Finch Community Centre.

  • Priscilla Reidt spoke about a workshop on “Digital Footprint” her team designed and animated at The Spot. Her speech can be seen here.
  • Danielle Grant shared her experiences working with young girls to increase female participation at The Spot in “Project Inspire”. Her speech can be seen here.

Diane Beelen Woody, associate dean, Teaching and Learning, was pleased with the event and found the students’ speeches inspirational.

“It was rewarding to gather in one room passionate York instructors and dedicated community partners to provide an opportunity to reflect on their collaborations. And it was truly inspiring to listen to students speak of the impact of Experiential Education on their learning.”

Reflecting back on his own studies at York, veteran EE instructor Peter Constantinou at the School of Public Policy and Administration, explained why he makes a point of designing courses around hands-on, consulting projects for his students.

“I can’t imagine learning without doing,” he said. “So for the 20 years that I taught here, all of my courses have included some aspect of doing.” To view his entire speech, click here.

The final speaker of the event was Professor Natalie Coulter of the Department of Communications Studies. She highlighted three key insights she and her students gained while working with youth from the Jane/Finch area at The Spot:

“We learned about being conscious of our privilege,” she said. “We learned about respecting the knowledge of our community…and we acquired a new appreciation of the complexity, the vibrancy and the diversity of the Jane-Finch community.” To view her entire speech, click here.