Discovery Program opens avenues between community and university


A class of 22 Hamiltonians from diverse backgrounds came together recently for an
educational experience that might otherwise have seemed inaccessible to them.

Through the new McMaster Discovery Program, an experimental pilot project that starts
Oct. 15, the adult students will meet at the Hamilton Public Library's central branch to
take part in a free university course that aims to help them learn about their city and
about one another.

The students, who have been recruited through community organizations working in
partnership with the program, are to spend eight Saturdays in the class, called Voicing
Hamilton. The course is designed as a general introduction to humanities studies, and is
being presented on Saturdays to make it as accessible as possible.

The office of McMaster President Patrick Deane is providing the major portion of the
funding to the pilot as part of the University's effort to improve community access, in
conjunction with such partners as the Adult Basic Education Association, the McMaster
Community Poverty Initiative, the Hamilton Public Library, the Hamilton Community
Foundation and the City of Hamilton.

“This is an endeavor of the community and for the community, through the university,”
said Deane. “It builds capacity in our community and brings new voices to our
educational endeavours, and that improves all our lives.”

The program is an example of McMaster's efforts to form new connections between
itself and the broader community, to improve access to education and to create new
opportunities for experiential learning, all areas that the President has identified as

Members of the first class range in age from their 20s to their 70s. Many have faced
personal barriers to education, and all share a passion for learning. The program is
meant to foster creativity and further learning, enriching the lives of students and their
families by providing access to knowledge and enjoyment of new ideas.

“Learning is valuable in and of itself,” said Daniel Coleman, a professor in McMaster's
English and Cultural Studies Department, who will present a lecture each Saturday
morning, drawing from local prose, poetry, illustrated and video material about
Hamilton. “We want to expand our students' and our own capacity for learning in a safe,
supportive environment.”

Students are to interpret and discuss their reading assignments and work on a longer-
term creative project to be facilitated by a graduate of McMaster's Arts & Science
Program, which is the institutional base of the McMaster Discovery Program.

Undergraduate students from the Arts & Science program are to assist in delivering the
Discovery Program, presenting them with an experiential learning opportunity as they
work alongside Discovery students.

“It's a way to make courses available to people who have faced barriers to post-
secondary education,” said Jean Wilson, director of the Arts & Science Program. “At the
same time, for those of us within the University, it allows us to discover new things
about education and be engaged with learners outside the institution.''

Assignments are required for students enrolled in the McMaster Discovery Program, and
attendance is mandatory, though there will be no grades and the course does not count
for university credit.

To reduce barriers to the class, materials are provided at no cost. Students can access
free public transit and child care, and instructors and students are to share a communal
lunch during their mid-day break.