McMaster launches new minor in community engagement


Students in Foundation of Community Engagement (CMTY ENGA 2A03) explore a number of locations in the neighbourhood of James St. N, in downtown Hamilton, including the Hamilton Farmer’s Market, as part of a course assignment to learn about the community, define and address assumptions about communities, and consider the complex issues involved in community change.

Undergraduate students from all faculties now have a formal pathway to learn the skills they need make a difference in local, and even global communities.

Starting this fall, McMaster is offering an Interdisciplinary Minor in Community Engagement aimed at teaching students the theory and principles of community engagement, while providing them with opportunities to gain hands-on experience working in a community setting.

“The minor is intended to help students understand the complexity of working in communities,” says Shelia Sammon, director of community engagement who helped develop the minor. “The minor is there to support our students in being strong community members and citizens, teaching them the skills and knowledge that are going to help them make a difference in multiple communities so they can contribute in a productive way.”

To complete the minor, students will begin by taking Foundations of Community Engagement (CMTY ENGA 2A03), which teaches them the basic principles and theories of community engagement.

Students will then take a selection of courses offered by different faculties to deepen their theoretical understanding of community engagement and will take courses aimed at helping students gain experience working collaboratively with others that emphasize skills such as effective communication, teaching, and mentoring.

Students will also take a capstone course in which they will work with a community partner to complete a community-driven project. Course instructors will develop projects in partnership with the community organization to ensure projects are both academically sound and of value to community partners.

“We hope that the students who take this minor will become engaged activists or leaders in their communities– wherever those may be– that they think about the social good and that they engage respectfully and with humility,” says Sammon. “As privileged, educated people, we encourage them to recognize that they have responsibilities and gifts. We stress that they remain open to learning from, as well as contributing to, the communities that they’ll be living in or working in for the rest of their lives.”

The development of the minor stems from the recommendations of the Community Engagement Task Force– formed in response to the Forward with Integrity letter– which emphasized the importance of integrating the principles community engagement into McMaster’s academic mission.

“There is a renewed recognition from our university that McMaster is responsible to our community and that we need to build respectful and trusting relationship with our community partners,” says Sammon. “By developing the minor and taking this kind of coordinated approach, we hope to help our students to become involved in the life of our community in a productive and beneficial way.”

Students can learn more about the Interdisciplinary Minor in Community Engagement by contacting their academic advisor in their faculty.

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