Getting involved in their community and learning their second official language
The Community Service Learning (CSL) program has been offered on campus for 10 years now. Laura Ambrosio, an FLS instructor at the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute(OLBI), has been a champion of the program since its early days. “I was lucky to have been introduced to CSL by a professor in the Department of History, Jeff Keshen, and now I offer it to my students.”
During the 2015-2016 academic year, a total of 44 students in her five FLS courses decided to do a community service placement for part of their marks. Some students earned a grade this way for the written or oral communication component while others earned one for the French vocabulary or advanced spoken and written comprehension component. Ambrosio’s goal is to give students a chance to put the French language skills they’ve acquired to use out in the real world. “Learning by doing is a way for students to acquire knowledge in ways that aren’t strictly theoretical,” she says. “It also gives students a taste of what it’s actually like in the workplace. It provides some students with an opportunity to decide whether they’re on the right track for their career choices…and to make changes if they aren’t. It lets others experience something new. I really think it’s important for students to get work experience while they’re in university. And CSL, a program run by the Michaëlle-Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement, is one way for them to do this.”
The placements offered in Ambrosio’s classes vary greatly. They can involve working with one of the University’s services, such as Community Life, where students help with some of the activities offered at Carrefour francophone—the hub of Francophone social and community life on campus. Or they can provide students with opportunities to speak French through placements at Saint-Vincent Hospital, in Bruyère’s complex continuing care unit or with schools and community centres in the region that provide young students with homework help in French. The Centre is always looking for community partners that serve the region’s French-speaking population who might consider bringing student volunteers on board. These students are motivated and can lend an extra hand with a variety of tasks, depending on their skill level.
Thanks to the support received by the Centre and the many successful community partnerships over the past 10 years, the University of Ottawa recently approved the creation of two second-language courses where students will be graded entirely on their involvement in a community-based learning activity. This is a brand new concept but also an exciting challenge. The first of these courses, an English second language course developed by Ambrosio and colleague Nikolay Slavkov, a language professor at OLBI, will be offered in the Fall 2016 session. The equivalent French second language course will be ready for the Fall 2017 session. In the meantime, students can still choose to do a community service learning activity for a portion of their grade. Ambrosio wants to continue improving her own courses in order to provide students with the best experience possible. These new CSL-only courses are the next step in enriching the experience for students. And for Ambrosio, it involves developing a deeper understanding of her students. “I want to better understand why students develop a passion for engagement and how we can turn this passion into learning opportunities,” she says with a smile.
“It’s one of the ways professors and instructors can better focus their teaching objectives and allows them to reassess their objectives in light of the students’ own experiences,” says Ambrosio. “They also get to know their students much better,” she says. “Part of what students have to do during a CSL placement is reflect on their experience. And this reflection helps the professors and instructors get to know their students on a more personal level. I have been amazed by the generosity shown by students, which continues to inspire me,” says Ambrosio.
Skating for the very first time - Kaitlyn Bakker, Faculty of Social Sciences
For Kaitlyn Bakker, a fourth year student in international development and globalization at the Faculty of Social Sciences, community engagement is about building relationships in order to create a more vibrant and welcoming society. During the winter 2017 term, she helped do so by participating in a Community Service Learning (CSL) placement in the Global Citizenship and Learning/Volunteer Abroad course (DVM4154).
With her experience, she also gained new skills. “Working with CCI has given me a lot of experience in a multicultural setting, sometimes with significant language barriers. I’ve have the opportunity to learn first-hand about the barriers and challenges that newcomers to Canada face, whether it’s language, employment, integration or legal status,” says Kaitlyn.
Her Community Service Learning experience changed her view on how to apply her program and helped her see how much work remains to be done in countries like Canada, whose population includes many members of visible minorities. Kaitlyn realized how even an office job can offer many opportunities for a meaningful relationship with the community. For her, any community engagement experience is a great learning opportunity, one that can’t be had in a classroom. “It lets you learn more about yourself and gives you an insight on your future career.” In fact, Kaitlyn wishes to continue volunteering with the Catholic Centre for Immigrants.
Using a map to find a job - Laura Lehman, Faculty of Arts
Community engagement can take many forms. Laura Lehman, a bachelor’s student majoring in environmental studies (French immersion) and biology, got involved in the Community Service Learning (CSL) program as part of her Social Geography (GEG3103) course. Her CSL placement was supervised by Charles Tshimanga of the World Skills Employment Centre in Ottawa. World Skills supports new arrivals to Canada by helping them with their job search and having their knowledge and skills recognized by Canadian businesses. In 2015–2016, the centre assisted an average of 10 new clients a day.
For her CSL placement, Laura chose to create maps of all the places in Ottawa that offer jobs where French is the first language of work and to categorize them by work sector. She was able to create maps for four different sectors. These maps will not only help new arrivals with their job search, but could also influence where they choose to settle. The maps will be updated each year, to maintain the quality and accuracy of the information World Skills offers its clients. Meanwhile, students working on this CSL placement will now have a better understanding of how a city develops and the impact language can have on its population distribution.
How do you create a win-win situation? Lessons from the CSL program
One of the CSL placements offered in the course was a TD Environmental Leaders Program project that aimed to transform the narrow, 10-foot-wide asphalt alley next to Heartwood House into a sustainable space that is aesthetically pleasing, manages stormwater runoff, and serves as a safe and welcoming hub for community members to enjoy. The alley experiences a constant flow of foot traffic between McArthur Avenue and the densely populated residential blocks to the south.
In April 2017, students presented their recommendations to Heartwood House stakeholders and tenants. Patricia Lucey, a Board member who supervised the student team, felt that overall, the students provided helpful recommendations that the organization will review over the summer before proceeding with the installation in the fall of 2017. Altogether, students spent some 164 hours finalizing their report, but more important than the time spent on the project, they applied concepts they had learned in class. Ms. Lucey had good things to say about each student, and took the time to fill out a short online evaluation form for each one. She commented on their enthusiasm for the project, their organizational, research and presentation skills, and their attention to providing creative and original design ideas. One of the students has even said that she would like to come back in the fall for the installation, even though she will have graduated by then.
Power wheelchair hockey teaches human kinetics student the ins and outs of events management - Michèle Léger, Faculty of Health Sciences
Michèle believes that volunteering is not only rewarding but it also allows you to learn a lot about yourself. She plans to continue volunteering with the OPWHL throughout the summer, including planning and helping host this year’s Power Hockey Nationals, being held from August 4 to 7, 2017.
Telfer School of Management students identify promising green alternatives to University of Ottawa’s empty roofs
Carter Beaupré-McPhee, Nolwenn Gélébart, Olivia Michel, Julia Picard and Isabelle Trudeau
A number of student reports were presented to the University of Ottawa’s Office of Campus Sustainability, but it was the Empty Roofs Project, presented by Carter Beaupré-McPhee, Nolwenn Gélébart, Olivia Michel, Julia Picard and Isabelle Trudeau, that stood out to both Professor Mazutis and Jonathan Rausseo, manager of Campus Sustainability. Their report thoroughly examined the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and how the University of Ottawa could better conserve energy through the use of solar panels, green roofs, apiary roofs and white roofs. What made this report remarkable was the group’s ability to develop a rooftop implementation strategy that the University of Ottawa could realistically follow. In fact, the students created a highly detailed matrix defining which buildings on campus could be used for which type of roof treatment. “This group truly went a level beyond by creating a very coherent matrix. It was like having a menu with absolutely everything on it, says Jonathan.
Professor Mazutis was equally impressed by the Empty Roofs project, stating that it had the greatest potential for making a significant contribution to improving life on campus going forward. Moreover, she highlighted the potential impact of CSL students could have on meeting the needs of our community. “CSL placements are unique in that they allow students to put into practice core concepts from the course—leadership, strategy and sustainability. By working with a community partner on an actual business problem, the students can apply strategic consulting skills to a project with a meaningful impact. It’s immensely motivating and rewarding to think that their work might one day materialize on roofs across campus.”
Working on the Empty Roofs project was extremely rewarding for the students too. International student Nolwenn Gélébartwas astonished and pleasantly surprised to see how powerful the initiatives were thanks to her group’s involvement. “I’m convinced that engaging and empowering students on these subjects is crucial and that the CSL program is a great step. I really wish we had the same kind of program in French universities.”
So, where does the Empty Roofs project stand today? Jonathan states that although things are still in the planning phase, the students’ report helped clarify a number of things and provided even more knowledge than had been predicted. The exact timeframe for project implementation hasn’t been determined yet, but the Office of Campus Sustainability says that future buildings will incorporate these types of roofs.
Community engagement is a “gold mine of learning, mutual assistance and cooperation that you miss out on if you just sit in a classroom.” - Vicky Lalande, Faculty of Social Sciences
Take Vicky Lalande. Since she had already volunteered locally in day camps, with elder care service providers, and at CEGEP agricultural fairs, she was aware of the benefits of getting involved, including the acknowledgement and thanks she would receive for her time and effort. So when she took Professor François Rocher’s ‘Introduction do Canadian politics’ course as part of her political science and economics program at the University of Ottawa, she decided to opt for the Community Service Learning (CSL) component of the course, completing a 30-hour volunteer placement in the parliamentary office of MP Christine Moore.
Her work on Parliament Hill gave her a chance to apply the theories she had learned in class, giving her a whole new appreciation for what she could gain from community service. “The wide variety of tasks I’ve tackled in this placement have given me a good idea of the many issues an MP deals with every day. I learned a lot about how Parliament functions by attending meetings with MPs. I also came to appreciate the importance of polling and data collection, and I learned how MPs vote in the House,” she said.
According to Vicky, community engagement is more than just a way to give back to the community. “In addition to helping a community with all kinds of innovative projects, volunteers gain unique and enriching experience. I believe that it’s a gold mine of learning, mutual assistance and cooperation that you miss out on if you just sit in the classroom.”
Although she was happy to complete her CSL placement in a parliamentarian’s office, Vicky would also like to volunteer elsewhere in the community so that she can broaden her knowledge base while pursuing her interest in Canadian politics.
DVM4154: Global Studies, Citizenship and Development - Claire Purdy, Faculty of Social Sciences
“I had participated in CSL during my second year of studies, where I worked alongside Professor Stephanie Mullen to research Canadian artists,” says Purdy. “For this CSL term, I decided to volunteer with Fairtrade Canada because I was quite familiar with their work, and I am very passionate about the rights and working conditions of those in the developing world. I have learned many useful skills. I have been able to practise my communications skills, in addition to strengthening my research and project proposal writing skills. I learned a lot about taking the initiative in the workplace and asking for help when needed. In addition, I was able to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. I enjoyed being able to provide creative ideas to my team, and being able to provide feedback on how youth may want to get involved with the fair trade movement through their schools, campuses, workplaces, etc. I am so happy with the work that Fairtrade Canada does that I hope to stay involved, whether it be by volunteering in Ottawa, finding a similar organization in my hometown of Toronto or working abroad at a Fairtrade International office!”
A Parliament Hill Experience: Marie-Ève Chartrand
For three hours a week, she conducted research and help craft communications strategies and tools with the senator’s team, under the supervision of the parliamentary affairs director and the communications officer. Senator Boisvenu also allowed her to attend Senate committee meetings and to see what actually goes on in the Upper Chamber.
Marie-Ève was thrilled to have enjoyed such a privileged access to Canada’s political arena and to gain valuable research skill. These skills have helped her set goals and hone in on a given topic. She also gained an appreciation of how different story angles can affect media coverage.
Marie-Ève also works at the University’s Career Development Centre and loves speaking to students in need of support. Despite her hectic schedule, she intends to continue participating in community engagement projects. “I want to help others, I want to know that my support makes a difference. Maybe I’ll become a teacher?” she said, with a twinkle in her eye. She believes that above all, to be a committed volunteer, you need to be flexible, motivated and open to others. Given Marie-Ève’s openness to new experiences, this probably won’t be her last CSL experience!
A healthy mind in a healthy body - Jordan Sutcliffe and Jenna Plowman
Jordan has always wanted to work with kids. “They are our future, our ambassadors for tomorrow, so we need to invest in their education and development.” According to Jenna, physical activity has an incredible impact on student concentration. “Right away, we see a difference when they get back from their run. The students are much more curious and interested,” she said, enthusiastically. Each week, for three hours, the two university students plan obstacle courses as well as reading and writing exercises. Both have seen some remarkable changes in their charges as a result of their efforts. Jordan realized that one 10-year-old autistic boy had difficulty reading. A few weeks later, the same boy came to see Jordan to tell him that the volunteers and their workshops had motivated him to learn to read properly. In Jenna’s case, she was faced with a disruptive child who did not want to take part in the reading workshops at all. So she adapted the exercises and activities to draw his attention by incorporating charades and word puzzles. The boy quickly responded and began enjoying learning.
Jordan is now aiming to start a master’s degree in kinesiology next fall, and hopes to specialize in sports for children. He has also been trying to implement the Start2Finish project in North Bay, his home town. He has been in touch with a few schools to present the project, and is confident that the initiative could begin next year, and could make a real difference in this northern Ontario community. Jenna is applying to the Faculty of Law, and although she is not sure which field to specialize in, she would like to keep volunteering in order to make a difference.
During this placement, both students said they learned a great deal about themselves, and on the importance of being proactive with others and engaging with the community. They believe that leadership, optimism, and patience are fundamental to volunteering. One thing is certain: they were inspirational models for the students of Queen Mary Street Public School!