McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Award winning instructors help students make a lasting impact in Hamilton

By Daily News
Published: April 28, 2015
James MacKillop
"At the end of the day, students want to make an impact," says Sarah Glen (right). Glen and Margaret Secord, both instructors with the Bachelor of Health Sciences program, are the recipients of the first-ever MSU Community Engagement Teaching Award.

Sarah Glen and Margaret Secord have spent the last seven years helping students make a lasting impact on the Hamilton community.

Now they're being recognized for their work as the first-ever recipients of the MSU Community Engagement Teaching Award.

Since 2008, Glen and Secord, both instructors in the Faculty of Health Sciences, have taken a unique approach to community-engaged learning, matching fourth or fifth year students from all Faculties with community organizations in need of research expertise.

"In many courses students say, 'I want to do a thesis,' then they go to a community partner and say 'we want to research your population.' So really that's all about the student's needs, but we do it the other way around," says Secord, an instructor with the Bachelor of Health Sciences (B.H.Sc.) program and an assistant clinical professor with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences. "We talk to community partners, or they come to us, tell us their needs, and then we say 'great we know which students can assist you.'"

Before students can begin working with community partners, they have to complete 3DD3 "Engaging the City: An Introduction to Community-based Research," to familiarize students with the principles and theory of community-based participatory research.

Once they've completed the course, students have the option of working on a senior research project or on a community-based thesis in partnership with a community organization.

Glen and Secord work closely with community partners to determine their research needs. Students are then matched with community organizations and closely supervised by Glen and Secord throughout the research process.

"Our students aren't just engaged in a learning opportunity where they get to try out some research methods, these projects actually have direct, tangible results in our community," says Glen, an instructor with the B.H.Sc. program. "We want to make sure that the research outcomes are of use to community partners and they absolutely are."

"At the end of the day students want to make an impact," Glen adds. "This is a way for students to make a lasting impact in Hamilton."

This is the first time the MSU has given out an award dedicated to community-engaged teaching.

Rodrigo Narro Peres, Vice-President of Education for the McMaster Students Union (MSU), and member of the Network for Community Campus Partnerships, says community-engaged teaching can be very complex and should be acknowledged.

"Community-engaged learning requires a different approach from traditional learning and that's not always recognized equally," says Narro Perez. "We wanted to find a way to recognize those instructors that are bringing community engagement into the classroom. Community-engaged learning isn't something new, this has been going on for decades, but we think this is something that the MSU should recognize."

Glen and Secord say they are humbled by the award and credit the success of their initiative to the support they have received from the B.H.Sc. program, the strength of their relationships within the community and the dedication of students.

"This award, especially coming from students, is a recognition that complex, values-driven work is important for students to engage in and that they will rise to the occasion," says Secord. "Sometimes we don't give students enough credit for what they can do, but throughout this process, students have been able to meet that challenge at every step.


Forward with Integrity

To Note

Glen and Secord were also awarded a Forward with Integrity grant for a project aimed documenting and sharing the learning practices that influence the participatory research partnerships developed through "Engaging the City" and at developing a campus-community event to enhance existing partnerships and foster the creation of new collaborations.


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