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McMaster Faculty of Health Sciences Newsmagazine — Volume 9, Issue 3, Fall 2015

Instructors win community engagement award

Sarah Glen and Margaret Secord, both instructors with the Bachelor of Health Sciences (B.H.Sc.)  program, have spent the last seven years helping students make a lasting impact on the Hamilton community.

Now they've been recognized for their work as the first-ever recipients of the McMaster Students Union (MSU) Community Engagement Teaching Award.

Since 2008, Glen and Secord 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," said Secord, who is also an assistant clinical professor 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.'

— Sarah Glen

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," said Glen. "We want to make sure that the research outcomes are of use to community partners and they absolutely are."