Reflections on CU Expo 2013 – Corner Brook, Newfoundland (Memorial University)
Created by: Anne-Marie E. Fischer, BA, M.Ed, CSL Coordinator, Western University
Having attended CU Expo 2011 in Waterloo, ON and having nothing short of a profound experience, I was excited and thrilled to attend and present at CU Expo 2013 in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
If anyone were to ask about my experience with CU Expo, I would describe as a “game changer” as far as the engagement I had with the field in which I worked. Not only did it open my eyes to the scholars of the field, new ideas to incorporate into my own practice, and a good understanding of national and international efforts around CSL, but also the sense of camaraderie among all the participants (faculty, practitioners and community partners alike) contributed to a tangible feeling of “we’re all in this together”. I was excited to be inspired yet again in 2013 like I was 2 years ago and the program of CU Expo 2013 surely did not disappoint.
The opening keynote session delivered by His Excellency the Right Honorable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, served as an important testament to the value of community engaged learning. He reminded us of the important role academic institutions have in contributing to communities, and how important it is to continuously break down the “walls” that divide us.
The concurrent sessions were creative, uplifting and inspiring, and an important reminder of how important it is for us to share our work across provinces, across the nation, and across the world, as all it takes is a glimmer of inspiration to make great things happen for our own institutions and communities.
Of particular learning for me was how different CSL is as it exists in Canada and the US. When I was giving my presentation about CSL at Western University, I faced some challenges from our US colleagues, who argued that “co-curricular CSL” does not exist and that the only way to stay true to the pedagogy of CSL is through academic/curricular programs. I (respectfully) begged to differ, arguing that among Canadian practitioners, we fully believe that the tenets of CSL can be applied to co-curricular initiatives, and it made me proud of my Canadian colleagues who continue to advocate for the importance of co-curricular CSL initiatives. I hope as a nation, we hold strong in this view.
I mentioned the camaraderie that occurs in CU Expo, and I fully believe that when we unite under this movement, all titles, designations, roles, and positions are removed. We come together as citizens of the world who are interested in making social change through education. Each stakeholder’s voice is represented at CU Expo, and no voice is heard louder than another. The closing activity asked three questions: “What can universities and colleges do to better partner with communities?” “What can communities do to better partner with universities and colleges”, and “What can communities, universities and colleges do together?” – this discussion underscored the dual role that both communities and academic institutions) hold in making community engaged learning come to fruition. We are all in this together!
I can hardly wait for CU Expo 2015!
Note: CUExpo 2015 will be held in Ottawa hosted by Carleton University and community partners.