I think it’s great that The Globe will host this important conversation. The tension between research and teaching is a key one, for sure. But we often forget that most universities define a triple goal: teaching, research and community service. I don’t think we spend enough time thinking about the community service portion of the equation or if we do, we focus on service to industry or the labour market, rather than service to the broader society. I hope that your project will provide some space to talk about these issues too.
I endorse Iglika’s comment as well. PSE requires more porosity. It would be ideal for every Canadian student to have a semester (at least) of experiential learning outside the university. It builds citizenship.
In response to Iglika, I would agree on the need to focus more squarely on a broader conception of “service”. Too often, we think of this as falling within the preserve of our social scientists and humanists. In fact, they are also integrally involved in innovation – whether in industry or elsewhere; just as many from the life and natural sciences are heavily engaged in public policy discussion and formation.
Iglika: You make a very interesting point. What does “community service” mean to you?
I think our institutions can be more connected to the communities where they are located and more actively involved in them. This includes encouraging students to engage in experiential learning, volunteer or paid internships in the community, but this needs to be done with the explicit goal of building civic engagement and fostering understanding and compassion between the students and their community, not for today’s more prevalent self-centred goals of padding your CV or making it easier to secure a job in the future.
There’s also a role for faculty members to do at least some research on issues that the community is currently facing, whatever those might be: homelessness, addictions, social isolation, lack of clean water, etc. Universities spend a lot of money and resources doing outreach to local industry, learning about what their needs are and designing programs to collaborate with local business. Let’s think about society more broadly. If universities dedicated even a fraction of those resources to getting to know their communities, and jointly addressing some of the pressing problems, we’d greatly improve quality of life across the country.
Iglika – good points. There is not anything wrong with connecting to industry – people all need jobs in the end after all. But we certainly can do more on the social innovation side as well.
Iglika Ivanova – I would agree totally. But on the other side of the coin, I think that university engagement with industry/the private sector is far less extensive than one might think; and this is a critical element of the equation as well. Innovation and job creation are important to the local community too!.
Melonie Fullick, PhD candidate in the faculty of education at York University:
Iglika Ivanova: Agreed. I think we should aim to integrate undergraduate education, graduate education, and community research more. It can be difficult to build those relationships but from what I’ve seen, it’s worth the work.