The Minor in Community Engagement offers students a course of study that includes the theoretical tools and practical skills to recognize, respectfully engage, and build community, while working for change and respecting differences both on- and off-campus.

The introduction of this minor is timely, as engaging communities is a growing theme for many institutions in Canada and beyond, from federal agencies to non-governmental organizations, municipalities to multi-national corporations, universities to grassroots organizations. There is no doubt that community engagement, when done well, has a great contribution to make to efforts to bring about positive social change. People who are skilled in its practice are highly valued across institutional and community settings.

Yet, community engagement is not a straight-forward affair, but rather involves a range of complicated and often contested negotiations through and across hierarchical social and power relations, conflicting interests, and an array of emotions and aspirations. The Department of Sociology and Anthropology, with its long-established expertise in understanding the dynamics of social change and emergent communities in Canada and globally, is well positioned to support students (of any discipline) enrolled in the minor to gain skills, knowledge, and hands-on experience in community engagement that are highly valued across institutional and community settings.

The minor consists of two core courses in Sociology and Anthropology (SOCI/ANTH 2180: Foundations in Community Engagement, and SOCI/ANTH 4171: Community Engagement Capstone) plus 1.0 credit of experiential learning courses from a wide variety of disciplines and 2.0 credits of other interdisciplinary academic coursework. These courses work together to provide students with solid methodological, theoretical, and experiential training in community engagement. Most students interested in the minor will find that some of the required courses for their program will also count toward the minor. Please click here for more details on the specific requirements.

This minor is open to all undergraduate degree students in any program. After successful completion of the minor, students will be able to:

1. Critically understand the relationship between scholarship, activism and advocacy relating to community engagement.
2. Participate in the design of appropriate approaches to allyship with those experiencing oppressions other than one’s own.
3. Address the functioning of racialized, gendered, and other hierarchical social and power relations in and between diverse communities, public institutions, the non-profit sector, and the private sector in concert with others to bring about positive social change.
4. Critically assess the effectiveness of community engagement processes in creating engagement and social change.

For further details on the SOCI/ANTH 2180 course or minor, please contact the instructor for SOCI 2180, Dr. Deborah Conners, the coordinator for the minor, Dr. Blair Rutherford, or visit the Undergraduate Calendar.

A sample of courses that count toward the minor:

HLTH 2003: Social Determinants of Health
Renate Ysseldyk
In the Department of Health Sciences, an examination of health inequities within and across communities is vital to students’ holistic understanding of health. HLTH 2003 provides an overview of the “causes of the causes” of health inequities for students to apply toward promoting cultural competence and social justice in their communities and beyond. As one student put it, this course “truly opened my eyes to many of the challenges in health, and overall changed my perspective on the Canadian healthcare system”.

HIST 2811 students working on site at the National Capital Commission, Winter 2019

HIST 2811: Public History from Memory to Museums
David Dean
HIST 2811 students working on site at the National Capital Commission, Winter 2019
Focused on the ways history, memory, and heritage play a vital role in the social, political, economic, and cultural lives of contemporary society, public history emphasises the value of publicly engaged research and participatory history-making. HIST 2811 encourages students to explore innovative ways of “writing” the past, especially “off the page”, and students work in small teams with community partners to create new histories in accessible and visible ways. As one student reflected, “Since taking your course, I have thought about, and used history in ways that did not appear to me prior. Being able to contextualize history, while making it publicly accessible (visually, tactically, audibly) is a skill that has and will continue to further my academic and professional careers.”

WGST 2801: Activism, Feminism, and Social Justice
Manjeet Birk
At the Institute of Women’s and Gender Studies, students learn to not only theorize about communities but also to actively participate in their communities. Community engagement is not a formulaic prescription and as a result we discuss the complicated intersectional dynamics of power and helping. Through hands on learning using multidisciplinary approaches, students learn what it means to engage with feminists and activists and consider what are the practical and systemic challenges of social change.

IDES 2600: Human Factors/Ergonomics in Design
Chantal Trudel
In the field of design, developing an appreciation and knowledge of people’s abilities, limitations, perspectives and attitudes within a variety of contexts is central to supporting the health of individuals and our communities. This approach applies to product design, human computer interaction, interior design and architecture, as well as the design of work, systems or services. Through experiential learning activities working with real people outside the classroom setting, IDES 2600 introduces students to the broad range of physical and psychosocial factors which may influence people’s experiences and quality of life. The course brings attention to the importance of considering diversity among people and their contexts. The course also emphasizes the value of consulting with a variety of representative stakeholders throughout the design process to inform development and to foster the movement toward responsible design. From the voice of one student “Love the course, it opened my eyes to a lot of the small things that I take for granted.”

Students in SOCI 4170 hosting an event at Ottawa City Hall

SOCI 4170: Community Engaged Sociology
Deborah Conners
In the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, theories and experiences of community engagement are central to student understanding of the dynamics of power, social justice and social change. SOCI 4170 provides an opportunity for students to find their passion for social justice work as they engage in small teams with community-based organizations to research social issues and advocate for positive change. In one student’s words, “To be able to give back into a community while learning from the experience was so enriching to not only my skillset but also my character.”