Put your education to work in the community!

In this course, students work with local non-profit organizations in small teams each led by a graduate student or the instructor to research social issues and advocate for positive change. This year each team will design and conduct a social media campaign for their organization as part of their advocacy project. Here is what past students have said:

“This class has become one of my most favourite classes that I have taken at Carleton University within the past four years.”

“It really is a good way to gain skills (e.g. interviewing, working with a team, meeting people). It will make you question a lot of theory previously learned.”

“It’s going to touch you in a deeper way. This isn’t text book. These are real people and real issues.”

“I’ve learned how to make a coherent project plan and work effectively with a team towards a common goal.”

Here are some projects from past years: 

Discovery University (DU)

In fall 2016, one team of students leveraged their own passion for learning to engage at-risk youth aged 18 to 29 in Discovery University. We created the plan to do this together; we visited youth organizations to promote the program and made videos about the benefits two current DU students experience.

DU is now using these videos to promote the program! DU allows people living on a low income or experiencing homelessness to participate in university-style courses designed to be accessible to them. We learned a lot about the difference access to education can make in people’s lives.

The Alliance to End Homelessness (ATEH)

Students on this team participated in the National Housing Day Conference and did interviews with champions and/or people who have experienced homelessness. Two short videos were created. The organization is using these videos to promote the goal of ending homelessness in Ottawa!

MOMS (Mothers Offering Mutual Support)

MOMS is made up of mothers, aunts, grandmothers, and sisters who have a loved one in prison. MOMS is challenging the use of Ion Mobility Spectrometry devices (ion scanners) to screen visitors to prisons. (There are a high number of false positives in the use of this technology, which can result in a wide range of adverse impacts.) This team made videos which MOMS is using to increase public awareness of the pain and despair created by this technology among prisoners and their families. Students also helped garner support for the campaign by acquiring signatures for an e-petition.

A little more about how it works:

Each class has three teams of students each working with a different organization. It is important to know when you are thinking about taking this course that, while much of the team work happens in class time, there is team work outside of class time.

There are three main components to the course. Two of these are done in the teams: the advocacy project and the interview and following creation of a short video. Students use cuPortfolio to reflect individually on their experiences and to use their learnings in a sociological analysis which can draw on their theoretical learning in their studies thus far. Students’ on-line portfolios are available to them after the end of the course to demonstrate the skills they have gained.

Taking one’s theoretical learning out into the community in this way and then returning to an academic frame to consider the learnings gained can result in tremendous insights that consolidate academic learnings. Students leave the course enthusiastic about their experiences of applying their sociological knowledge in such positive ways. They also take concrete skills in video making and advocacy work.