New Community Service Learning director aims to expand program

Effective Feb. 1, Megan Conway will be the new director of the Laurier Centre of Community Service-Learning (CSL), an established program that encourages students to get involved with the community academically.

“I will be supporting student involvement in the broader community and looking at ways of building on what they are learning in the classroom through either community placements or community based projects,” explained Conway. “My role is to oversee that partnership-building between the university and the community.”

Conway, along with other associate directors and co-ordinators, is hoping to expand CSL from its roots in the psychology department to offer course opportunities to students across different faculties, as well as create learning communities in residences and with international exchange students.

“She would like to look at ways in which we can grow community service- learning as an integrated approach in Brantford and in Waterloo,” said David McMurray, VP of student affairs. “She’ll be working from an interdisciplinary perspective so hopefully every student has the opportunity to take a service learning course.”

Students involved in CSL courses learn the theory associated with social justice, community relations, civic engagement and global citizenship. “Essentially making meaning of the knowledge you learn and applying it to the real world,” McMurray added.

Since its inception in 2006, CSL has secured funds to develop a complete centre devoted to service-learning. Initially starting with about 400 students, CSL has grown to approximately 1,500 students, with about 900 in Waterloo and 600 in Brantford.

McMurray is optimistic about the increasing number of student volunteers at the school and those in CSL placements. According to him, Laurier ranks high on the national survey of student engagement.

“Laurier students are, for the most part, very active and engaged in volunteer activities,” he explained. “Anywhere from 70 to 80 per cent of students either had a volunteer experience or continue to be involved.”

Emily Butcher, a third year psychology student who worked with children at a pre-school for her placement, has commented on the effectiveness of CSL, “It’s kind of like the closest thing you can come to co-op because it pertains to my major.”

While Butcher says she enjoyed her work with CSL, she hoped that more of the placements were in closer proximity to the school, “A lot of the positions were offered only in Kitchener,” she continued, “And I don’t have a car and I don’t really have any ability to get to these places.”

Conway, as she currently completes her PhD at the University of Waterloo, is well experienced in both political and civic work and hopes to use that experience to connect well with the students, “I’m excited to learn more about the Laurier community and to get involved on campus so I can start to meet students and get connected.”

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