Carleton’s best kept secret – community engagement

A special task force report shows that Carleton faculty, staff and students have strong ties to the Ottawa region in a variety of ways — both professionally and personally.

The problem is — nobody really knows about it.

Sure, within individual departments or programs, people know about the good work that goes on and appreciate it. But that’s where the pipeline breaks down and, in fact, there really is no structure to ensure that the activities and connections Carleton people have within the Ottawa region — be it with businesses, government or non- profits — are widely known and are strategically used, says the groundbreaking report compiled by the Initiative for Community-University Engagement.

“There was a real sense that Carleton has always done a great deal of community-engaged work of all kinds,” says Ted Jackson, committee chair and associate dean (research and graduate affairs) in the Faculty of Public Affairs.

“But nobody had a sense of all the things that were going on, nobody had a sense of the depth of this work or how it fits into the strategic directions of the university. So we basically built up a committee over several years, drawing from all parts of the university and collected this information.”

Although the report is a just snapshot of what is happening, the committee’s findings are impressive.

It found the university has widespread engagement in the areas of governance, teaching, research, student support services, volunteer fundraising, human resources, sports and recreation, and democratic participation — to name a few. Jackson estimates the report captured about one-third of total staff engagement, about 75 per cent community-based learning opportunities and about 75 per cent of community outreach — only “scratching the surface” of the full picture.

“Where we go with the report is really, how can we do this better? How can we make this work stronger and make ties to the community more effective?” says Jackson.

“It’s really the first overview of what this university’s doing. We are more deeply embedded in the community than other universities, although many also do some very good things. We’re not saying we’re totally unique, but the depth and variety, the range of institutions we have relationships with is pretty impressive and, I would say, quite unique for Canada.”

While the committee’s research found that there is a “robust” and “continuous flow” of people and ideas between Carleton and its partners in the Ottawa region, it makes 15 recommendations to be implemented over five years.

Three key recommendations include a full survey of all Carleton’s community engagement activities, better internal co-ordination within and across faculties and stronger external co-operation with local institutions to create more comprehensive, long-term partnerships.

In order to keep track of the university-wide engagement and ensure that it’s strategic, the committee also recommended appointing a director to oversee the issue. In September, President Roseann O’Reilly Runte announced Prof. Katherine Graham as the Director of Community Outreach and Civic Engagement at Carleton.

The committee’s updated report will be made public on its website in the coming weeks.

“We know that we are a citizen-oriented, community-oriented institution,” says Jackson. “And what we want to do with this exercise is take it to the next level. We want the systems, we want the incentives and the policies that are in line with this mission.

“There is no gold standard for this kind of work. I think we’ll set it.”

Carleton’s Community Engagement – Some Numbers

Recreation and Sports:
3,500 children are registered in summer sports-camp programs
1,200 adults are registered in recreational sports leagues
1,800 fans watched the Toronto Raptors intra-squad game

CKCU Radio:
4,500 people donate to CKCU every year
100 people from the community volunteer with CKCU

Virtual Ventures:
800 children attending summer computer camp over seven weeks

Co-operative Education:
2,400 undergraduate and graduate students are registered in a co-op at Carleton
1,500 industry partners are involved in the co-op program
850 students are enrolled in the preparatory course, COOP 1000

First Year Experience Office:
100 undergraduate students serve as volunteers

Source: The Oxygen of Community: Carleton University’s Engagement with the Ottawa Region

This entry was written by Maria McClintock and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: , , , . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

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