UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 8 | Aug.
Taking Education and Learning into Our Community
Canadian universities seek stable funding
By Michelle Cook
UBC has joined forces with nine other Canadian universities
to seek funding support for community service learning (CSL)
Representatives from the universities of Alberta, Toronto,
Western Ontario, McMaster, Guelph, Queens, St. Francis Xavier,
Simon Fraser, and Memorial came to UBC in late June to discuss
ways to build momentum for CSL across Canada. The result was
the formation of a national coalition of universities and
an action plan to help raise the profile of CSL in Canada.
A key component of the plan is the creation of a long-term
funding infrastructure to support service learning programs
and pilot projects.
CSL is a pedagogical model that combines community volunteer
activities with academic course work to give students the
opportunity to make connections between theory and practice,
engage in critical reflection and see how their studies can
be applied. While the model has been popular in the U.S. for
some time, Canadian universities have only recently begun
to adopt it.
In the U.S., a huge amount of money and support have
gone into CSL initiatives, says Margo Fryer, director
of UBCs Learning Exchange and the meetings host.
We want to have enough money available nationally so
that the CSL movement can grow on Canadian campuses and be
sustainable in the long term.
One of the coalitions goals is to have a mechanism
for stable funding in place by 2004 when a $1 million private
grant that supports St. Francis Xavier Universitys CSL
program runs out. The Nova Scotia university is considered
the pioneer of the service learning movement in Canada.
We need to find a way to sustain the St. Francis Xavier
program and the others that have followed, says Fryer.
The idea is to have a pool of funding from different
sources available to all Canadian universities in a years
time. We see government support playing a crucial role in
our ability to integrate this important approach to experiential
learning into the fabric of Canadian universities.
Fryer says the importance of CSL goes beyond enriching students
With CSL, were strengthening civil society by
bringing students energy and enthusiasm to community
organizations and by encouraging students to think critically
about social issues and to become active and engaged members
of their communities.
UBC has been involved in CSL since 1999 when the Learning
Exchange Trek Program began placing student volunteers in
community organizations. Two years ago, the program began
incorporating CSL into course work. This year, 300 students
from a wide range of disciplines have worked in 30 organizations
that include inner-city schools, community centres, community
gardens, homeless shelters and hospices.
Funding for the UBC Learning Exchange currently comes from
the university and private donors, but the ability to respond
to the increasing interest in CSL among students and community
organizations depends on additional funding, Fryer adds.
In addition to developing stable funding sources, the coalitions
action plan includes a commitment to share resources and curriculum
ideas, encourage student involvement and empowerment in all
aspects of CSL programming, and continue meeting annually.
Although the members have formalized their partnership, there
are still many details to be worked out. But Fryer is optimistic
that the group will reach its goals.
The coalition schools are committed to growing CSL
into a widespread movement in Canada because of its potential
to strengthen our society. We believe it is possible to create
a national infrastructure to support CSL much like research
is currently supported in Canada through both public and private
For more information on the Learning Exchanges CSL
initiatives visit www.learningexchange.ubc.ca.