School for Civil Society Consultations Begin

April 30, 2012 - Campus Bulletin

The University of Guelph is moving forward with one of the key goals of its Integrated Plan — discussing the creation of a School for Civil Society.

Campus-wide and community consultations about the design of the school are beginning. Through a new website, small group meetings, interviews and other sessions, a “catalyst team” will gather feedback and exchange information with faculty, students, staff and stakeholder groups. They will gain ideas to develop a school design proposal to be discussed in the fall.

The new school will be interdisciplinary and collaborative and span all seven U of G colleges. It will involve undergraduate and graduate degree programs, and various learning, research and collaboration opportunities.

But precisely what the school will offer and how it will work will be left to the U of G community to decide, said Maureen Mancuso, provost and vice-president (academic).

“Community engagement will be a core value, a core principle, of the school, and our intention is to remain true to that principle; this will be a very public process,” she said.

“The school will be designed through a process of engagement, as opposed to the administration bringing something forward for discussion and approval.”

This past winter, a discussion was held about how the University might contribute to civil society. That dialogue was intended to engage U of G community members in considering the meaning of civil society and in exploring links to other groups and institutions.

“Now we want to take those ideas and the excitement and engage additional ideas, to think about how we can build something at Guelph that would really capture that enthusiasm and those interests,” said Linda Hawkins, director of U of G’s Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship and a member of the Catalyst Team.

Other members include Prof. Belinda Leach, associate dean (research) in the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, and Prof. Wayne Caldwell, director of the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development in the Ontario Agricultural College.

Members of the U of G community should be encouraged to go to the website and share their ideas, thoughts and perspectives to help move the school forward.

“In the end, we want this to belong to the University and to civil society, so we want to engage as many different voices and views as possible,” Caldwell said.

Ultimately, the goal is to design a school that will allow students and faculty to pursue research, teaching and other opportunities in community engagement. Guelph is already unique for its commitment in this area, Mancuso said.

Many faculty and staff study community-related topics locally and globally, and Guelph’s students volunteer in local neighbourhoods and in development activities halfway around the world, she said.

“Our faculty, students and staff possess a drive to make a difference in the world. It comes from a shared recognition of our civic and cultural responsibility.”

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