Students develop solutions to "real-life problems" through community-engaged learning projects

January 23, 2020 | Business


This term, 21 separate courses with over 800 students from across all faculties will include a community-engaged learning project. In Fall 2019, nine courses in the School of Business included community-engaged learning projects, in which students connect with real-world clients in fields such as international business and marketing.

Career Development and Experiential Learning (CDEL), which supports faculty members in finding partners and appropriate projects for students to engage with, says community-engaged learning happens when students work with a community partner to apply what they are learning in a course to solve a problem or meet a challenge that organization is facing.

“Through this work, students get to master course material, help the community and learn more about their career options by engaging with community partners through the lens of their discipline," says Tami Ambury, experiential learning facilitator, CDEL.

Handshake IconStudents or faculty members interested in community-engaged learning opportunities can contact Career Development and Experiential Learning for help finding partners and opportunities.

In his INTB 412: Managing in an International Environment course, Dr. Etayankara (Murli) Muralidharan says that working with an outside organization was essential for the corporate experience provided to students learning about the internationalization of Canadian firms, and the students can add that experience to their resumes.

"Students have gained experiential learning as part of the course, and hopefully this would give them a head start in their careers," says Murli, associate professor in the Bachelor of Commerce. "More importantly, they could relate what they have learnt as part of the course with the real-life problems in the corporate world."

Students can also use these experiences to help them determine their career directions, generate networking opportunities and sometimes even find work.

“A number of our community partners use these projects as soft recruitment tools to see if they want to hire any of the students," says Tami.

So put your best foot forward. How you navigate this class assignment could affect your job prospects — and your grade.

One community partner commented on social media that Dr. Albena Pergelova’s MARK 412: Service Marketing class should receive an A+ for their work. Because, in marketing in particular, students work on several experiential projects before they graduate, they can build quite the portfolio of real-life projects they have consulted on, and can use the experience as a talking point in job interviews.

“Oftentimes, students are thrilled to see that (some of) their recommendations have been implemented,” says Albena, associate professor and chair of the Department of International Business, Marketing, Strategy and Law. Community partners are open to writing a reference letter for students who do a great job and have built a good relationship. “Some students have even gotten a job because of the excellent work they did.”

That’s why Tami encourages students to recognize how critical it is to develop professional skills and competencies through the work they do with the community partners. "Students comment on the fact that this isn't a project for marks alone, but to actually make a difference for an organization, and to tie in their learning to real-world-experiences."



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