“The UBC Learning Exchange is an entry point for faculty and students who might develop new relationships with the community beyond our doors.”
— Kathleen Leahy, Director, UBC Learning Exchange
Working with the UBC Learning Exchange and community can be a new experience. For students, it can be challenging but is ultimately rewarding and fun. For faculty who may be contemplating building a community element into a particular course, the Learning Exchange offers an ideal place to get started.
The student view
Michele (pronounced Mee-keh-leh) Morucci, a third-year major in Economics and Anthropology, worked with the Learning Exchange and members of the Downtown Eastside (DTES) community to gather information about which services and programs best serve patrons of the Learning Exchange. Morucci says it was extremely rewarding to learn his findings and subsequent recommendations for change are being carefully considered.
It was also rewarding for Morucci to be able to make connections between the theoretical and the practical, to apply things he’d learned in class in a real-life setting. “Whoever said learning had to be in a classroom and that learning occurs only when you study in your room [was mistaken]. Learning occurs all around you [and through] new experiences [and from] contact through socializing with others.”
For Lizzy Duguay, a fifth-year Human Geography major who collaborated on a DTES tour and mapping project, interviewing and working with local residents to create a more community-based representation of the area was daunting at first but an experience she wholeheartedly recommends:
Being nervous is part of the process! If you felt comfortable going into a new community, you wouldn’t be challenging yourself and learning. Keep an open mind, good intentions, and be willing to ask questions. Very soon that nervousness will disappear. At the Learning Exchange you will meet the most friendly and interesting people, and it is truly a place where ideas and people connect and discussion occurs.
What was most fulfilling for Duguay was “… the feeling of being welcomed into somewhere unfamiliar to me. Everyone I worked with was so friendly and so honest and open to talking about their experiences and relationship with the area. It was really great to work with people who were interested in the project and wanted to share ideas about making it successful. I felt it was a true collaboration.”
A faculty view
For faculty, working with the Learning Exchange team to build a community component into a course is strongly worth considering says Dr. Catherine Douglas, a lecturer in the Department of Economics. She says the support she has received from the Learning Exchange team and its familiarity with community learning has been invaluable in helping her build hands-on community learning into two courses.
“The great thing about the Learning Exchange,” says Douglas, “is that their real focus is on community, and bringing that university learning environment and connecting with community — and responding to community — which is really what community learning is all about.”
She also cites the Learning Exchange team’s ability to make everyone feel comfortable — community members, students, her as a faculty member — as a real positive.
For faculty members thinking about testing the waters with community-based learning, Douglas advises having a clear plan in advance. Otherwise, she says:
Take the risk. Go for it! It really can be such a stimulating experience for the faculty member and for the students to be engaging in the community and seeing how problems are dealt with in the community that perhaps maybe aren’t always apparent when you’re talking about theory, methodology and evidence … it’s a really great complement to all the classroom material.
Faculty members and students can learn more about working with community by contacting a member of the Learning Exchange team.