Bringing the CSL Experience Full Circle

New Pathways Program a "Full-Meal Deal" of Community Experience

Donna McKinnon - 15 September 2016

The Community Service-Learning (CSL) program is about reciprocal relationships, in which student volunteers and community partners engage in mutually beneficial activities. Because of a recent generous donation, CSL is now able to take this relationship full circle - from volunteer placements to paid summer internships.

The generous donation byEileen Mercier ('69 MA), a 2014 UAlberta Distinguished Alumni Award winner, presented the CSL team with a number of possibilities, but paid internships were viewed as an opportunity to bring a missing - but essential - element of the experiential learning process to the table.

ThePathways Program is a two-year pilot project that essentially completes the CSL journey. Although CSL offers a choice of streams from a single course to a certificate in community service, until the introduction of the summer internship component (in collaboration with theCareer Centre) there have been no paid work experience opportunities. "It's a full-meal deal of non-profit community experience," says Jill Flaman, CSL Program Coordinator and Pathways Internship Project Lead. "It's about students experiencing different communities, different ways of learning and all different spectrums of the non-profit community."

The only eligibility requirement for the Pathways Program is that students have at least one CSL experience. "We've tried to make it as flexible as possible," she says. "This is a pilot so we're thinking it will be small, five students this year and five next year."

Typically, students who take a CSL class spend 20 hours in the community. Those enrolled in the certificate program take four additional courses and some pursue a board internship where they learn about governance and policy-making in non-profit organizations. With the addition of the paid summer employment component, the student experience will be further enhanced, attracting more students to the program and better equipping them for life beyond the classroom.

Flaman points out that the tools acquired in Pathways are not circumscribed to any one particular career stream. "We're providing an experience through the non-profit sector itself, but that doesn't mean those skills aren't transferable to almost any kind of occupation," she says. "They will have those collaboration, leadership and decision-making skills, and all of those things are in play whether you're in the non-profit sector or not."

"We think of our [community partners] as co-educators," says Flaman. "CSL works with almost 200 different organizations, which may seem like a large number, but we take all of those relationships and personal connections very seriously. [Ms. Mercier] is very interested in CSL in general, and so I think if this pilot is successful, it may be something that can continue. Students are getting an amazing experience before they even graduate."

Information Session: Monday, September 26th, 12-1PM, 418 Arts

Application Deadline: Friday, October 14th, 2016