People Directory

Yoshitaka Iwasaki, PhD



About Me

Dr. Yoshi Iwasaki is Professor in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension with approximately 20 years of experience in community-engaged research and education, knowledge mobilization, and capacity-building. His areas of specialization include: (a) culture, diversity, and community-university engagement; (b) active living and quality of life (e.g., meaning-making, mental health, and leisure); and (c) participatory action research (PAR) to address social justice issues (e.g., human rights, poverty, empowerment, mental health, social change). His Ph.D. in Recreation and Leisure Studies was completed at the University of Waterloo, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences in 1998. His previous employment includes being Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, College of Health Professions and Social Work at Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 2006 to 2011, and in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation Studies at the University of Manitoba from 1998 to 2006.


Over 20 years of experience at post-secondary education settings in Canada and the United States, Dr. Iwasaki’s work involves respectfully engaging and mobilizing population groups who are often marginalized to address significant societal challenges (“wicked” problems), such as poverty, cross-cultural issues, social exclusion/inclusion, and mental health issues. Using a holistic, meaning-oriented, and strengths-based approach, his transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral team’s work (including participatory action research, PAR) aims to build thriving communities and provide an effective support system through co-creating and co-implementing people-centered adaptable solutions in diverse communities from social justice perspectives. The integration of “engagement scholarship” and “social learning theory” into such social justice-based work has been a recent focus through mobilizing both academic and non-academic (e.g., lived experiences, people’s wisdom) knowledge into action for change. Such integration and mobilization has been guided by the principles of co-learning, power-sharing, and collective commitment to social change through co-creating a community of learning and practice together to have an impact on people and society.  

Dr. Iwasaki’s research team has worked with and engaged Indigenous peoples, culturally diverse youth at risk, and persons with disabilities such as mental illness to address social justice issues in a global context. Since 2011 his interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral team has been using a youth-led/guided PAR (YPAR) approach to respectfully engaging and supporting youth at risk (click "Publications" above). Specifically, this YPAR project highlights youth leadership through the work of his team’s youth council (youth leaders) to inspire and mobilize youth at risk (e.g., Aboriginal, immigrant, and street-involved youth) as an agent of change at personal, social, and system levels. 

Another area of his team’s recent exploration includes the role of leisure engagement in meaning-making, which extends his earlier work on the role of leisure in stress-coping and healing during 2000s, with its implication for meaning-focused practice (please read his recent “folio” article titled “5 ways to bring meaning to your free time” by clicking “Links” on the top right). With over $5 million external research support including federal grants from NIH, SSHRC, and CIHR, his work has appeared in over 90 refereed academic and professional journal articles.  His publications have been widely cited since 2000 (please see Google Scholar citation information by clicking “Links” on the top right).


(a) EXCES 1501 — Community Engagement: Contexts and Processes (core course for Citation in Community Engagement) and

(b) CSL 550 — Topics in Community Service Learning: Strategies for Community Engagement (required course for the students in Master of Arts in Community Engagement, MACE)

I currently supervise five graduate students. However, I still accept to work with "passionate" students both in Master of Arts in Community Engagement (MACE) and in leisure studies related to meaning-making, engagement, mental health issues, social justice issues, and so on at honour’s undergraduate, master’s, doctoral, and post-doctoral levels. I have acted as the advisor or a thesis committee member of over 50 doctoral, master’s, or honour’s undergraduate students, including my primary supervision of 18 students at Canadian and American universities. Please feel free to email me if you are interested or have questions.

Guided by our ongoing youth-led participatory action research (YPAR) on youth engagement, our team has facilitated workshops and university courses (e.g., community-service learning course) by incorporating youth-centered, community-based approaches. Please feel free to contact me or another member of our team if you are interested in learning more about our “youth engagement” workshops and courses designed for professionals, college students, and others. In particular, such a course provides the students with both breadth and depth of knowledge about issues and approaches to respectfully engaging, co-learning, power-sharing, and working with youth at risk in order to co-build a community of practice from both conceptual and practical perspectives.