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From classroom to community – DC Social Service Worker student puts learning into action

“My student experience has just completely exploded into opportunity.”

Amanda Cowan, a second-year Social Service Worker (SSWK) student at Durham College (DC), can barely contain her excitement. She’s describing how she took her classroom learning into the community while participating in a recent “Day of Action” focused on developing solutions for local winter homelessness.

On June 21, Cowan joined a group of approximately 60 like-minded individuals from Durham Region service agencies, including the John Howard Society, the HOPE Coalition and other advocacy groups, and the greater unsheltered community for a brainstorming and planning session. The event was co-facilitated by Durham Mental Health Services, under the leadership of regional housing coordinator Doreen Hume McKenna, and hosted by the New Life Neighbourhood Centre in Oshawa.

The opportunity to take part and gain valuable real-world experience in her chosen field came to Cowan through an earlier event held as part of an ongoing partnership between the Regional Municipality of Durham, Social Services Department, and DC.

The two-day living lab, Co-production: Climbing the ladder of participation in public service delivery, focused on a new vision of public service, which involves an equal and reciprocal approach between service providers and people using public services. Funded by the DC International Research Fund, the event featured Dr. Stuart Muirhead, an international expert on co-production, from The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services in Scotland.

“When my professor, Randy Uyenaka, put out the call for volunteers for the co-production event, I jumped at the opportunity,” recalls Cowan. “It sounded like a great opportunity to sit in a room with a bunch of people all thinking the same way about important issues.”

Her instincts paid off when being in the room for the co-production event and participating in a breakout session evolved into new opportunities. Along with eight other attendees, Cowan broke off from the co-production event to form a working group that would look at how the co-production model could be used to tackle homelessness in the region.

“The working group put out the invite to other community members and groups and the Day of Action on winter homelessness quickly started to take shape,” says Cowan. Participants were offered an honourarium and fed for the day, and together they generated an incredible amount of information.

“We identified problems first, then looked for solutions with an understanding that everything was on the table and there were no bad ideas.”

Cowan says the group is now moving into the action-potential stage.

“At the end of the day, there was the ability for people to continue to work towards the solutions that will affect them. Sign-up lists were circulated and people put their names down. Next, once they have their action articulated and approved, everyone will come back to unpack the solutions together. I’m helping to actually put co-production into action – while I’m still a student – by not doing to but doing with. We’re not downloading solutions to the unsheltered community, we’re creating solutions together.”

The project is particularly poignant for Cowan, who is bringing the lens of her own lived experience to bear on her studies as a mature student.

“I am so blessed and thankful to be a part of this fantastic project,” she shares. “These learning experiences are embodying all of the things I dreamed I’d be able to be involved in when I decided to go back to school. I see my work with the co-production model in particular to be the perfect pairing for my professional identity and my lived experience.  Through this project I’ve been able to sort out and fuse these two worlds. This was a special interest project for me and it has brought me more learning than I could ever have imagined.”

The success of the co-production event and its impact on students like Cowan are points of pride for Dr. Darren Levine as well. As the manager of Research and Innovation with the Regional Municipality of Durham, Dr. Levine recognizes the value of engaging the students who will form the next generation of social service workers and community leaders.

“The collaborative co-production project is one of many successful partnerships between our Innovation and Research Unit and Durham College’s Office of Research Services, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship [ORSIE],” says Levine. “Students were an integral part of the project, working not only to help coordinate the event, but also working in equal partnership with service providers, faculty, and community service providers throughout to co-create new insights and applications of co-production in social service delivery.”

The co-production event also reinforced the value and impact of participating in applied research for DC students.

“Students thrive when they are given an opportunity to learn through experience and contribute solutions to real-world problems in collaboration with community partners,” says ORSIE dean Debbie McKee Demczyk. “The skills and approaches students learn through applied research are ones that they can continue to draw on throughout their careers.”

For Cowan, participating in both co-production events has had a dramatic impact on her career outlook.

“The energy and focus in those rooms were kind of magical,” she says. “Participating in these events has really opened up my professional world. It’s expanded my view of the kind of work I’m interested in pursuing and helped me develop a huge professional network very quickly.”

It’s this connection between classroom and community that means the most to Cowan as she continues moving towards her career goals.


DC to launch new Honours Bachelor of Behavioural Science

Durham College (DC) has received consent from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities to offer a new Honours Bachelor of Behavioural Science (BBS). Based at the college’s Oshawa campus and beginning in September 2020, the Honours BBS will be DC’s second degree program following the successful launch of the Honours Bachelor of Health Care Technology Management in 2018.

“Ontario is seeing an increasing incidence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children and youth, dementia in seniors, as well as individuals with addictions and acquired brain injuries,” said Dr. Judeline Innocent, executive dean of DC’s School of Health & Community Services (HCS). “As agencies and long-term care facilities prepare for the increasing numbers in these client populations, the need for more qualified professionals in the areas of health, community and social services will also increase. With the Honours Bachelor of Behavioural Science, our graduates will be ready to not only meet this need but become leaders in these fields as well.”

Offering a comprehensive mix of courses which balance theory and practice, the Honours BBS program of study will focus on six themes:

  • Applied Behaviour Analysis
  • Populations
  • Psychology
  • Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy
  • Research Methods and Design
  • Ethics and Professionalism

Students will complete a final thesis project and gain vital work experience in a professional setting through a 420-hour supervised field placement completed between the seventh and eighth semesters. Graduates will be prepared to work with individuals of all ages within a variety of health and community settings, helping people with addictions and mental health challenges, acquired brain injuries, dementia and pervasive developmental disabilities, including ASD.

“The Honours Bachelor of Behavioural Science is another example of Durham College delivering innovative programs in direct response to an identified need,” said DC president Don Lovisa. “It also demonstrates the value of the college maintaining close ties with industry and community partners.”

Under the leadership of the college’s HCS administration and faculty, the Honours BBS program was developed with guidance from psychologists, community and social service agencies, municipal services representatives, mental health workers and psychogeriatric services.

“The Honours Bachelor of Behavioural Science will provide graduates with professional competencies that link the scientific, clinical, communication and ethical aspects of behavioural science,” said program coordinator Mary Helen Leddy. “This will ensure our graduates develop a breadth of knowledge, skills and judgement to increase their opportunities both in terms of employment and future studies.”

As part of the program’s development, DC has articulated diploma-to-degree transfer pathways for graduates in three of the college’s existing programs: Child and Youth Care, Developmental Services Worker and Social Service Worker. These pathways provide eligible graduates from each of the identified diploma programs advanced standing in the Honours BBS program of study, affording an opportunity for them to complete the degree in a reduced amount of time or at a reduced course load.


Castles, Cameras and Canvases: Durham College students focus on Ireland’s rich culture

Ten students from the School of Media, Art & Design embarked on a journey of discovery, exploring Ireland’s rich history, art and culture while honing their photography and videography skills.

Students from Photography, Video Production and Contemporary Web Design, joined professors Linda Cheng and Brian Stephens on the Emerald Isle and explored the culture and history of Ireland through a variety of unique, experiential and customized media projects.

“Ireland has a rich history of visual arts,” said Cheng. “The history and culture of Ireland catalyzed students’ reflections on music, art, photography and digital content.”

Each student built a discipline-specific project based on both the readings assigned to them pre-departure, and their experiences abroad. While applying the skills they learned in their respective programs, students engaged in an evening of Irish folk music, visited the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum (the world’s only fully digitized museum) and ventured into The Long Room Library—one of the greatest libraries in the world, used as a set for several films, including Harry Potter.

Emily Moroz, a student in the Video Production program, said of her experience abroad “It was a great opportunity to improve my video skills while learning about the history and culture of Ireland.” She went on to say “Having some free time during the trip gave us a chance to explore and capture some good video content. It was a good experience which will definitely help me in my future career.”

The 10-day trip included visits to monuments and points of interest, including: The legendary St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Bunratty Castle, Kilmainham Gaol museum and the scenic countryside of County Kerry, where they learned about Irish farm life.

DC’s international reach doesn’t stop with Ireland. Many faculty-led trips have already been approved for next year in Peru, and Guatemala, cementing DC’s commitment to experiential learning.

For more information on how to get involved, please contact Lisa Shepard, dean, International Education.


DC students go from touring to building the new Whitby campus residence

What began as an opportunity to see a building site up close, quickly evolved into summer employment for four students in Durham College’s Building Construction Technician program.

One moment they were touring the site of DC’s new residence with 31 of their fellow classmates and now they are helping to build it – doubling down on the already enriching experiential learning opportunity the site visit offered.

Many of the first and second-year students in the program had never been on a job site, let alone a multi-level build like the Whitby campus residence. From seeing the foundations and framing that form the structure of the residence, to identifying the related components and how they interact to prevent moisture and air infiltration and provide structural integrity and fire-resistance properties, the students were able to see the pages of their text books come to life in a real, concrete way.

It was during the tour that Pannonia Construction, the contractor building the residence, approached DC professor Al Martin about hiring summer students to work onsite. Information about the job opportunity was shared amongst the first and second-year students. Four were successful and are taking their skills from the classroom to the jobsite, honing their knowledge and building their resumes.

The Whitby residence will be open to students in September 2019.


Durham College’s 2018-2019 Annual Report now available online

Durham College (DC) is pleased to share that its 2018-2019 Annual Report is now available to the public. As one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for a third consecutive year, the college is also proud to share its successes in a fully electronic format.

“This year’s report is a celebration of community and how the combined efforts of our students and employees continue to make DC a great place to work and learn,” said Don Lovisa, president, DC. “Together, we are DC!”

As the college looks back on its past accomplishments, the report also provides an opportunity to reflect on the achievements of DC, while highlighting innovation, growth and excellence in teaching and learning.


DC signs Dimensions charter with the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport

Durham College (DC) is proud to share that it has signed the Dimensions: Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Canada charter, committing to upholding its principles of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within the colleges’ research practices and projects.

“DC values, celebrates and embraces diversity in all that we do and it is incumbent on us to help enhance the post-secondary research landscape,” said Dr. Elaine Popp, vice president, Academic at Durham College. “Committing to the Dimensions charter will strengthen DC’s research capacity and help keep post-secondary research moving towards greater equity, diversity and inclusion.”

Present during the signing was the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, who also took part in a discussion with Dr. Popp. The conversation touched on recent funding that DC received from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), including a $2.24 million Innovation Enhancement grant and $133,000 Applied Research Tools and Instruments grant. They also explored how dimensions will fit into the future of research at the college.

“I want to thank Durham College for signing the Dimensions charter and affirming their commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion on campus,” said Minister Duncan. “When our labs and classrooms look more like the Canada we see today, everyone benefits.

Dimensions aims to increase EDI in post-secondary research and helps drive deeper cultural change within the research ecosystem. Sound EDI-informed policies and practices improve access to the largest pool of qualified potential participants, enhance the integrity of a program’s application and selection processes, strengthen research outputs and increase the overall excellence of research. The program calls for all post-secondary institutions to adopt the charter on EDI.

The five-year Innovation Enhancement grant through NSERC that was announced last year will allow the AI Hub to engage more faculty, students and industry partners in collaborative projects. Additional funding received in April from the Applied Research Tools and Instruments grant for the Centre for Craft Brewing Innovation has already allowed DC to purchase a beer analysis system that is being used in applied research projects with craft brewers so they can better understand how their brewing processes function.


DC hosts National Inventors Hall of Fame Reception to celebrate first Canadian offering of Camp Invention

Durham College (DC) hosted several dignitaries from the government, educational and corporate sectors on July 10 for the National Inventors Hall of Fame™ (NIHF) Reception in the Centre for Collaborative Education’s Global Classroom at the Oshawa campus. During the event, guests took a tour of the first-ever Canadian offering of Camp Invention™ and spoke with camp educators and participants of the non-profit summer enrichment program.

In attendance was U.S. Consul General Greg Stanford; Mayor Dan Carter, City of Oshawa; and John Wrycraft and Evan Bombino of technology leader Johnson Controls Inc., as well as Amy Gorecki, executive director, and Nathalie Rudner, president-elect, of the Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario/L’Association des professeurs de sciences de l’Ontario.

Camp Invention is a program developed by the non-profit NIHF, in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It was held at the DC Oshawa campus from July 8 to 12 and provided a unique experience for children to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). National Inventors Hall of Fame (Canada) is the Canadian non-profit organization responsible for introducing NIHF’s ground-breaking innovation ecosystem to young inventors in Canada. The one-week program was funded by the United States Embassy in Ottawa and U.S. Consulate in Toronto.

Overseen by four teachers from both the Durham District School Board and Durham Catholic District School Board, and five counsellors, Camp Invention’s 2019 Supercharged™ program allowed campers the opportunity to learn about ocean navigation and survival skills on a remote island, conduct mock DNA tests on farm animals and learn to protect their own ideas. As an added bonus, at the end of the week, each camper brought home their own robot.


Planting the seeds of success: Durham College students spark environmental awareness in Guatemala

Durham College’s (DC) International Education office in partnership with the service learning organization, Students Offering Support (SOS) took five students from the School of Science & Engineering Technology’s (SET) Environmental Technology and Chemical Engineering Technology programs on an international outreach trip to Chuinajtajuyup, Guatemala. DC volunteers spent 12 days working alongside SOS and the citizens of Chuinajtajuyup to help combat climate change’s affects on agriculture.

“It was uplifting to work with Durham College volunteers within the environmental field,” said Jamie Arron, executive director of SOS. “Their professors, students and staff embraced the cross-cultural exchange with the utmost respect and demonstrated a distinct hunger to learn.”

Students learned from and collaborated with local farmers on the impact of climate change in the community. Volunteers brainstormed and presented ways to combat and reverse the damage climate change had wrought on the agricultural industry. By discussing issues and creating initiatives, DC students helped local farmers make a lasting difference.

“We are very proud of our students for undertaking this opportunity to broaden their learning and gain life changing experiences,” said Michelle Hutt, executive dean, SET. “Study abroad endeavours like these truly enhance the relative connection for our students here at DC.”

While abroad, DC and SOS volunteers tackled several climate change challenges. They spent two full days planting trees to combat further soil erosion in the area–a necessary task due mass deforestation in the region. But they didn’t stop there. They also organized a fundraising event to improve the community’s access to water, giving people access to a clean, reliable source of water, a luxury that many take for granted. The rest of their trip involved installing a drip irrigation system for optimal water usage, and the expansion of a greenhouse, built for housing crops that DC and SOS selected specifically for the community’s needs.

“Durham college students, professors and staff were able to meaningfully support community-driven adaptation strategies to climate change through the combination of cross-cultural knowledge exchange, economic contributions and hands-on support to environmental projects. Our local partners called it a dream come true.” said Arron.

Within a short span of time, DC students made a positive, lasting impact on the world by building greenhouses, planting trees and improving access to water; ultimately showing that their dedication, selflessness and success, matters.

DC’s International Education office is pleased to support students who go on education abroad experiences through the International Travel Bursary program.


New appointments for chair and vice-chair of Durham College Board of Governors

The Durham College (DC) Board of Governors (BOG) is pleased to announce Ivan DeJong and Michele James as the new board chair and vice-chair, respectively, effective Monday, July 1, 2019. The appointments are for a one-year term.

Ivan is co-owner of Youngfield Farms in Nestleton, which was started by his family in 1953, and he has been involved in local organizations including the Durham Agricultural Advisory Committee, the Durham College Community Choir and the Canadian Food Grains Bank. In 2013, Ivan received the Diamond Jubilee Medal for community service.

With a career in health care spanning 30 years, Michele is the vice-president of People and Transformation at Scarborough Health Network and her diverse portfolio includes oversight of the human resources function for the organization’s 5,200 employees and 1,600 volunteers. Michele has also been involved in local organizations and is currently the volunteer chair of the Advisory Committee for the Black Physicians Association of Ontario.

The BOG is responsible for the governance of DC and, as such, is accountable to the students, employees and communities the college serves for ensuring that it is effectively and appropriately managed to achieve its established mandate and to provide needed services.

As chair, Ivan will be responsible for ensuring the board meets its responsibilities and established mandate through leadership, openness and transparency.


DC plants trees at its Whitby campus as part of the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign

On June 20, Durham College (DC) held a commemorative ceremony to plant hero trees at its Whitby campus, as part of the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign.

Created with a mission to plant two million trees along and within the communities adjacent to the 401 Highway of Heroes, the campaign is a living tribute to the members of the country’s Armed Forces, including DC alumni and the 117,000 men and women who died in conflicts since Confederation.

College employees joined DC President Don Lovisa, along with the Lords women’s varsity softball team and Mike Hurley, executive director of the Highway of Heroes Tree Campaign, to plant the first tree.

Special thanks goes out to DC professor Shane Jones and several of our Horticulture – Technician and Horticulture – Food and Farming students, for the role they have played in getting the land ready for the planting.