The Uni Semester is about to begin!

The Uni semester starts on Monday. I’m teaching three courses (or subjects) this semester:

  1. An undergraduate course on community engagement (HLSC2241)
  2. A postgraduate course on community engagement (HLSC6105)
  3. A postgraduate course on community capacity building (SWRK6008).

Numbers are up significantly from this time last year. There are 116 in the undergrad course (compared to 65 last year), 9 in the postgrad community engagement course (compared to 2 last year) and 41 in the postgrad capacity building course (compared to 23 last year).

The undergraduate course has quite a mixture of students. They currently come from 21 different degrees – about half come from primary education, and then there are four or more students from:

  • Business
  • Nursing
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Social Work
  • Med Rad Sc (Diagnostic Rad)
  • Speech Pathology
  • Development Studies

The others are from a variety of degrees including Medicine, Environmental Science and Management, Occupational Therapy, Science, Communication, Construction Management, Psychology and Social Science.

With such a mix I have to ensure that I discuss a wide range of settings for community engagement. I am going to be breaking community engagement into three broad areas:

  1. Community engagement where the focus is community development or capacity building
  2. Community engagement as part of decision-making processes
  3. Community engagement in order to improve service delivery or achieve goals more successfully.

Last year in one of the assessment tasks, many students focused on community engagement events like Race for Research, Red Nose Day and Girls Night In. This year I’m going to encourage people to focus more on examples where the community was engaged in more substantial ways than attending an event. Essentially these events are fund-raising and awareness-raising rather than engaging people in meaningful ways.

The postgrad course on community engagement consists mostly of students undertaking a Masters of Educational Studies. This is only the second time it has been run and last time there were only two students (and one had to withdraw half way through it) so I’m looking forward to running it with a few more students. It covers similar ideas to the undergraduate course, but it is in more depth. With Jasmine and Alexa at school, I’m really passionate about community engagement by schools, so I’m looking forward to some of the discussion in both the undergrad and postgrad courses about the community engagement in a school setting.

There is a wonderful mix of students in the postgrad course on capacity building. Each year there are a quite a few international students (particularly from Africa and South East Asia) and many of the students are working in the field. This year there are students from at least Malawi, Liberia and Philippines. I’m sure there will be other places as well. This year I’ve increased the number of workshops for those who can attend them so we have short, practical workshops on

  • Community capacity building
  • Asset Based Community Development
  • Engaging communities
  • Facilitating groups
  • World Café
  • Open Space.

With the experience and range of students in the course, these should be quite interesting workshops.

Feedback about all the courses has generally been positive (although some students struggle a bit with the online nature of the study). This year I’m hoping to do some video lectures to enhance the experience of students. Things are a bit crazy at the moment with the start of semester next week and the Fair Share Festival being three weeks away so I’m afraid my blog is being a bit neglected.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, environmentalist, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace, sustainability.
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