We help to connect students to community—both a community of practice with like-minded students and a community of action with members of the wider community. Through engagement and action, you will develop and deepen your sense of identity, purpose and belonging, and become aware of your agency and capacity to contribute to social change.

Our team ensures these values are the foundation of our programming:

Social responsibility

We believe that life on Earth is interconnected and interdependent, and that we each have the responsibility and capacity to create safer, healthier and more equitable communities, and to take care of the land, water and air. The University of Manitoba also has an obligation to serve communities, and we believe our impact is greatest when we support the visions of resource-scarce communities.

Collective action

We believe that the real and pressing challenges that we all face today—from the myriad of negative effects of climate change to finding ways to move toward truth and reconciliation in our lives and institutions—cannot be addressed as individuals. We need collective action.
What does collective action look like? As members of a culturally diverse, globalized and colonized society, it is essential that we understand, relate and work together in anti-oppressive and de-colonial ways. We need to cultivate self-awareness and compassion, identify and develop our gifts, and find ways to build solidarity and contribute to community vision.

In order to unlearn limiting values and relearn or develop healthier ways of relating to each other, we need to learn with and from communities where anti-oppressive and de-colonial values are not only recognized and practiced but often part of long-standing traditions, cultures and knowledges. In Canada, this means valuing First Nations, Métis and Inuit ways of knowing and being.

Relational accountability

We believe that working with communities involves an active commitment that goes beyond the traditional, institutional understanding of partnership and reciprocity. We respond to our community partners’ requests for “whole relationships”— we build and maintain relationships without the expectation of a partnership, relate to people as whole individuals and provide holistic supports to enable good relations and project success.

We are accountable to our partners and their communities. We understand our place and our responsibility to work in good ways within these relationships and spaces. We work with communities and follow their lead to determine the direction and form of our work, from student learning and community engagement to project implementation and evaluation.

Global perspectives, local connections

We believe that the scale of collective action needed transcends the separation of local and global communities. Our responsibility to each other and the home we share goes beyond political and geographic borders. We also believe that as inhabitants of this land and members of Canadian society, we have special obligations to support and work with local communities. In the end, local and global communities are inextricably connected by virtue of living in the same ecosystem, and we are stronger and more effective when work together.

Cultural safety

We endeavour to work in culturally appropriate ways to ensure that the students and communities we work with have a culturally safe experience. We do this by understanding and respecting codes of conduct and cultural protocols established by the communities, and by honouring culturally based approaches to community development and pedagogies that meet the distinct needs of students and community partners.

The Community Engaged Learning team stand together side by side in front of a large tree.

Our approach

Our community engagement workshop series is the foundation of our programming. As the prerequisite for all of our programs, it helps you to develop the skills for working with communities. 

We believe that education should transform society for the better, and help to achieve social, economic and environmental justice. This social change orientation informs our approach—from the design of our programs to the kind of communities we partner with, and the way we create, cultivate and care for our relationships with these communities. 

Beyond lectures

We believe in the power of experiential learning—both in and outside of the classroom. Experiential learning fosters active engagement, critical thinking and deep learning connections. In the classroom, we get students moving, creating and discussing, and in the community, we involve students in project-based work and land-based education.

We also believe in centering or sharing Indigenous perspectives and paradigms in our programs. We build relationships with Elders and Knowledge Holders so that we can integrate Indigenous perspectives and approaches into our work in a good way. The ways in which we value and respect Indigenous knowledges and pedagogies help students appreciate different ways of being, doing, teaching and learning.

Beyond service

We work hard to design programming that meets community needs and contributes to the public good. Our work is responsive to the changing world, and we are grateful to be working on local and international initiatives that support community development, youth mentorship, poverty awareness, climate action and Indigenous ways of knowing and being.

Beyond partnerships

We are committed to ethical engagement and community-centred partnerships.

Our commitment to communities goes beyond traditional, institutional understandings of partnership and reciprocity. We prioritize relationships over partnerships. This means that we cultivate and nourish the connections we hold with communities and their members, whether or not we collaborate formally on a project or program. When we are invited to collaborate with communities, we see ourselves as contributors to a community-led vision. We believe in extending the power, privilege and resources of our institution as a concrete way to demonstrate our support.

We also strive to create strong relationships with our students, which often continue throughout their university career and beyond. In order to do our work, we have to be vulnerable and share our own stories of engagement, growth and social change, so that students can work through conflict and failure, critically reflect on their learning and build their own communities. We see ourselves as mentors and facilitators of social change.

Beyond reciprocity

Our approach emphasizes relational accountability and reciprocity. Our programs provide opportunities for students to apply their classroom learning through community-engaged work, grounded in respect and accountability to community as well as centering their knowledge, experience and vision.

We stand and work in solidarity with communities, and we support community-led action that strengthens the communities we work with and contributes to social, economic and environmental justice.

Workshop series

This workshop series is a pre-requisite for all of our programs. 

This introduction to community engaged learning helps you to develop the foundational knowledge, skills and attitudes to engage with community. You will have the opportunity to reflect critically on our roles in social change and as treaty members or guests on Indigenous lands, learn and work ethically in intercultural contexts and plan for social action.

The training is a six- to eight-week workshop series followed by a community placement and debriefing session. 

Workshop series goals

By completing this training, you will develop an anti-oppressive and de-colonial community lens. This will help you to better see, understand, relate to and support community work.

You will:

  • explore your identity, values, beliefs and practices, including your relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada
  • develop your capacity for critical thinking and reflection
  • develop self-awareness and capacity for working in intercultural contexts
  • engage in experiential learning, both in the classroom and in the community
  • learn from and take action with communities
  • develop knowledge and skills for community work

Workshop series topics

Collective action for social change

You will explore the question, “What is social change?” You will learn about Anishinaabe clan systems, the concept of rotational leadership and will locate yourself in Bill Moyer’s Four Roles in Social Change.

Building intercultural capacity

You will learn about intercultural competence, cultural safety, and Cree and Anishinaabe understandings of “all my relations,” and reflect on the ways your cultural lenses shape the way you understand and relate to others. This self-awareness leads to awareness and sensitivity of the beliefs, values, behaviours and experiences of others, and creates a culturally safe experience for those with whom we interact.

Identity, power and privilege on Indigenous lands

You will learn about the theory of oppression, the concept of intersectionality, and Indigenous peoples' historical and contemporary experiences of colonization in Canada; explore your identity, power and privilege; and reflect on your relationship with Indigenous peoples and your role as a treaty member or guest on Indigenous lands.

Ethical community engagement and visions of "the good life"

You will reflect critically on the ways your identity and culture shape your engagement with community and your vision of “the good life,” and you will also learn about Cree and Anishinaabe understandings of mino-pimātsiwin and mino-bimaadiziwin (the good life).

Project-specific knowledge and skill development

In addition to the four workshops above, you will also receive training specific to your programs. Some examples of additional modules include:

  • Project themes, e.g., youth mentorship, food sovereignty
  • Indigenous perspectives on project themes
  • Facilitation and conflict resolution
  • Community-centered partnerships
  • Project planning and assessment
  • Stages of group development
  • Travel health and safety
  • Risk management

Anny Chen

Anny Chen is second-generation Chinese-Canadian, strongly shaped by her upbringing as a child of refugees from Southeast Asia. Born in northern British Columbia and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she continues to live and work in Treaty 1 Territory and is grateful to be involved in community organizing in the city and supporting Indigenous media as part of the Red Rising Collective. 

Anny’s love for experiential learning and community engagement started during her work with Katimavik and was nurtured by a Master of Education in adult education and community development. Anny is particularly driven by the need for anti-oppression education and Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations-building, and she believes in the importance of showing up and getting your hands dirty when it comes to building healthy, safe and inclusive communities.

Gerardo Villagrán

Gera Villagrán was born and raised in Mexico. His family immigrated to Canada in 2006. before settling in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in Treaty 1 Territory, Gerardo lived in Edmonton, Halifax and Toronto. 

Gera has a Master of Arts in Philosophy and is especially interested in questions of intergenerational democracy and climate change. Upon finishing his graduate degree, he joined Global Affairs Canada and the Young Lives Research Lab (UPEI) in southern Chile to support the creation of an Indigenous-led intercultural school on the Island of Chiloé. 

As a Latin American man, Gera is committed to using his privilege as an academic and Canadian citizen to support the capacity-building goals of vulnerable communities in Latin America. His other passions include minimal running, intelligent electronic music, developing emotional intelligence through mindfulness practice and camping with his dog, Barley.

Nicki Ferland

Nicki Ferland is a Two-Spirit Red River Métis Sundancer from the Lorette and Îles-des-Chênes communities in the heart of the Metis homeland. 

Nicki has a background in human, Aboriginal and Indigenous rights; Indigenous and anti-racist education; and Indigenous research. She is completing her Master of Education in Indigenous land-based education at the University of Saskatchewan.

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Contact us

Community Engaged Learning
203 – 55 Chancellor’s Circle
University of Manitoba
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2