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Centring community

Memorial University growing Community Hubs pilot program

Campus and Community

By Cathy Newhook and Dr. Mandy Rowsell

Memorial University recently announced the expansion of its Community Hubs program.

Members of the Great Northern Peninsula Research Collective used the e-learning hub in Port Saunders for a meeting recently
Members of the Great Northern Peninsula Research Collective used the e-learning hub in Port Saunders for a meeting recently.
Photo: Submitted

This two-year, pan-provincial pilot program expands on the rural learning hubs established by Grenfell Campus in late 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During this time, many students, families and partner organizations noted limited or a complete lack of access to high-speed internet in their areas, inhibiting student access to online delivery and full participation.

Two rural learning hubs were ultimately created on the West Coast, in partnership with the Northern Peninsula (Mekap’sk) Mi’kmaq Band and Norpen Status of Women’s Council in Port Saunders, and with St. George’s Indian Band and Flat Bay Band in St. George’s.

The program aims to provide a network of learning and collaboration spaces in communities throughout the province by partnering with community and provincial organizations.

The Community Hubs project will leverage these partnerships to use existing spaces to provide learning and meeting spaces with high-speed internet, as well as access to remote learning and connectivity tools and technology.

Widespread need

The initiative is being led by Memorial’s Harris Centre, in partnership with the Grenfell and Labrador campuses.

“Further consultations throughout rural, remote and northern areas of the province revealed that this need is widespread,” said President Vianne Timmons. “This pilot is a direct response to that need. These facilities will have internet access, digital equipment and technologies, and combined study, meeting and co-working space. The initiative dovetails with a renewed focus by Memorial on continuing education, as well as our continued commitment to communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Over the next two years, Memorial will collaborate with communities, industries, governments and education sector partners to co-design these community hubs.

Seeking partners

Memorial is now seeking partners to develop proposals, with a view to establishing hubs on the island and in Labrador.

The Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), is providing $99,500 toward the pilot. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Global Affairs Canada are also contributing funding.

“The Community Hubs project will address an important gap in many rural and remote areas of our province,” said Gudie Hutchings, minister, Rural Economic Development, and member of Parliament, Long Range Mountains, on behalf of Ginette Petitpas Taylor, minister, Official Languages, and minister responsible for ACOA. “It will provide access to reliable high-speed internet and collaborative spaces to support skills development, business development and lifelong learning. Our investment in this project will help connect residents to digital technologies and tools to build stronger, more innovative communities.”

The e-learning hub in the K’Taqmkuk Mi’Kmaq Historical Museum in St. George's.
The e-learning hub in the K’Taqmkuk Mi’Kmaq Historical Museum in St. George’s.
Photo: Submitted

Using available space in the community, Memorial University aims to provide technology and programming supports to give residents access to a creative, collaborative space and the technology required to engage in educational opportunities, workshops and projects, says Dr. Rob Greenwood, associate vice-president, public engagement and external relations, and director, Harris Centre.

“Each hub may differ depending on where it is located, and depending on the needs of the people in its region,” he said. “We will be working with individual groups to help create a valuable community space and build a unique connection to Memorial.”

Interested in more?

Organizations interested in developing such a proposal, or those with questions or comments, can visit the Community Hubs website or contact Mery Perez, project manager, Community Hubs, and regional engagement and experiential learning co-ordinator, Grenfell Campus, via email or by telephone at 709-637-7660.

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