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Culture of collaboration

Considering the future of Memorial's public engagement story

By Memorial University

Memorial’s Office of Public Engagement is launching a Public Engagement Framework renewal process this fall.

Words on a cloud filled background with the text "Public Engagement Framework Renewal Process: share your thoughts" over it in dark blue and grey.

The process will allow the office to ask people, inside and outside the university, how they envision the next 10 years of Memorial’s public engagement story.

The answers they collect will help build on the evaluation of the framework, released earlier this year. The evaluation highlighted areas of strength, barriers and frustrations and considered what could be done to strengthen public engagement at Memorial.

“Our results show that students, faculty and staff want to do more public engagement and that our public partners believe that this work makes a positive difference in our province,” said Rebecca Cohoe, manager of public engagement. “This process will be a chance for those who are most connected to this work to share their vision for the future of public engagement, and provide suggestions about what Memorial can do to get there.”

An emerging strength

Today, about 40 per cent of research and about 20 per cent of teaching and learning activities at Memorial include aspects of public engagement.

Public engagement at Memorial has two key parts.

First, it must involve university-community collaborations that relate to Memorial’s academic mission; this includes research, teaching and learning and public engagement work.

Second, public engagement is a two-way street: it should involve mutual respect, mutual contributions and mutual benefits for all collaborators.

“Indigenous people and rural communities, and people outside of the official Memorial organization, are playing an integral role in the academic institution.” — Stanley Oliver

Sound a bit wide open? That’s because it is. Public engagement looks different from faculty to faculty and from campus to campus.

Public engagement in research can include community-based research, patient-oriented studies, or applied research with industry, to name just a few examples.

On the teaching and learning side, publicly engaged activities can include experiential learning opportunities, integrating community expertise within courses and service learning.

Listening to public partners

The participation of public partners is essential to the framework renewal process.

The Office of Public Engagement has scheduled open sessions in St. John’s, Corner Brook, and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, where any member of the public can share their thoughts about Memorial’s public engagement future.

Community hub locations in rural communities across Newfoundland and Labrador are also being supported to hold their own events to feed input into the process.

“Our connections within Newfoundland and Labrador, and beyond, are central to who we are as a university.” — Dr. Natasha Hurley

Memorial’s public engagement team has begun a series of one-on-one conversations with key public partner organizations, including those identified by deans and directors, and groups that responded to an open call for input.

The groups represent a wide range of sectors, doing work all across the province and beyond. Members of the public who are unable to participate in sessions are also invited to share their thoughts through an online input form.

The framework renewal process is overseen by a steering committee; half the members of the committee are Memorial faculty or staff, and half are individuals from outside the university. All members have expertise in public engagement, and each brings a diversity of experience to the group.

Steering committee member Stanley Oliver, manager, Trades N.L., Indigenous Skilled Trades Office, says these sorts of opportunities for public input are a key strength of the process.

“The work we do is a reflection and an example that Indigenous people and rural communities, and people outside of the official Memorial organization, are playing an integral role in the academic institution,” he said. “Much effort is left to be done and this will only be accomplished by continuing to sit together and have those conversations in a respectful way.”

Hearing from our campuses

Sessions for Memorial students, faculty and staff will take place at all of Memorial’s Newfoundland and Labrador campuses.

Most sessions will include in-person and virtual options. The Office of Public Engagement recommends that participants join sessions at whatever location they consider their primary campus.

A final campus session will be a virtual-only event hosted by Signal Hill Campus. This session will be a chance for anyone who is unable to attend their own campus session to participate in the process.

“Our connections within Newfoundland and Labrador, and beyond, are central to who we are as a university,” said Dr. Natasha Hurley, dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and a member of the steering committee. “I’m looking forward to thinking critically about the role that public engagement plays in Memorial’s academic mission and hearing different perspectives about how to create and sustain a culture of meaningful, respectful public engagement.”

Please see the Office of Public Engagement’s information page for more about the process, including registration information for all of the sessions and an online input form.

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