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‘Super interactive’

Political science class first credit course offered at Signal Hill Campus

Student Life

By Janet Harron

Since January 2024, Tuesday nights at the Signal Hill Campus have had a whole new energy.

The Harris Centre has partnered with the Department of Political Science’s new Law and Public Policy Program (replacing the previous Law and Society Program), to offer Signal Hill Campus’s first university credit course.

Democratic Innovations in Public Policy is a 4000-level, graduate seminar course offering enhanced learning and networking opportunities for students interested in public policy.

Taylor Alexander is a law and society major in the last semester of her degree program who is enthusiastic about the format.

“It’s one of the first courses I’ve taken that has been super interactive and I really appreciate the networking opportunities with professionals and professors,” she said. “It’s an excellent idea to hold the class at the Signal Hill Campus and it makes sense for the law and public program to be associated with the Harris Centre.”

The course connects students with local community leaders, policy-makers and industry professionals on critical issues currently facing Newfoundland and Labrador and beyond.

Two people on stairs with students sitting
Harris Centre director Kim Crosbie addresses political science students while Dr. Sean Gray looks on above.
Photo: Submitted

The Harris Centre, as Memorial’s hub for public policy and regional development issues and located at the Signal Hill Campus, is uniquely positioned for the collaboration.

“We have always acted as a bridge between the university and the community to encourage informed dialogue and mobilize knowledge,” said Kim Crosbie, director of the Harris Centre. “When the opportunity arose to partner with the political science department, we jumped at it . . .  we knew this proactive approach would benefit students now and well into their future as global citizens.”

Wide range of topics

Over 12 evening sessions, students cover regular course material as well as participate in dialogue sessions with public sector officials, community organizations and the public, which is facilitated by the Harris Centre.

The sessions are intended to offer interested students the opportunity to network with practitioners and connect class material to real-world issues and problems.

“If you’re aiming for a career in the law or public service, you need to get outside the classroom and gain on-the-job insights.” — Dr. Sean Gray

The course is targeted to students interested in connecting with public policy issues in Newfoundland and Labrador, but is also open to the general public.

Topics covered to date include the role of statistics in democracy and governance and shaping policy for poverty reduction.

Upcoming are sessions on community-driven governance, media and democracy, and community future planning.

Harvard inspired

Before joining the faculty of Memorial University in 2022, Dr. Sean Gray taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government where a strong emphasis is placed on case-based, experiential learning.

He arrived just as the Department of Political Science was reforming much of its curriculum, including trying to determine the next iteration of the Law and Society Program.

He saw the course as an opportunity to bring Harvard’s practice-focused approach to Memorial.

Dr. Gray and his colleague Dr. Elizabeth Schwartz approached the Harris Centre about making the Signal Hill Campus a “second home” for a new Law and Public Policy Program.

A large white building during a moody sunset that is reflected in water in front.
Signal Hill Campus
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

He said the Harris Centre enables scholars, practitioners, government officials and community members to discuss the pressing policy challenges of the day, from climate change and community development to housing and health care.

“Plugging our law and public policy students into these conversations provides unique learning and networking opportunities that can’t be replicated elsewhere,” said Dr. Gray. “If you’re aiming for a career in the law or public service, you need to get outside the classroom and gain on-the-job insights from folks on the front line. Partnering with the Harris Centre also gives these students a head start on the job market.”

Funding secured

The partnership was also able to access additional funding through the Centre for Innovation and Teaching and Learning’s Teaching Innovations and Learning Enhancement fund, which encourages exploration of new and innovative practices in teaching and learning and supports Memorial’s educators as they seek to foster their development and enhance the learning experiences of their students.

Democratic Innovations in Public Policy at Signal Hill is a pilot project’ The current plan is to offer additional law and public policy courses at the Signal Hill Campus as they become available, along with potentially more student-focused initiatives from the Harris Centre.


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