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Faculty Blog

Education Grounded in Community Engagement

By Faculty Blog

St. Stephen’s University has always focused on helping students understand their place in the world, and develop skills to help change the world for the better.  Committed to values of justice, beauty and compassion, we encourage our students to engage with the world around them: with an understanding of the past, compassion for all people, and an appreciation for beauty, we want our students to cultivate and create justice, compassion, and beauty, wherever they go and in whatever they do after graduation.  Historically, our focus has been the liberal arts, and six terms of academic study have been complemented by…

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riots and contemplation

By Faculty Blog, Walter Thiessen
*This blog was originally shared June 2, 2020 on Dr. Thiessen's blog. The original format has been adapted.*   This summer, I am researching and writing about contemplation and healing. I am also reading, this past week, about rioting across the US. One phrase that has been grounding my thinking about contemplation and healing is that the connection between the two is about our need for a “compassionate consent to reality.” There can never be wholeness without an honest facing of what is and an honest acceptance of our emotional/bodily response to what is. A compassionate consent to reality in...
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Language Learning and Community Engagement

By Faculty Blog
During the study abroad programs in South East Asia and Europe, our students here at SSU interact with linguistic and cultural communities vastly different from their own. They have opportunities to learn and practice foreign languages, which can sometimes be fun, and sometimes trigger the performance anxiety that many of us have experienced in similar situations. When we are learning to speak a foreign language, we often feel catapulted back into childhood, as we forego mastery of our mother tongue, and instead find ourselves stumbling for words and feeling a little foolish. But if we focus too hard on trying...
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History and Community Engagement

By Faculty Blog No Comments

At SSU, we are in the process of identifying what community engagement means for us. We are a university committed to justice, beauty and compassion; how does that aspirational identity interact with the knowledge, gifts and needs of the local communities outside of our walls? What practical partnerships can we foster, on the one hand, to be good neighbours locally, and on the other, to equip our students with the skills and wisdom that will benefit them in their future communities (professionally and otherwise)? Narrowing the issue down to my discipline – history – one starting point is to identify…

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Community Engagement: Enabling Transformation

By Faculty Blog No Comments

Over the last 6 years I’ve spent much of my time considering SSU’s proposition to potential students: My main goal was to find the intersection of two things: Firstly, what are we good at? What do we love to do? What do we do that nobody else can do? Secondly, what do high school kids want? In particular, what do they want from post secondary education? Where these two things meet indicates what we can offer them. One thing we all agreed that we’ve been good at is transformation. Taking young people who’ve just left home and helping them see…

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New Asia Program Leader!

By Faculty Blog No Comments

We’re excited to announce that Dr. Nadya Pohran will be joining us at the end of the coming summer, preparing to lead our next Asia study abroad trip that fall. Nadya Pohran is a cultural anthropologist who focuses on understanding the ways that religious and spiritual beliefs are lived out and practiced in individuals’ daily lives. After two years at St. Stephen’s University, she went on to receive a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Ottawa, an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Ottawa, and a PhD in Divinity from the University of Cambridge. In a broad…

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Community Engagement: Going Barefoot with Illich, Berry & Co.

By Faculty Blog 2 Comments

As soon as our (SSU’s) new focus on community engagement and innovation started to take hold, what excited me was the sense that we had found the missing piece. Here was the intentionality that would help us address “justice, beauty and compassion and a humble engagement with our world” (from our mission statement) in ways we had not yet found. Over the years, I had listened to voices that critiqued the role of education and the university in contemporary society. Ivan Illich, Wendell Berry and the Barefoot College, founded in India by Bunker Roy, are among these idealist voices that…

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Religious Studies and Community Engagement

By Faculty Blog No Comments

As the 21st century proceeds, there is a longing in academia to make bridges to a “real” world, to connect abstract ideas to the places where people actually live. At St. Stephen’s University we feel this, too, and it has led us to a determination to develop a major focus on community engagement. Each department, each discipline, is turning its attention to this task. What will a more practical application look like as it emerges from the world of ideas that is specific to each particular course of study? My field is Religious Studies. As I thought about this challenge…

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International Studies & Community Engagement

By Faculty Blog One Comment

I was at a conference recently and one of the participants made a comment that really resonates with me. He said, “it works well in practice, but does it work in theory?” We are more accustomed to the question, “does it work in practice?” I once heard Stephen Lewis quip that he’s a Socialist so he knows all about great ideas that don’t work in practice. This all reminds me of the wonderful, perplexing, sometimes frustrating, ongoing tension in academic work – and life in general – between theory and practice. In the “ivory tower”, we have often been accused…

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Discussion and Investigations: ‘Community Engagement’

By Faculty Blog No Comments

The Mission of SSU is “to prepare people, through academic, personal, and spiritual development, for a life of justice, beauty, and compassion, enabling a humble, creative engagement with their world.” This is a lofty and admirable mission and it requires us to actively review and rethink how we do things. Over the 44 year history of the university we have developed many different academic programs and right now we are exploring something called ‘community engagement.’ Why are we focusing on this now? Our preliminary research suggests that ‘community engagement’ is something that is related to many things we have done…

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