Universities and colleges are in the best positions to foster health literate citizens as transformed learners and future leaders, committed and capable of sustaining and growing the health promotion movement (Fayed, 2017). A graduate student wrote that line in one of her weekly journals in HSC 855: Health Promotion in Practice: in the Canadian context.
Upon being hired as a lecturer in May 2015, I was tasked to lead the Bridges to Surrey initiative (see next page) in addition to teaching HSC 855: Health Promotion in Practice: in the Canadian Context, which I had already been teaching. HSC 855 is part of the Population Health stream of the Master in Public Health (MPH) program in FHS. I created the course when I was hired as a sessional instructor in the fall of 2013. Since HSC 855 was meant to be focused on practice, I was able to immediately apply many experiential approaches especially related to real-life learning. I was able to leverage the relationships I had in the public health community and invited several guest speakers to come and share their work. Some of the guest lectures I have featured include leaders and staff from the NGO sector, the health authorities and government. This aspect of my teaching has been so positively received that I have continued this practice until today as it has afforded students with a wealth of practice knowledge and practicum or employment opportunities. I encouraged interactive discussions that could afford all of us the opportunity to learn from each other. These deep dialogues over the years not only reinforced the notion that guest lectures were an entry point to community engaged learning, but it also later inspired me to take my students out into the community (please refer to HSC 449-Community and Health Service course).
When I was asked to start working on a new curriculum in Surrey in 2015, I instinctively knew that the best approach would be to reach the community leaders. Fortunately, I had already been working with Fraser Health staff for several years. Yet, working in Surrey needed to go beyond the health sector in order to impact community health. Lucky for me, I did not have to go far since the Executive Director at SFU Surrey campus was very well connected to the community and was instrumental in opening doors to the City of Surrey (please refer to Bridges to Surrey initiative).
My engagement of community members in the classroom has also evolved over the years from expert speakers to people with lived experience. The photo above shows our HSC 855 class composed of students and a group of seniors from Burnaby Community Services (BCS), a group that also hosted our class in their center earlier in the fall of 2017. My HSC 855 students were involved in a small research project related to finding solutions for social isolation in the senior population in Burnaby, BC. This applied research was part of their course work, but the findings were also submitted to the BCS to help them look for future funding opportunities.