SJPS students pivot online to present community impact research
May 25, 2020
Written by Dina Ibdah, Communications Intern
Despite the cancellation of their public showcase at Innovation Works this spring, King’s Social Justice and Peace Studies (SJPS) students carried on with sharing their research as a way to mobilize and to connect with the community and organizations. Community Impact Project research posters created by SJPS students have now been presented fully online via Twitter.
The Community Impact Projects are part of the third-year community-based learning course, which is the core of the third year in the SJPS program. Students work with a local organization throughout the course and produce an original work of research as their project. The course is taught by SJPS professor Shawna Lewkowitz.
“We’ve always seen the Community Impact Projects to be a an opportunity to give back to our community partners and the populations they serve. Community Based Learning is rooted in reciprocity. Our students contribute immensely to the work our community partners do. These projects provide a tangible contribution outside of the regular work the students do with the partners, and they offer up fresh perspectives on often longstanding, deeply rooted issues in our community,” says Lewkowitz.
Chelsea Waserman, a student of the King’s SJPS program, completed her project on the issues around Indigenous water rights and security, specifically investigating how municipal water systems have a direct impact on neighbouring Indigenous communities such as Oneida Nation of the Thames. Her policy recommendations include an accountability measure using an independent Indigenous-led body to ensure that policy does not adversely affect indigenous water sources or usage. Options include issuing warnings before dumping toxins and providing reparations for damages caused by water contamination. Waserman hopes her policy recommendations can be implemented across Canada in communities contaminated by urban sewage.
“This year, I completed my placement with Atlohsa Family Healing Services, an Indigenous support agency in London. While working at Atlohsa, I met many individuals from Oneida nation, as their reserve would cater food at the events held by Atlohsa, and many of Atlohsa’s elder counsellors are also from Oneida, so the research topic already felt personal as it was affecting people I knew and admired,” says Waserman.
Clare Dennis-Grantham is another King’s student whose work was featured on the SJPS Twitter page. Her project focused on the feasibility of implementing storage spaces for the homeless. Policy options include installing safer locker units indoors, dispersing units across the city to reduce population density, and using pre-existing buildings to minimize the cost.
“I chose this topic because of my experience at St. Joseph’s Hospitality Centre. During my time there, I noticed most visitors carrying belongings with them in everything from small bags to shopping carts. In conversation, they expressed the challenges associated with being homeless and not having a secure space for their belongings. It was common for their possessions to be stolen or lost while bringing them everywhere they went. After witnessing a man break down, emotionally, because he lost an essential and irreplaceable medical document, I realized that this was an important issue that needed to be addressed,” says Dennis-Grantham.
Despite the disappointment of not being able to present their projects in person, Waserman believes posting online has increased exposure, and Dennis-Grantham is hopeful that the digital movement will provide opportunities to maintain community and strengthen support.
Dr. Allyson Larkin, program coordinator of the SJPS program, believes Twitter is a method of amplifying students’ research findings. “We are using social media as a way to promote and make accessible our students work to the community. It is also a way for us to communicate to the broader community what students can expect to learn to do and participate in should they choose to come to King’s and study SJPS,” she says.
The response online has been positive. Larkin has received direct responses from community leaders and individuals from different universities commenting on the projects. Lewkowitz adds that students have expressed they feel it is affirming and rewarding to have their projects published digitally.
“SJPS is a program rooted in a commitment to research and experiential learning. From the first year, our students have opportunities to link classroom learning to lived community experiences. Our graduates work in a wide range of professional fields from dispute resolution, policy analysis, activism, education, law and many more. We are very proud that so many of our students have been recognized in the undergraduate essay competition, and a significant number of our students continue on to top tier graduate programs in Canada, the US, UK, and other countries. We are one of the most diverse programs at King’s, and together with our Women’s Studies courses, offer experiential learning that specifically focuses on the intersections of gender and community justice,” says Larkin.
For more information, and to view Community Impact Project posters, please visit https://twitter.com/SJPSKings. The full policy papers that accompany the posters are also available upon request.
To learn more about Social Justice and Peace Studies at King’s, please visit https://www.kings.uwo.ca/academics/social-justice-and-peace-studies/.