In this course, students are matched up with local community organizations to assist them in their advocacy and social justice work. Students learn from the organization while also contributing some of their research skills and knowledge through a collaborative project. This academic term, GSFR students partnered with several Hamilton community groups, such as the Immigrant Women’s Centre, the YWCA, the Hamilton Status of Women Committee, The Well: The LGBTQ Community Wellness Centre of Hamilton, and Big Susie’s. Through this course, we (Michelle Falk, Alix McLean and Alaina Almas) teamed up with Immigrant Women’s Centre staff to contribute to an issue of The Women’s Press.
“Putting the theory we study into practice in the local community…has been, from the conception of this program, considered to be of utmost importance.”
Susan Fast, Director of McMaster’s Gender Studies and Feminist Research program said, “Students in the undergraduate Women’s Studies program at McMaster had for a long time requested a practicum of some kind, a way through which they could connect with local organizations and events. When the new graduate program was developed, it seemed like a logical element to incorporate, given not only student demand, but because of the interconnection between social justice, activism, and the study of gender, sexuality and feminist issues. Putting the theory we study into practice in the local community, finding ways to do that which are mutually beneficial to students and community organizations, has been, from the conception of this program, considered to be of utmost importance.”
Before we began our project, we worked to keep these words in mind in order to build a strong relationship with the IWC.
In our meetings at the IWC’s downtown location, we had the opportunity to meet several women working and volunteering with the organization. We heard stories about the challenges these women faced as new Canadians and thought about our own Canadian experience. We are all Canadian-born, and because of this, we wanted to be aware of the limits of our knowledge, and be conscious and respectful of these challenges and experiences. We learned so much from this collaboration. We are now able to take the valuable knowledge we’ve gained from this project and use it to expand and enrich our own research on feminist and social justice issues.
“The outcomes of working together with these students on this issue of the Women’s Press have been very rewarding”, said Michelle Drew, Communications Coordinator at the Immigrant Women’s Centre. “Through this project we have been able to further connect newcomer women with safe spaces in the Hamilton community, while raising awareness about settlement issues among the McMaster University community. The Knowledge in Action project is a practical, mutually beneficial program that maximizes the effectiveness of student-agency partnerships”.
We hope to build on this work and forge stronger connections between McMaster University and the Immigrant Women’s Centre in the future.
- By Michelle Falk and Alix MacLean, McMaster University | Photo by Michelle Drew