Engaging community for 100 years
(Edmonton) Even in 1912, one could say the U of A’s Department of Extension was already doing research in community engagement.
President Henry Marshall Tory’s original staff of professors would travel to remote parts of the province delivering lectures but also gathering information on what Alberta’s citizens most needed from the university. In fact, the department’s first director, Albert Ottewell, wrote his master’s thesis on how the university could best serve the people through extension.
A faculty since 1975, Extension has grown by leaps and bounds since those early years, and its reach is now global. There are still a number of local projects looking for ways to improve living conditions for vulnerable citizens here at home, but some are also forging partnerships across the country and around the world.
Cindy Blackstock, for example, an Extension faculty member and director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, focuses her research on active citizenship and the rights of children in Aboriginal communities. Gordon Gow, director of the faculty’s graduate program in communication and technology, strives to improve early tsunami warning systems in Sri Lanka.
“What’s really great about this whole celebration is that it’s given the people in Extension a whole lot of pride,” says former dean of extension Dennis Foth, an organizer of the faculty’s day-long celebration at Corbett Hall May 25.
“People are really happy to be here.
“But it’s also been a catalyst to start talking about the future…. Sure we’re focused right now on celebrating our faculty, but we also want to help the rest of the university with its greater enterprise. We’re not the only ones doing community engagement.”