It has been an outstanding year of advances with the public engagement framework.
Memorial has seen a number of public engagement firsts, from major projects such as the Battery Facility, to small, but practical programs designed to make it easier for Memorial to collaborate with the public. The university has also been sharing and showcasing public engagement expertise with other universities, both in Canada and around the world.
The biggest project (in scope and square feet) is the Battery Facility. While there have been significant renovations to the look and structure of the building, the big news is that extensive renovations to the Harbour Wing of the building have been completed, allowing the very first group of Memorial graduate students to move in this past September. Students will play an important role in the life of the facility as Memorial continues to move ahead on its plans to create a unique hub for public engagement.
The Battery Facility, including the space itself, and the diverse activities and programming that will take place there, will help contribute to a number of the goals of the Public Engagement Framework, by helping create bridges for the public to connect with Memorial and, ultimately, make a positive difference in this province and beyond. Work is continuing, with plenty of developments planned for the coming year.
Another goal of the framework is to make it easier for Memorial students, faculty and staff to engage with the public, and vice versa. There has been great progress on both of these fronts in the past 12 months. In the many conversations during the development of the framework, we heard that, in many cases, a small amount of easy-to-access support could go a long way towards a successful public engagement partnership. Memorial responded by introducing the Quick Start Fund for Public Engagement in late 2013 (almost 70 projects have received funding of up to $1,000 since then) and this year the Office of Public Engagement began accepting applications to the Public Engagement Accelerator Fund, offering up to $10,000 to support the early stages or extension of public engagement projects linked to Memorial’s academic mission.
The Public Engagement Post-doctoral Fellowship was also created, a collaborative opportunity between the Office of Public Engagement, a Memorial faculty member and one or more external organizations. Dr. Pam Hall from the Department of Folklore recently completed her fellowship on Fogo Island; and three more opportunities with different public partners are currently under development.
Finally, the Office of Public Engagement has taken steps to recognize and celebrate the achievements of our most inspiring public engagement collaborations. The inaugural President’s Award for Public Engagement Partnerships were awarded this fall. Though there were a large number of strong nominations, two winning partnerships rose to the top; one focused on youth wellbeing in an urban community, and another that developed guidelines and strategies for respectful engagement with the Southern Inuit of Labrador. Both projects were truly collaborative, with all parties contributing, sharing ideas and working together. The recipients will be officially recognized at a ceremony in December 2015.
From groups who are taking their first steps towards public engagement collaboration to world-class projects with strong public engagement components, public engagement is alive, and thriving, at Memorial. Along with all of last year’s work, there are plenty of big projects and initiatives on the horizon.
The opening of the Grenfell Campus Office of Engagement in March further demonstrates a commitment to partnership and collaboration with the people and places of this province and beyond.