Posted on March 27, 2008 by Dylan Anderson

Challenged by growing population and accelerated growth, sustaining our social, ecological and economic strengths becomes increasingly important.

“Healthy communities” is a common phrase in the present climate of rapid development in our province. As we face the challenges of growing population, coupled with accelerated growth, sustaining our social, ecological and economic strengths becomes increasingly important. From its foundation by Norwegian settlers to its merger with the University of Alberta, Augustana has a rich history of community involvement. Professors, students, and staff have been engaged with the community of Camrose through co-ops, volunteering, and research. The most recent step in this direction is bringing place-based and community service-learning into the formal curriculum at Augustana.

As David Gruenewald argues, place-based learning creates opportunities that teach us to “live well ecologically and socially in places.” The recent place-based learning roundtable held at Augustana yielded a variety of opportunities for members of the Camrose and Augustana communities to collaborate on projects which would nurture the healthy communities model. Discussion centered on creating a formalized medium for ongoing dialogue about the needs of both communities. As Dean Roger Epp noted, these conversations are important not only for a “critical affection for the rural” but also to “live an integrated life.” A formal structure to connect various representatives in the Camrose and Augustana communities will help bolster integration while nurturing critical examination.

A healthy community knows itself; as Jeremy Mouat expressed at the meeting, “when we figure out the meaning of a place, we begin to understand why we’re there.” The roundtable clarified the need to understand the multiple lenses used to interpret the Camrose area. In sharing knowledge, participants gained sensitivity to these lenses and the need to use information resources in a way that makes sense to all parties involved. Encouraging an ongoing dialogue which embraces diversity creates the opportunity to connect people and resources and fosters a sense of community.

The distinguished guest, Todd Barr, reiterated that the alliance between Camrose and Augustana is notably strong. The honesty in the room demonstrated that multiple forms of knowledge are valued, and highlighted the mutual benefit possible from a collaborative rather than charitable model of community based education. Todd shared his experience of community-based learning through the Trent Centre. His frank description of the “nuts and bolts” of the Trent Centre suggested possible steps that could formalize the vital relationship between Augustana and the Camrose community.

Connecting people and resources can shape the future of a healthy community. Maintaining and developing the relationship between Augustana and the community of Camrose is essential to this end. If you would like to be involved in this partnership, or have ideas about how Augustana can strengthen connections with your organization, please contact Karsten Mündel at the Learning and Beyond office at 780-679-1557 or kmundel@ualberta.ca.


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