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Taking it to the Streets

City studies professor Susannah Bunce engages students during Learning in Community Service, an off-campus course taught at a local community agency.

Professor Girish Daswani is an expert on socio-cultural issues in Ghana researching the impact of Pentecostal Christianity in the West African nation as well as the Ghanaian diaspora in the U.K. But the anthropologist’s interest in religion and migration in urban contexts also extends to communities right next door to UTSC. 

In 2009 Daswani, along with fellow Anthropology professor Maggie Cummings and their colleague Professor Susannah Bunce (Geography/City Studies), received funding for a project in Kingston-Galloway-Orton Park, designated by the City of Toronto as a priority neighbourhood for renewal. Their grant from the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS) will yield a study examining residential settlement patterns and the sense of belonging and identity among newcomers. 

Fieldwork is being conducted by an interdisciplinary team of City Studies and Anthropology students. “This is a way to give students experience in doing research and to create more engagement between the university and the community,” says Daswani. “We hope the results will inform future development projects.” 

Meanwhile, Professor Bunce is spearheading another City Studies project in the same neighbourhood: Learning in Community Service, the first-ever service learning program offered by Social Sciences. Inaugurated in the summer of 2009, the program is centred in the engagement office of a local United Way initiative, Action for Neighbourhood Change. 

Sharing space with East Scarborough Storefront – a hub for social services programming – and the community association Residents Rising, students volunteer with local charitable and service agencies, then bring that experience back to their off campus base for classroom discussion and further research. 

“This project breaks down the boundaries between academia and a neighbourhood that has been historically marginalized,” says Bunce. “Students investigate such issues as who has decision-making power or sets agendas, the effectiveness of community collaborations, and the quality and conditions of housing settlements – all the issues that are relevant to those who develop policy and provide community services. In turn, the Community benefits from students’ assistance and research.” 

Learn more on YouTube.

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