Introduction: From Student Access to Community Engagement

Community Engagement Research

Introduction to the report on the research project From Access to Engagement: UW Initiatives in Support of Educationally Marginalized Children & Youth, 1988-2017

By Catherine Taylor

The University of Winnipeg is committed to excellence in post-secondary education . . . . In pursuit of our mission, we are guided by the knowledge that our primary responsibility is to our students, to whom we strive to offer a community which appreciates, fosters, and promotes values of human dignity, equality, non-discrimination and appreciation of diversity. We view both accessibility and excellence as important goals, and will endeavour to make the University as accessible as we can while maintaining high standards of quality in our academic programs.
–University Mission Statement, 2017

It has now been 50 years since The University of Winnipeg (UW) was first chartered by the Province of Manitoba to offer undergraduate degrees. Much of that time has been characterized by efforts to become an institution that lives up to its mission by enabling marginalized youth to flourish and enjoy the benefits of a university education. Understandings of what it means for the University to commit to both academic excellence and meaningful access have changed in the course of learning how best to engage students who are underrepresented in university admissions and graduation rates. Given its inner-city location in a city with the largest Indigenous urban population in Canada, the University has been in a key position to focus on engaging with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit youth, along with youth from other communities that are disproportionately likely to experience poverty and unlikely to pursue university education.

In anticipation of its 50th anniversary, and the occasion it would afford to reflect on what has been accomplished and how to reshape our efforts, the University successfully applied for a SSHRC research grant1 to undertake a study of a representative range of the institutions’ many initiatives to engage educationally marginalized students: those who for a variety of reasons (most often socioeconomic) have not had other students’ opportunity to flourish in their K–12 educations, making them less likely to seek a university education and less likely to succeed when they do. A multidisciplinary research team of ten professors from Arts, Education, and Kinesiology was assembled to lead studies of various initiatives using a range of methods, but focusing especially on interviewing and surveying the youth who participated in one or more of the initiatives and the university personnel who developed and implemented them.

Click here to download the full introduction for the research project From Access to Engagement: UW Initiatives in Support of Educationally Marginalized Children & Youth, 1988-2017.