A photo being taken of Christina Clark-Kazak getting interviewed

A professor's perspective on the CSL program

Still considering the CSL program? Read what Prof. Christina Clark-Kazak has to say.

It started when Professor Christina Clark-Kazak participated in an orientation session for new professors five years ago at uOttawa. The Community Service Learning (CSL) program was presented, and she thought that this was a “fantastic opportunity to be able to integrate community service learning and experiential learning within courses.” 

Christina Clark-Kazak getting interviewed

Clark-Kazak teaches human rights, methodology, democratization and forced migrations, and has also been volunteering for over 30 years!  She understood that there were some amazing opportunities to apply what she taught in class through CSL. “Community service learning really allows that bridging between theories and the concepts and the analytical framework that [students] talk about in the classroom.” 

Clark-Kazak says that most students come from privileged backgrounds and that “by going in community organizations, they really get a sense of their own positionality within the world, their own privilege, within power structures and how they can be allies and support some of the work that has been done.” 

She adds that “Students often come up with very innovating but actually quite simple ideas, small things that the organization could do to change the way they work and improve their practices.”
Clark-Kazak notes that the community partners have access to the “best and brightest young people,” and that students shouldn’t be viewed as a source of free labour. For her, “it is really a partnership.” 

Clark-Kazak sees CSL as “as a two-way opportunity when you structure the syllabus and the course.” The placements offer great learning experiences not only for the students but also for the community partners, because there are “learning opportunities on both sides” which help to embellish and strengthen our communities.  

Sometimes professors and students are afraid to try something new.  Clark-Kazak advises them to “take that leap of faith.” “Do it!” she says. 

For this professor, it’s fairly easy to integrate community engagement into any class. She suggests to “start small,” as in “[trying] five [placements] and see[ing] how it works.” The Community Engagement team offers great support and guidance for the students, the professor and the community partners, which saves a lot of time when planning the course. 

Clark-Kazak hopes that professors will take advantage of CSL because it “sets the University apart from other universities.” There are just wonderful learning experiences waiting for you to discover.

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