Learning Experiences

Student practicums or placements can be a great opportunity for non-profit organizations to provide a student with real-world experience while benefiting from their knowledge and skills. Most placements are required for the completion of a graduate or professional degree; however, some upper-year undergraduate courses include this form of experimental learning as well. Depending on the nature of the placement and the course or degree requirement, the student will be required to complete a set number of hours for the organization, although they may also need to complete specific project or reporting requirements in order to receive credit.

Here in Saskatoon, we’re fortunate to have multiple opportunities to engage with students through programs at the University of Saskatchewan and Sask Polytech, as well as students living here who are enrolled in programs at the University of Regina (notably social work students) and other institutions. Working with local non-profits, it’s pretty rare to encounter one that does not have previous experience with a placement student: in particular, I don’t know if I have worked with an organization that doesn’t have a report penned by a Masters of Public Health student somewhere in their file drawers!

Today I wanted to quickly draw attention to two placement programs that may fly under the radar, plus a learning opportunity that I'll be offering through Strong Roots starting tomorrow!

Applied Social Psychology

As the name suggests, the Applied Social Psychology focuses on the use of social psychology research methods to address social issues1. Part of their coursework includes learning about evaluation approaches and techniques. In fact, the program regularly participates in the Canadian Evaluation Society’s Student Evaluation Case Competition, with the university’s teams winning in 2004, 2011, and 2015, and being selected as finalists in 2002 and 2010. Clearly, they know something about evaluation!

Graduate students in both the Masters and PhD programs are required to complete two placements, one over the summer and one during the school year, with external organizations. I’ve been fortunate to have Kirstian Gibson, who’s in her second year of the Masters, working with me since the fall. In the past several months, she has taken lead on a pro bono evaluation project with a local non-profit, provided support on some ongoing client project, and also co-initiated a research project on how non-profit staff and leaders in Saskatoon view evaluation. It’s been great working with a student who has a strong grasp of evaluation and social research methods (she was part of the winning case competition team in 2015), and I look forward to working with another student from the same program this coming summer.

For more information about the placement, the best person to contact is Dr. Karen Lawson.

Governance Leadership Development Practicum

The for-profit and non-profit worlds don't always see eye-to-eye, but in the case of the Governance Leadership Development Practicum at U of S' Edwards School of Business, it's a great match. This fourth year undergraduate course combines an intense seminar focusing on non-profit governance issues with a practicum experience that places students with local non-profit boards over the course of two semester. I've been involved with this program for the last two years now as a non-profit board mentor, and it's been a great experience with both students. The course provides them with a wealth of knowledge about board governance issues, and the students’ business backgrounds have provided new ideas and insights for the board moving forward.

For more information about this opportunity (applications for the fall should be opening later this spring), contact Dr. Chelsea Willness.

Numbers and Stories office hours

On the topic of learning and sharing skills, I’m happy to announce that Strong Roots Consulting is partnering with The Stand Community Organizing Centre here in Saskatoon to host a regular ”Numbers and Stories" office hour! Any non-profit is welcome to visit me at The Stand (615 Main Street, just east of Broadway: same building as Turning the Tide bookstore) on Wednesdays from 1-3pm for free advice and assistance on topics related to evaluation and community-based research. Some of the help I can provide includes giving feedback on a survey, deciphering what a grant application is asking for in the evaluation section, or brainstorming ideas on how to best engage with your organization’s members.

The first office hour happens tomorrow afternoon – hope to see you there!

These three opportunities are just scratching the surface for different initiatives that support non-profits. Share your experiences and recommendations for placement programs or other educational opportunities in the comments field below, or continue the conversation on Twitter!

  1. The field is very similar in focus to my own disciplinary background of Community Psychology. ↩︎