The city’s two main post-secondary institutions want to establish a greater connection with their shared community, and have banded together to plot a course of action.
The results of a May 22 roundtable event at Brandon University are expected to be released soon, with the university expected to join Assiniboine Community College in hosting a follow-up session later this year.
It’s not that the two institutions don’t already reach out to help their community whenever possible, but that both recognize their outreach can be done more effectively together than it can be done apart, BU associate vice-president of research Heather Duncan said.
"We really want to feel part of the community, and for the community to feel a part of us," she said, adding that they’re both currently looking at better ways to promote what they already do, as well as build upon their current efforts.
As she said their May 22 roundtable discussion indicates, they’re intent on having the community drive the effort as much as possible.
The event was better attended than they thought it would be, with approximately 60 people gathering to hash out how the two institutions might better reach out into the community.
"Quite frankly, if we had 25 people we would have been delighted," Duncan said.
"We were all a little surprised — pleasantly surprised with the number of people who attended," said Assiniboine’s vice-president academic, Deanna Rexe, adding that this is indicative of a community that is already on board with what they’re trying to do.
Rexe said there are many ways that the two institutions might better share their resources for the betterment of the community.
One example is addressing public safety, she said, asking "what might we do if we joined efforts to better understand that or build better community responses?"
Assiniboine’s website development students already donate their time toward creating websites for non-profit organizations, which she said is a win-win for both the organization and the student, who is required to demonstrate their skills prior to graduation.
"What other needs or opportunities are there in the community for our student to solve problems?" Rexe asked.
Assiniboine and BU have "complementary strengths," she said, adding that these students working more on real-life community issues would be a win-win, with students gaining practical experience and the community gaining their time and expertise.
Those who did not weigh in during the May 22 event will have another opportunity to share their ideas at a public meeting slated to take place later this year, at a date and time the organizers have yet to determine.
"Both institutions are really interested in making education the focus of our community," Duncan said.
"We’re both doing things separately within the community, and there are lots of things we could do together."
» Twitter: @TylerClarkeMB