Breaking down walls between university and community
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Many universities are making community engagement efforts, but Wilfrid Laurier University associate professor Ginette Lafrenière would like to see them go further. Lafrenière, of Laurier’s Faculty of Social Work, wants to see universities become as publically accessible as community centres.

Lafrenière spent 21 years as a social worker and community organizer before earning a PhD. Her academic work is community-based and goes beyond research into advocacy and mentoring community partners. She has even organized fundraisers for community groups.

Much of Lafrenière’s research focuses on tangible outcomes to improve community health. She has worked with more than 60 agencies across Ontario on projects that include helping teachers exercise with students, evaluating the effectiveness of a breastfeeding program, and getting athletes to discuss the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs with students.

Lafrenière is now working on starting a research body to track and study university-community collaboration on provincial, national and international levels. She hopes this “observatory” results in more and better collaborations.

“We need a paradigm shift on what it means to be a public intellectual. As universities, we still have a lot of work to do to engage with each other and the larger community in an authentic and mutually beneficial way.”
Ginette Lafrenière
Associate professor of Laurier’s Faculty of Social Work
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