A Conversation About McMaster’s Role in the Hamilton Community

I look forward to sharing thoughts from a small sample of the many creative, forward-thinking voices in our community on how we can build on the momentum of Patrick Deane’s Forward With Integrity vision.

By Dave Heidebrecht
Published March 25, 2014

Working directly with academic groups, non-profits, and community organizations, one of my central interests is the middle ground where theory and reality meet—the intersection of academia and the real world.

Though often looked at as distinctly separate entities of our society, the two are integral to each other. Academic research in most (if not arguably all) disciplines is directly related to issues arising from within our lived experience, while society often relies on the information and knowledge that comes from our academic institutions to learn, build, and grow in almost all facets of life.

Working at this intersection, and passionate about building bridges between academia and community, I’ve decided to launch a new series of blog posts to facilitate a dialogue about McMaster University’s engagement with the Hamilton community.

Forward With Integrity: A Mandate for Change

I’ve written in the past about Forward With Integrity, McMaster President Patrick Deane’s [call to action](http://www.mcmaster.ca/opr/html/discovermcmaster/presidentsmessage/integrity.html0 to the McMaster community. Delivered two years ago after his first year at McMaster, the letter set the tone for President Deane’s vision for a university that is grounded in a culture of integrity, with contributing to society at the core of its mission.

Within this letter, President Deane outlined the changes he hoped to inspire during his time at McMaster, focusing on pillars of research, the student experience, internationalization, and community engagement.

The letter itself is well worth the read, for those at McMaster yes, but more importantly for those in the broader Hamilton community as well. Why? It serves as a catalyst for a shifting culture at McMaster.

Though the silos and ivory towers are deeply engrained, it’s a first step at dismantling some of the barriers that have been built between McMaster and the outside world, promoted by McMaster’s leader and public face. Most importantly, it came from within.

Personal Connections to McMaster and the Community

I graduated from McMaster’s interdisciplinary Globalization Studies MA program in the Fall of 2010, just as President Deane joined the McMaster community. As many liberal arts graduates tend to do these days, I spent the following months applying for jobs, volunteering, and exploring opportunities for full time work.

As luck would have it, and just as Forward With Integrity was shared with the McMaster community, I began a part-time job working at McMaster as an Outreach Coordinator at the McMaster Centre for Climate Change.

In 2012, after patching the McMaster job and other part-time jobs together, I decided to branch out and launched my own business as a project consultant working with academic groups and nonprofits both in Hamilton and beyond.

Though I left the Centre for Climate Change, I’ve remained involved with colleagues at McMaster in various capacities, but have also enjoyed the opportunity to meet and collaborate with multiple individuals and organizations in the broader Hamilton community. In doing so, I’ve become increasingly interested in the ongoing community bridge-building that is being catalyzed by Forward With Integrity.

Starting a Community Conversation

Realizing that this engagement is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of possibilities that lie ahead, and knowing the value that McMaster could bring to the community (and vice versa), this project is an attempt to raise awareness of McMaster’s shifting approach towards community engagement, as I hope to facilitate a broader conversation on the long-term potential of partnerships being developed between McMaster and the Hamilton community.

Over 2014 I plan to explore this conversation by interviewing members of the McMaster community as well as members of various parts of the Hamilton community.

Speaking with students, faculty members, community partners, and those who have yet to develop partnerships with McMaster, I’m hoping to share their views on McMaster’s current community engagement efforts and on the potential mutual-benefits that collaboration, knowledge-sharing, creative partnerships, and mutual learning opportunities could present to us all.

In doing so, I hope to facilitate a positive and forward-thinking dialogue on where our city is headed, and the role that McMaster can play in being a supportive and responsive community partner.

Shedding light on the many great initiatives already underway, while also seeking thoughts on a future vision of what innovative and integrity-based community engagement could bring to a changing Hamilton, I’m excited to get started.

I’m hoping to share interviews with about twenty colleagues over the coming months, and look forward to this ongoing conversation about yet another positive step for our city. Hamilton currently sits in a unique and opportune place, and collaboration and partnership-building will be central as we continue to work together to create a prosperous and healthy city for all.

In this changing landscape, McMaster can (and already does) play a crucial role in community-driven research, experiential education, and innovative city-building projects.

In the coming months I look forward to sharing thoughts from a small sample of the many creative, forward-thinking voices in our community on how we can build on the momentum of Patrick Deane’s Forward With Integrity vision.

I hope that their thoughts and ideas can contribute to the ongoing community-based dialogue on how we can work together to foster a healthy, prosperous, and thriving city for all.

This is the first blog post in a series of interviews that will be published over the course of 2014. Next in the series will be an interview with Mary Koziol, Assistant to the President, Special Community Initiatives. Any questions or thoughts arising from this series can be directed to dwheidebrecht@gmail.com.

First published on Dave Heidebrecht's website.

Dave Heidebrecht is the Manager of McMaster University’s Office of Community Engagement.


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By i have been to the future (anonymous) | Posted March 24, 2014 at 20:59:09

and found this post!

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By Gilbert Hall (anonymous) | Posted March 25, 2014 at 11:14:27

Your transparency re: employment/institutional history is appreciated.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted March 25, 2014 at 11:43:02

Looking forward to reading more! We at the Beasley Neighbourhood Association have been very fortunate to have worked with McMaster students and classes in the past, and they've always been positive experiences for the community (and we hope the students, too). In fact, Mac students in a polisci class are key participants in two ongoing projects: one re-imagining Beasley's many unsafe alleyways, and the other directed towards launching a Community Land Trust downtown.

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By KevinBrowne (registered) - website | Posted March 25, 2014 at 11:59:23

Super proud of this McMaster outreach initiative to get more local area children interested in software development as a career path... http://www.thespec.com/news-story/385446...

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By scrap (anonymous) | Posted March 26, 2014 at 22:19:15

What about native language courses such as Ojibwe? It is my understanding there are many from that first nation in our community that would like to learn. What help would there be to set up a council to help spread the word?

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By AdrianM (registered) | Posted March 31, 2014 at 00:31:58

I'm looking forward to this blog series and the evolution of McMaster's involvement in the Hamilton Community. Hopefully this series has some blogs dedicated to the economic impact McMaster has on the city. As a resident of the downtown core it's exciting to see the construction of their new Health Campus on Main and Bay, and to hear the news surrounding their downtown office relocation into Jackson Square. Their presence downtown will help increase downtown foot-traffic and bring all its related benefits. As a recent graduate from McMaster's Degroote School of Business I was initially very upset about their decision years ago to build the MBA campus in Burlington. I understand the chosen location allowed them to expand their market with easier highway access, but I still like to imagine how the downtown would look today if one of the numerous eye-sore parking lots were transformed into a modern MBA campus bringing professors and future young professionals into the core. Sometimes I like the think the recent commitment to the downtown is to compensate for that decision.

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