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Notes from Council: Director presents on experiential and work-integrated learning

A national research project found “one in two post-secondary students in Canada were subjected to sexual harassment in experiential learning,” EWIL director reports.  

“Notes from Council” is The Gateway’s ongoing series of recaps of noteworthy items from Students’ Council meetings.

NOTE: At the February 6 council meeting, Students’ Council waived the dedicated fee unit referendum petition requirements for The Gateway. Due to a Conflict of Interest, reporters only included basic information about the motion, but left out statements or discussions from councillors. More information on the discussion is included in the recording of the meeting.

On February 6 at the University of Alberta Students’ Union (UASU) Students’ Council meeting, Raymond Matthias presented on Experiential and Work-Integrated Learning (EWIL). In September 2023, Matthias became director of EWIL in the office of the provost and vice-president (academic)

Afterwards, council waived the dedicated fee unit (DFU) referendum petition requirements for The Landing and Gateway Student Journalism Society (GSJS).

One in two post-secondary students in Canada subjected to sexual harassment in experiential learning, research finds

In his presentation, Matthias provided definitions for EWIL. He defined work-integrated learning (WIL) experience as a for-credit, curricular requirement for students. It must involve a partnership between the U of A and an industry or community partner. A WIL may take the form of a co-op, internship, field placement, directed field study, or service learning.

In collaboration with Deb Eerkes, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) response lead, Matthias said he is co-leading a working group to develop resources to increase awareness and prevention of SGBV in WIL. In the working group, Matthias said they are using materials from Courage to Act (CTA). CTA is a multi-year national initiative, to address and prevent gender-based violence on post-secondary campuses in Canada.

CTA’s 2023 national research project found that “one in two post-secondary students in Canada were subjected to sexual harassment in experiential learning.” 

The statistics on the levels of harassment and mistreatment students reported in their experiential learning experiences were “quite sobering,” Matthias said. 

According to Matthias, RIA built a workbook for institutions partaking in EWIL. This workbook helps institutions “develop a protocol for how to support students in experiential learning placements … so they have a standard level of care.”

Additionally, Matthias said that a number of “EWIL practitioners on campus worked together to develop the Experiential Learning Better Practices.” This refers to a set of documents created for students and participating institutions in a EWIL placement, to ensure proper protocols are in place. 

“When they’re on their placements, do [students] have a place to go if they’re feeling bullied, or they’re being harassed?” Matthias asked. 

ELC working on policy framework considerations, serving needs of stakeholders

A newly-established Experiential Learning Council (ELC) has set forth priorities related to EWIL placements. Matthias said that policy framework considerations — like risk mitigation for physical, cultural, and psychological safety — is an area of focus for the ELC. Additionally, this includes concerns related to harassment, the presentation said.

“I’m fearful about where we are sometimes,” Matthias said, in regards to ensuring physical and psychological safety for students. “I’d like to have a clear conscience as we look to grow these [EWIL] opportunities.”

In addition, ELC identifies serving the needs of diverse stakeholders as a priority. For example, a new virtual portal will be available to students, faculty, and community partners. They can access this “navigation hub” to access EWIL opportunities and requirements. 

Council waives DFU referendum petition requirements for The Landing, GSJS

Next, Vice-president (operations and finance) Levi Flaman and arts councillor Nathan Thiessen introduced the motion to waive the DFU referendum petition requirements for The Landing fund. Council approved the motion unanimously. 

Lastly, Flaman and Thiessen motioned to waive the DFU referendum petition requirements for the GSJS fund. With 14 votes in favour, two against, and one abstention, the motion passed.

UPDATE: This article was updated at 11:05 a.m. to include clarifying information about Deb Eerkes role. As well, the article was updated to include that the working group regarding SGBV and WIL was created by the U of A, not CTA.

Aparajita Rahman

Aparajita Rahman is the 2023-24 Staff Reporter at The Gateway. She is in her second year, studying Psychology and English. She enjoys reading, and getting lost on transit.

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