Douglas College solidifies community engagement plans

Report reveals how recent forums can bolster ties to communities

By Aidan Mouellic, Staff Writer

Douglas College doesnā€™t want to merely be a place where students come and go; the college wants to be an integral part of the communities which surround its campuses. To accomplish this, Douglas College hosted two community engagement forums on September 23 and 24 at the David Lam and New Westminster campuses respectively.

The college sent out invitations to government, corporate, and non-profit parties, as well as to involved citizens. The goal for the forums was to explore existing community connections, and to find out what the community expects from Douglas College. College officials also wanted to find new ways to connect with the community, enhance the experience of students, and boost local socio-economic and environmental conditions in adjacent communities.

The three main themes that emerged from the forums were connecting community members, collaborating with others, and communicating effectively. Participants wanted to be able to connect with others around them. This is especially important to local groups that could use the expertise of the students and staff in particular programs. If a local group has a need for a specialized skill, then that group would like to be able to connect with the students and staff who can provide it, and the local organizations can then give back with work opportunitiesā€”itā€™s a mutually beneficial scenario.

Collaboration was another central theme to the forums. Many community collaborations are already under way and community leaders hope that this will continue in an inclusive manner. Cross-cultural collaboration with individuals and organizations is important in the Douglas College community, and the community engagement forums emphasized this point.

Lastly, communicating with all members of the region is crucial to having effective connections and collaborations. There was a heightened interest in how new technologies, such as enhanced websites and comprehensive tools, could be used to assist in fostering relationships. Forum participants, especially local non-profit organizations, expressed great interest in being able to use the assistance of keen students and staff who would be interested in helping with their cause. These groups said that help with grant writing, research, social media initiatives, marketing, and event planning would be of great help. To do so, though, these groups would need to be able to easily access the contact information for these individualsā€”something the current college website makes challenging. Having a more user-friendly website with greater ease of use would make it easier for interested parties to engage with students and staff at Douglas College.

Douglas College is not aiming to merely be a learning institution using Coquitlam and New Westminster for its land, but have grand plans to become an integral part of these communities. In Douglas Collegeā€™s 2010 – 2015 Strategic Plan, social responsibility, experiential learning, and engagement opportunities are key pillars. Having hosted these recent community engagement forums, itā€™s clear that the college is making progress.