Course pairs up grad students and BC ministry and everyone benefits

- Melanie Tromp Hoover

Nine students brought their graduate program to life this past spring by adding a crash course in knowledge mobilization to their schedules. GS 505: Research and Evaluation in Children, Youth and Family Services Policies is a multi-disciplinary internship, spearheaded by UVic Knowledge Mobilization Services and instructed by Dr. Gord Miller, (child and youth care). The program paired graduate students with practitioners and policymakers in British Columbia’s Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) to produce research that is immediately applicable to the world around them.

Projects ranged from a comparative look at early childhood services in Nordic countries to building a survey to quiz parents in British Columbia on their childcare needs and an investigation into the jurisdiction associated with international adoption services.

The questions posed by the ministry were complex but the course itself is fairly straightforward: the sponsoring area of government poses 10–15 project proposals related to different business areas of the unit and then pitches each research question to the class, complete with context and a mentor on hand to answer questions. Each student then chooses the research question that piques his or her interest most and works closely with a mentor over the course of the term to keep work in scope.

“This is our third year running the program,” explains Chris Welch, manager of research and knowledge translation with MCFD. “One of the most attractive features of the course is that it’s multidisciplinary, meaning that it connects MCFD with a real array of study areas. There’s a richness to be found in this kind of diversity.”

The 2012 incarnation of the course brought a number of dispute resolution students to the table, including Jennie Aitken, a first-year graduate student with a background in history from Queen’s University and dispute resolution volunteer work at a military base in Kingston, Ontario.

“My project took a look at the possibilities for innovation at MCFD,” explains Aitken, saying that the ministry works well with government mandates but was looking for a way to systematically find and leverage promising methods of practice that are in action across the province.

“I wanted to know what kind of framework would support sustainable input from people working in the field in areas related to the ministry.”

“Grad school can be a bit cerebral,” she adds, “so I was initially interested in the course for the internship aspect. Getting the opportunity to connect theory and practice in a really accessible way has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities in knowledge mobilization.”

Aitken’s paper was one of nine successful projects this term, ensuring MCFD’s interest in running the course again in spring 2013.

“I’m again really pleased with the papers that came out of the course,” says Welch. “They’re all very useful and that’s what we’re after.”

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Keywords: research

People: Gord Miller

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